Student Success Symposium Strengthens Culture of Collaboration

Student Success Initiatives (SSI) hosted its third Student Success Symposium on Friday, January 17. Each semester, academic leaders, faculty, and staff gather to discuss ways to provide better support to students on campus, especially those from communities with more barriers to resources.

Executive Director of SSI, Dr. Cassandre Alvarado, described the conference-style symposium as “an opportunity for the campus community to celebrate its achievements and reflect on the university’s collective goals.” The goal is to collaborate on processes to ensure every student is successful during — and after — their four years on campus.

“Today, we invite you to hear more about your colleagues’ efforts. Student Success Initiatives and Enrollment Management are not responsible for the success of UT’s four-year graduation improvements. It is only through our collective efforts that we can continue to see improvement for our students, equipping them with all of the resources and tools they’ll need to be successful,” added Alvarado.

Some of the achievements highlighted by Senior Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Rachelle Hernandez during opening remarks include:

  • Record-high first-year retention rate is 95.7% for the Class of 2022
  • ​In 2019, the six-year graduation rate reached 85.6%, a new university record​

Hernandez also called attention to the record-breaking improvements in four-year graduation rates in 2019:

  • First-generation college students graduated at a rate of 60.1%, up from 40.9% in 2012
  • Pell-eligible students graduated at a rate of 60.3%, up from 40.3% in 2012
  • Black students graduated at a rate of 59.5%, up from 36.6% in 2012
  • Hispanic students graduated at a rate of 62.0%, up from 42.9% in 2012

To close out the morning introduction, Alvarado announced the recipients of the inaugural Student Success Awards. There was an open call for nominations across campus, and the winners were selected by a committee.

  • Student Success Advocate Award: This person works behind the scenes to impact student success on the Forty Acres. They may be creating supporting technology, analyzing data, or in an administrative or faculty role making a difference in the way students achieve success on campus. The 2020 winner is Kristen Kessel, Director of the Cockrell School of Engineering Ramshorn Scholars Program.


  • Student Success Champion Award: This is someone who has touched the lives of countless students. This is an individual who goes above and beyond every day on behalf of students, in both a faculty and mentoring role. The 2020 winner is Dr. Richard Reddick, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy and Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement and Outreach in the College of Education.

The remainder of the day was divided into three blocks of breakout sessions, with each session lasting 50 minutes. There were four presentations during each breakout, with topics ranging from financial wellness to working with undocumented students to fostering a first-generation community, as well as several other student-centered topics.

The sessions were presented by representatives from the following offices:

  • Cockrell School of Engineering
  • College of Natural Sciences
  • Counseling and Mental Health Center
  • New Student Services
  • Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid
  • Office of the Dean of Students
  • Project Males, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Undergraduate Studies
  • Steve Hicks School of Social Work
  • Student Success Initiatives
  • Texas Institute of Child and Family Well-Being
  • University Housing & Dining

One presentation included special guests from Texas A&M’s Office for Student Success.

The next Student Success Symposium is slated for October 2020. For more information, visit