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Student Development

Inside University of Wyoming’s SOAR Program

mark-visco@2x

Mark Visco Jr.

Chief Executive Officer

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Solutions Used

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Description

The University of Wyoming partners with Suitable to construct, launch, and assess their student success initiative, “UW SOAR”. As a result of feedback from their employer partners, UWYO decided it was time to structure their experiential learning and provide student fun pathways to developing key professional skills outside the classroom. With Suitable’s Experiential Learning Records they can help students tell their unique story of UWYO experiences, skills, and accomplishments.

About the School

The University of Wyoming is located in Laramie Wyoming and serves approximately 13,000 students. UW is both a flagship and land grant university; they have 6 undergraduate colleges with around 10,000 undergraduate students.

Challenge before Suitable

The Provost and other leaders at the University of Wyoming wanted to evaluate student engagement and determine how they could implement high impact learning practices across campus, to increase retention and completion. The faculty at UW developed a strategic plan to inspire students to pursue productive, engaged, and fulfilling collegiate experiences that would prepare them to succeed in a dynamic global economy. They wanted to engage and graduate well-rounded and creative thinkers that were capable of meeting unpredictable and complex challenges. To do this, they knew that it was important to focus on outside the classroom activities and have an experiential transcript. 

That’s when they conceptualized SOAR. By partnering with Suitable they found that they could make this renovation a reality.

Life with Suitable

Suitable’s experts worked closely with the University of Wyoming to generate a new and improved competency-based SOAR initiative that consists of high impact experiential opportunities that guides students through micro and macro levels of achievement and competency milestones by the time they graduate. There are seven SOAR competencies that were created, which were inspired by the NACE career readiness, and each experience that a student completes falls under one of more of those competencies. This helps students to connect the dots between their participation and their development. With a competency based approach, students can easily articulate the skills that they have developed and translate those to an employer. 

Suitable also offers every student a shareable Experiential Learning Record which works as an experiential transcript that showcases student’s learning and development. This is beneficial for students because it goes beyond just their resume and GPA. The Experiential Learning Record prepares students with a way to tell their story to others by visualizing their progress in each competency and the specific experiential learning activities they have participated in. This  shareable and personalized page tracks progress in real time so students do not have to put in extra work in keeping it up to date. Partnering with Suitable has allowed UW to transform their student experience through SOAR to become a part of the fabric and DNA of University of Wyoming. 

Outcomes Achieved

Since using Suitable’s platform, SOAR has more than doubled student engagement and now, UW is able to capture more data with Suitable’s technology. The pilot launch was in Fall of 2018 to the freshman honors cohort and 51% of students were actively engaged; by spring of 2019, there was an organic demand and student participation grew significantly. For fall of 2019, UW is expanding the target audience after seeing great outcomes and they are on pace to reach over 60% adoption of SOAR. They were excited to see that in just 30 days, in fall 2019  there were 2,744 students participating in SOAR.

Plans for the Future

In the future, UW plans on focusing on student incentives for completing SOAR. Since SOAR is not a requirement they want to reward students for participating, for example, recognition at the career fair. They also want to improve their advising strategy with incoming students by defining what student success looks like for students at UW and connect the dots for newer students throughout their educational journey. They also want to look at first year experience data and its impact on retention. Lastly, UW plans to focus on adding employer profiles to SOAR and to the career readiness conversation. As part of their strategic plan, and in partnership with Suitable, UW aims to achieve at least 25% of seniors completing SOAR by 2022.