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 SRU Interim President Smith Receives National Award for Student Retention Work 



March 18, 2004

CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine (724) 738-4854; e-mail:



           SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – For his commitment to the success of first-year students, Slippery Rock University Interim President Dr. Robert M. Smith has been named one of 10 Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates in the nation by the University of South Carolina's National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition and Houghton Mifflin Publishing Co.

           The award, in its 15th year, honors outstanding work on behalf of first-year college students. Recipients were chosen from 235 nominations. (           

        The center noted that Smith has been a staunch advocate for first-year students and that his tireless work has decreased attrition and helped SRU turn eight years of enrollment decline into four consecutive years of enrollment increase – even though the university’s own consultant in 1999 predicted continued drops because of poor demographics. Smith arrived in 1999 as provost and was appointed interim president in 2002.

                “Through his leadership, creativity, and dynamism, Robert Smith changed the campus culture from one of disengagement, stagnation and doubt to one of engagement, progressiveness and trust” the center said on its Web site.

           SRU offers a number of programs for first-year students, including its award-winning First Year seminar that engages three-fourths of newcomers and Week of Welcome freshman orientation activities. Smith was also instrumental in launching Integrated Learning Community Clusters, which places students with similar academic interests in the same classes so that they forge stronger connections with peers and faculty.

                Smith's influence has also resulted in increased programming for students on weekends, development of living/learning community residential halls and improved advisement services.

              A ward other recipients are:

          Earl G. Bagley, vice president for student affairs and associate professor, Columbus State University.

          Rosemary King Carr, director of student success programs, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

          Kathleen S. Evans, associate dean of students and director of the student advisement center, State University of New York College at Oswego

          Jason A. Finkelstein, director of coordinated freshman programs, City University of New York, Bronx Community College

          Jeffrey L. Hale, assistant vice president of academic affairs, enrollment management and marketing,

          Southeastern Oklahoma State University

           Patricia Maestro, faculty coordinator for student success, Bridge Program, Mount San Antonio Community College

          Eric L. Newhall, associate dean of the college, director of the Core Program and professor of English and comparative literary studies, Occidental College

          Janice E. Odom, director, The Caldwell Programs, North Carolina State University; and  Dorothy P. Ward, assistant professor of English, director of Entering Student Program and chair of university studies, The University of Texas at El Paso.



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