Student Success

How do we lower common barriers to student success?

Based on faculty experiences, the most pertinent barriers to the success of USF students are:

  • Students are coming in with different levels of literacy

  • First-year students are unable to see the connection between their major and potential careers.

  • Students are feeling alienated or stigmatized

Students are coming in with different levels of literacy

Professors can

  • Accept students are who they are, and that students may be afraid to communicate
  • Use oral exams as an alternative to writing and test-taking
  • Be flexible and constantly adjust teaching style for different types of learners

Departments can

  • Hold a jumpstart class that is free of cost for both first-year and transfer-year students 
  • Encoding a “proficiency with their tools” class (e.g., MIT's "The missing semester of your CS education") as a part of the major that can be tested out of, flipped style with prerecorded content and community engagement in class.
  • Encourage incoming students to take existing introductory courses that help build study habits
  • Tutorial class (1 credit) that students take along with a major intro class run by TAs to help students prepare and study for the major class (e.g.,Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL), and Peer Tutoring)
  • Build writing prep into the major curriculum instead of outsourcing this to the Department of Rhetoric and Language (long-term reach goal)


The Learning, Writing, and Speaking Centers are free of charge to all students and offer subject-specific tutoring, writing assistance, and communications-related support.

First-year students are unable to see the connection between their major and potential careers.

Professors can

  • Ask “Career Services” to present in class (e.g. resumes, LinkedIn, getting jobs). Connect this to an assessment.

  • Encourage students to talk to someone in the field. For example, during the “Biology Summer intensive” students had to email a faculty member that is conducting research.

  • Change course structure to allow students to gain “real-world” experience.

    • Active learning and laboratories

    • Flipped classes:

      • Students that engage here do very well (even better than usual) but some disengage.

      • Add quizzes into your videos (incentives)

    • Project-based learning:

      • Sarah Camhi’s Exercise and Health Promotion CEL class: no exams, reflection papers, real-world problems (health promotion), e.g. running “Stress Less Day.”

      • Lots of work for students. The expectation is clear, but the product is not clear - this makes students uncomfortable.

    • Problem with alternative formats: 

      • Students are used to one thing and punish instructors for using alternative formats. 

      • Will need the administration to recognize that alternative teaching methods might lead to lower teaching evaluations to avoid instructors fearing this being a barrier to promotion and tenure.

    • For instructors to feel more proficient, they may want to utilize CTE

      • M2M can ask CTE if they can do outreach to individual departments, being more “ambassadorial” as this may currently be an underutilized resource.

Departments can

  • Encourage professors to incorporate different types of teaching methods in the classroom. 
  • Have department-level discussions about the best way to introduce additional career-oriented topics into the curriculum


  • Career Services holds regular Career Workshops and Employer Events and also provides 1:1 appointments for students.
  • Pre-health students can schedule 1:1 appointments with the Pre-health advisor.

Students are feeling alienated or stigmatized

Professors can

  • Have routine check-ins with students at the beginning of class (e.g., prompt, PollEv word cloud, free writing exercises). 
  • Acknowledge the difficulty of the material. 
  • Help create community in class by having students exchange contact info.
  • Proactively reach out to new advisees
  • Introductory email assignment in each class to reduce the distance to professor
    • Subject line instructions. (Include Course Number)
    • Explain how to address you as the professor (Dr./Professor/First name, salutations, etc. ) 
    • What is your preferred name/pronoun? 
    • Why are you taking this course? 
    • What do you hope to learn this semester? 
    • Is there anything that might impact your attendance or engagement this semester that I should know about?
  • Share their own college success stories, including obstacles, making sure students know other people struggle through it too
  • Remind students more often about CAPS, and other campus resources

Departments can

  • Create buddy programs (modeled by the Psych department) for underclassmen to connect with student mentors.
  • Have smaller class sizes
  • Have some kind of "homeroom" or class to discuss career paths, build soft skills, and build community
  • Hold social events: Examples that have worked for departments in the past are ski trips, picnics in the park, online community building by playing party games (Jackbox games) on Zoom, and seasonal socials (Halloween, Winter, Spring).