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3.4.9 Academic support services

The institution provides appropriate academic support services. (Academic support services)

Judgment of Compliance

Sam Houston State University offers a wide array of academic support services. Services range from university-wide services such as the Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center, Academic Support Centers (Reading, Writing, and Math/Stat), library resources, and computer services to special support programs, such as first year experience, learning communities, Counseling Center, Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) and career counseling. These services range from the generic academic support programs to specially designed programs aimed at specific populations. Although some of these programs are designed exclusively for students or faculty, some are available to both students and faculty. All programs are required to assess outcomes in relation to established goals and objectives. Assessments for major components of the academic support system are tracked through the University’s online assessment tracking data base (OATDB), discussed in Standard 3.3.1.

Student Advising and Mentoring Center (SAM Center)
The Student Advising and Mentoring Center, also known as the SAM Center, was created in the fall of 2002 [1]. The SAM Center, recognized by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) as one of the country’s top advising centers, offers a wide variety of services for the students of Sam Houston State University [2] [3]. Academic advisement and enrichment services are available for all undergraduate and graduate students. The SAM Center is a resource dedicated to helping students adjust to academic life at Sam Houston State University. The number of advising sessions (some students seek multiple advising sessions) has increased from 20,134 to 38,763 over five years. Services available include career testing, aid with time management, and study skills. Following is a partial list and short description of the services provided by the SAM Center.

  • Mandatory Advisement. All SHSU students without an established SHSU GPA or SHSU students with a SHSU GPA below 2.5 must be advised prior to registration [4].
  • Mandatory Graduation Advisement. As soon as students complete 90 semester hours, they are required to be advised every semester with the goal of helping them graduate in the most efficient manner [5].
  • Monitored Academic Progress (MAP). The program is designed to monitor the academic progress of students who have been readmitted on probation after serving a suspension. There are three levels of intrusive monitoring to include required study skill sessions, mandatory one-on-one meetings with an advisor, and periodic grade checks during the semester. To assess the effectiveness of this program, the Center monitors how many grade point deficiencies are removed for each student in the program [6].
  • First Alert. This initiative is an intrusive advising program based on referrals from faculty members who are concerned about a student’s lack of academic progress based on attendance and grade checks [7]. The SAM Center staff will contact the referred students and offer opportunities to improve student performance [8].
  • Academic Survival Skills. The SAM Center and the Counseling Center offer short courses in a variety of self-help areas to include time management, reading skills, note taking, stress management, critical thinking, and self assessment [9].
  • GRE/GMAT Preparation Courses. The Sam Center contracts with Sam Houston State University faculty and staff to offer training seminars on how to study for and take the GRE and the GMAT. Practice tests are also provided to assist students in preparing for these post-baccalaureate admission exams [10].
  • Traveling advisors. SHSU assigns academic advisors to visit the largest feeder community college campuses on a regular basis to assist prospective students in selecting courses that will transfer into the intended degree programs.
  • Tutorial Clearinghouse. In addition to the Reading, Writing, and Math Centers, many academic departments offer academic tutoring at no additional cost. The SAM Center in cooperation with the First Year Experience program provides students with information about the availability of tutorial opportunities [11].
  • Grassroots: Conversations on Leadership in a Diverse Community. Grassroots is a monthly program highlighting either a Hispanic or African-American leader in a professional field. These leaders share their experiences and various techniques and strategies toward success with students [12].
  • McNair Program. This national program was designed to provide talented low-income/first generation and ethnic minority undergraduate students with effective preparation for doctoral study [13]. The McNair program at Sam Houston State University encourages graduate studies by providing opportunities for undergraduates to define their goals, engage in research, and develop the skills and faculty mentor relationships that are critical to success at the doctoral level. This program is funded by an external grant.

Academic Support Centers
SHSU provides three academic enrichment centers that serve both students and faculty. The Reading Center, Writing Center, and Mathematics Lab, centrally located in the Farrington Building, assist the Sam Houston State community with services ranging from remedial help for at-risk students to consultative assistance for graduate students and faculty. In addition to providing support for students, these Centers provide training and financial support for graduate students.

  • Reading Center. The Reading Center assists students, faculty, and staff with professional and academic endeavors [14]. The primary goal of the instructors is to empower all students with effective reading strategies and the confidence to excel in their expository reading. To this end, the Reading Center tutors provide students with one-on-one and small group reading instruction. One-session workshops on various reading strategies are offered throughout the school year. In addition to serving undergraduates to develop reading strategies and/or prepare for the THEA, the SHSU Reading Center can also be used by those whose first language is not English to prepare for the TOEFL. Also, students preparing for post-baccalaureate educational endeavors can use computer-assisted tutorials for the reading/verbal sections of the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, PCAT, or MCAT. In addition, computer-assisted tutorials for many teacher certification tests (TExES) are available in the Reading Center. The Reading Center is affiliated with the Language, Literacy, and Special Populations Department in the College of Education. The staff includes a full-time Reading Specialist and graduate assistants who are trained as reading tutors. Approximately 770 unique students use the Reading Center at least once during each of the past two academic years. In addition, Reading Center staff made between 50 and 70 class presentations.
  • Writing Center. The Writing Center at Sam Houston State University helps all University students, staff, faculty and community members [15] [16] [17] [18]. The Writing Center was created to help individuals become better writers and develop more confidence in their writing abilities. To this end, the Writing Center tutors provide one-on-one and small group writing instruction. One-session workshops on various topics relating to writing are offered throughout the school year. Students may seek assistance for any type of writing need, ranging from English composition essays to science lab reports, résumés, scholarship and job application letters, even theses and dissertations. Writing Center tutors do not merely correct a student’s writing but rather help students learn prewriting, revising, and editing skills. The Writing Center’s staff includes a full-time member of the English faculty and graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of majors who are trained as writing tutors. Tutors receive CRLA (College Reading and Learning Association) certification. In academic year 2006-2007, approximately 9800 visits were made to the Writing Center. Through July, 9200 students visits were recorded for academic year 2007-2008.
  • Mathematics Lab. The Mathematics Lab provides free personal tutoring services to all students enrolled in freshman or sophomore mathematics and statistics courses, excluding the calculus sequence. Students enrolled in the calculus sequence or higher level courses are encouraged to seek assistance from their instructors. The Mathematics Lab is staffed by graduate students from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and select undergraduates majoring in mathematics. In academic year 2006-2007, approximately 1500 visits were made to the Mathematics lab. Through July, 1240 students visits were recorded for academic year 2007-2008.

Library Resources
The Newton Gresham Library (NGL) offers a variety of academic resources for both students and faculty. Detailed information about the Library may be found in narrative for Comprehensive Standard 2.9. The NGL, consisting of an acre on each of its four floors of functional environment, provides academic support for all students and faculty. There are large open study areas, two large group study rooms, 2 small group study rooms, and 42 enclosed carrels for graduate students and faculty. A combination group study room and computer lab, with 8 workstations, is located on the fourth floor. The Library has a multimedia classroom and an instructional lab, with 21 workstations, for scheduled library instruction. These rooms may also be scheduled by other faculty.

The Music Listening Room is located on the first floor of the library. This area houses the music monographs and serials as well as the CD/DVD and phonograph collection. The Library’s audio-visual collection is housed in the Music Listening Room. Seven listening stations and a study area are also available.

State and federal government documents are housed on the first floor of the Library, in approximately 6000 square feet. The Government Documents Room is opened to the public and is available 100 hours per week. Three public workstations are available, two are connected to the University network and one is a standalone, allowing users to download and manipulate data available on CDs and DVDs.

Library users can connect to the University network through the wireless network, which covers the entire building, and over 100 computers located in two labs and in the Reference area. Theses workstations provide access to University supported software, email and Internet access; users are able print to networked laser printers at no charge. Adaptive technologies are provided in the Reference area of the Library.

The Library provides individualized and group instruction on how students can best use the library. Specialized services are also provided to faculty to assist them in their classroom instruction and research. Each academic department is assigned a library liaison to coordinate and represent the departmental library needs.

Computer Services Support
Detailed information about Computer Services may be found in narrative for comprehensive standard 3.8.1. To serve the students and faculty of SHSU Computer Services has created 14 computer labs across campus, staffed by more than 70 lab assistants. These labs are equipped with CD-ROM's, CD-burners, scanners, printers, USB ports for access with flash/pin drives, and other peripheral items. These computer labs are available to enrolled students, faculty, and staff. Times for the labs, lab schedules, and live web cams are posted online and outside each lab.

From the University website, students can activate and begin using SHSU computer accounts upon acceptance to the University. To ensure prompt communications, the University sends official statements and documents via the student’s SHSU e-mail address. This e-mail account remains available to students after graduation, allowing continuity for job searches and alumni interactions. Each student is provided a personal computer environment that is accessible from any campus computer.

The University has developed a state-of-the-art fiber optic network connecting all major campus buildings including residence halls. Attached to this network are servers for administrative functions, academic computing, and research computing. This network is also connected to the Internet, providing all students access to Internet mail, Web servers, and many more valuable network resources. All University residence halls have connections available for accessing the University LAN.

Client computers supported are PC and Macintosh workstations. the 14 general-use computer labs are operated by the Department of Computer Services and are open 24 hours a day during the week with extensive weekend hours. Most of the software applications for campus computers are available on all University computers connected to the Campus network (SAMnet).

Wireless access to the University computer network is currently available at numerous locations across the campus. Wireless service is provided via 802.11B wireless access points. All on-campus academic buildings, with the exception of the off-site Agricultural Mechanization Center, are wired for LAN access. If a connection is not available in the location needed, the department may need to submit a work order.

In order to ensure compatibility and a quick response to problems, the University has authorized Computer Services to order and process the technology equipment for the University. Computer Services will provide, at no charge to academic departments, one basic computer workstation to each full-time tenure/tenure track faculty member. These computers will be replaced on a four-year life cycle. For other acquisitions, departments may use the SamWeb Work Order System to Request a Purchase/Quote.

To assist students, faculty and staff in learning how to maximize university resources, Computer Services offers training in an assortment of categories, including software-specific and general computer-use training. Training is offered in a variety of different venues, including large courses, individual sessions, and through self-paced software guides [19].

First Year Experience (FYE)
The First Year Experience Program offers a variety of courses and support services designed to help first-year students make a successful transition to the demands of university life [20]. Services range from an introduction to university life at convocation to a specially designed college transition course to a variety of learning communities.

  • Convocation. The First Year Experience includes a voluntary convocation service for all incoming Sam Houston State University freshman students [21]. Convocation is a celebration aimed at motivating new students and their parents to embrace the challenges and experiences of college. All entering freshmen, faculty and staff are invited to this event. A motivational speaker encourages student success.
  • SAM 136. SAM 136, a college transition course, is a three-hour, elective freshman seminar concentrating on enhancing reading, writing, and communication skills needed to succeed in an academic program [22]. Additionally, the course raises awareness about common experiences and challenges that are frequently encountered by first-year students.
  • Learning Communities. Based on the success of the learning communities established for our Honors Program and athletics community, Sam Houston State University established both a residential and non-residential learning community for entering freshmen [23]. As a joint effort of the Department of Residence Life, the Division of Academic Affairs, and the Division of Student Services, the Bearkat Learning Community (BLC) was implemented in 2001-02 to provide incoming freshmen students the opportunity to take classes with other students who live in the same residence hall. This group of students also has a planned program of activities designed to enhance academics as well as provide a positive social atmosphere.

    Since Sam Houston State University has a number of commuter students, a non-residential learning community, the Freshman Learning Community (FLC) was established. Thus, a learning community was established that did not require students to live in the same residence hall. The FLC is an enhanced non-residential educational experience specifically designed to foster the intellectual development of students through increased interaction with fellow students, faculty and staff. The FLC cohorts offer first-year college students a unique opportunity to become familiar with the necessary academic and social skills leading to timely graduation. Students in this program take a minimum of three classes with their fellow cohorts. The program has been altered since its inception to allow students with a common academic interest to join a discipline-related learning community as part of FLC. Cohorts have been established for business, agriculture, education, and criminal justice majors.

Counseling Center

The Counseling Center provides a variety of services to enhance student learning and assist students in achieving their academic goals [24]. The Center is staffed by professional counselors and graduate trainees who provide a confidential setting where students can freely discuss their concerns. The typical range of services provided includes individual counseling, group counseling, vocational counseling, relationship counseling, and outreach/preventive education presentations. Staff members are available to assist students in crisis situations on short notice. Students can receive assistance with a variety of concerns, including adjustment problems, depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, self-esteem, stress management, and many others. Services are also available for international students who may request assistance in adjusting to life at an American university. Groups that are commonly offered include a Women’s Support Group, Interpersonal Therapy Group, Relationship and Communication Skills Group for Students with Asperger’s Disorder, Managing Anxiety Group, Self-Esteem Group and others. Most of the services the Counseling Center provides are free with the exception of some testing or assessment instruments, which are provided at a reasonable cost. All counseling is confidential within the limits of legal and ethical obligations. The Counseling Center is located in the North Annex of the Lee Drain Building.

Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD)
SSD is located in the Counseling Center and provides accommodations counseling and adaptive technology for students with disabilities [25]. Students seeking academic accommodations need to provide appropriate documentation verifying their disability. Students are informed of these services at orientation as well as through informational brochures, which explain documentation requirements and procedures for requesting accommodations. Available adaptive technologies include Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), computer work stations with large print and speech output capabilities, and FM amplifying devices. Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDD) are also provided through this office.

Career Services
The Career Services staff assists students and graduates of Sam Houston State University in their search for employment appropriate to their interests, skills, academic preparation and personal aspirations [26] [27]. Opportunities and resources are provided to assist students in learning and implementing the life-long process of career exploration, career choice, and ultimately, obtaining rewarding employment. Specific services include mock interviews, on-campus interviews, resume referrals to employers, job/internship vacancy announcements and listings, and workshops and individual instruction on resumé writing and interview skills. A clear goal of employment after graduation will encourage timely graduation.

Destination Graduation
Destination Graduation is an event hosted each semester by the Office of the Registrar that allows prospective graduates to ensure that all necessary steps have been completed to earn their degree [28]. Staff from departments such as the Office of the Registrar, Student Financial Aid, and Business Services are available to check a student’s graduation status to assure students that everything is proceeding as planned or to identify potential problems with recommended solutions.

Degree Audit and Review System (DARS)
This is an on-line degree audit program allowing students to view which degree requirements have been met and which requirements have yet to be fulfilled [29]. This is a valuable tool for both students and advisors to keep students on the right track for timely graduation.

To help offset the rising cost of higher education as well as to attract and reward quality students, the University has created a fund for scholarships [30]. A comprehensive listing of available scholarships is maintained on a web page easily accessed by current and prospective students. Sam Houston State University provides several million dollars in non-athletic academic scholarships during the 2007 Academic Year.

International Programs
The Office of International Programs (OIP) promotes, fosters, encourages, and coordinates international activities at Sam Houston State University, including the recruitment and retention of international students and study and travel abroad of SHSU faculty and students. A primary contact for international students at the University, the staff provides assistance and information to international visitors. Sam Houston State University offers opportunities for study on exchange programs and faculty-led programs, including but not limited to Italy, France, England, Mexico, Ireland, China, Spain, Poland, Thailand, and South Korea.

Supporting Documentation
Documentation Reference
Document Title
[1] Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center, Webpage
[2] Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center Recognition
[3] Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center Support Services
[4] Mandatory Advisement, Undergraduate Catalog, 2006-2008
[5] Mandatory Graduation Advisement, SAM Center
[6] Monitored Academic Progress (MAP) Report Memo
[7] First Alert Referral Form
[8] First Alert Report, Fall 2007
[9] Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center Study Skills
[10] Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center GRE/GMAT Prep Course
[11] Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center Tutorial Referral Service
[12] Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center Grassroots
[13] McNair Program, Webpage
[14] Reading Center, Mission
[15] Writing Center, Webpage
[16] Writing Center, Student Resources
[17] Writing Center, Faculty Resources
[18] Writing Center, Tutor Resources
[19] Computer Services - Technology Training - Courses
[20] First-Year Experience (FYE) - Philosophy
[21] First-Year Experience (FYE) - Student Convocation
[22] First-Year Experience (FYE) - SAM 136
[23] First-Year Experience (FYE) - Learning Communities
[24] Counseling Center, Webpage
[25] Counseling Center, Services for Students with Disabilities
[26] Career Services, Webpage
[27] Career Services, Services for Students
[28] Destination Graduation
[29] DARS Information
[30] Scholarship Webpage


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Sam Houston State University
Huntsville, TX 77341
(936) 294-1111