Aligning Retention with Learning and Career Outcomes

By: Kevin Taylor, Faculty Member, Homeland Security

Kevin TaylorRecently, I was privileged to attend an APUS-sponsored “Persistence and Resistance Roundtable,” hosted by Dr. Gwen Hall. Both full- and part-time instructors, current students and alumni offered their perspective on what is needed to ensure the students’ experience is not only enjoyable and fulfilling, but one that ensures that their educational and professional goals are fulfilled. Although several suggestions and proposals were offered, a few seemed more prevalent than others. As I contemplated them, I realized there were many parallels regarding how they can be applied to the homeland security enterprise and how they work with one another.

First and foremost, there was an identified need to build a close, working relationship between instructor and student. This serves as the foundation which can literally “make or break” the pursuit of higher learning. Likewise, partnerships must be forged and fostered between all levels of government, the private sector, and the public at large if our nation’s homeland security initiatives are to be realized.

Also, formulating a joint, concerted plan of action must be established and agreed upon. Course selection, scheduling, establishing benchmarks, and assessing progress must all be defined. In addition, resources available to enhance student success must be identified and conveyed, and consistent communication maintained. This is no different than what should take place within any community across our nation. What are the identified threats and hazards and how must they be attended to? What resources are available to address them proactively and effectively? In what ways will effectiveness be measured, and how will needed changes be executed? So again, a number of similarities exist here as well.

Lastly, since persistence and retention must be viewed as both an individual and mutual undertaking, responsibilities of both instructor and student must be determined and agreed upon. Time management, attention to detail, recognizing and adhering to deadlines would all apply. And so it is in the “real world,” where homeland security practitioners must realize their own unique roles and what is specifically expected of each. They must be engaged, empowered, and given the tools needed to fulfill these responsibilities in a responsible manner.

However, as important as persistence and retention are to degree completion and the overall student experience, failure to meet these objectives can have a detrimental impact that goes far beyond the classroom. Consider that a course of study may not be completed or degree attained? Might that curtail one’s pursuit of fulfilling a certain position or seeking a career in a specific discipline or sector? If so, what might the impact be on our nation’s homeland security efforts if the actions of a particular member of our military, emergency response community, or the private sector are not carried out; those that result in an act of terrorism or other threat being realized? This is the very real, undesirable scenario that could occur if APUS fails to retain its students so that they persist in achieving their objectives. Fortunately, it is clear that our leadership is serious about preempting any such scenarios.

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