Universal Access: Enhancing the commencement experience for all

By Melisa Choroszy, Associate Vice President, Enrollment Services & Commencement
      Natalie Ehleringer, Program Officer, Office for Prospective Students
      Lexi Erwin, Manager, Prospective Student Events and Programs
      Deserie Tillman, Program Officer, Admissions and Records

Learn more about our Accessibility and Technology commitment and policies.

“Accessible” means that individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services within the same time frame as individuals without disabilities, with substantially equivalent ease of use. In our presentation at NAACO, we identify many of the implications universal access has for Commencement Ceremonies, including the need for captioning, the availability of programs in large print and in braille and other considerations. We also review accessibility planning features for commencement ceremonies, such as staffing projections, individual assistance, and cost projections. Our pursuit of universal access puts us at the forefront of universities. We are going beyond accommodations and creating truly accessible systems for students.

We invite you to review our presentation and work with us to ensure your systems are accessible.

Download (PDF, 517KB)


Help! Research Based Approaches for Improving Service Utilization and Student Success

By Perry Fittrer, Ph.D.
Assistant Director of the McNair Scholars Program 

As the new academic year begins, Student Services is gearing up to provide students with a wide range of support services. However, many students may never seek help from these carefully crafted services and programs. Why is this? How do we increase service utilization? How do we encourage students to get the help they need, when they need it?

Help-seeking research on college students is vast and varied with much emphasis placed on seeking psychological help (Li, Dorstyn, & Denson, 2014). However, research on help seeking for academic purposes is less prevalent. Academic help seeking can be defined as “an act of effort; that is, the student is actively using available resources in order to increase the probability of success in the future” (Ames & Lau, 1982, p. 414). Karabenick (2003; 2004) frames academic help seeking across five primary constructs, which are instructive in developing an understanding of how students seek help:

  • Informal vs. formal help: Preferences for the source of help being from an informal source such as a friend, or from a formal source such as a service.
  • Instrumental: Help which allows the student to develop skills needed to address the issue themselves later on.
  • Executive: Help that addresses the immediate issue and does not build future skills.
  • Avoidance: Real or perceived barriers that prevent students from seeking help.
  • Threat: Real or perceived socioemotional costs of seeking help for students.

Positive help-seeking behavior can be a predictor of academic outcomes (Ryan & Shin, 2011) and students with lower GPA’s tend to report higher levels of avoidance (Fittrer, 2016). Given that positive help seeking may be important for student success, several strategies can be implemented to increase service utilization by mitigating the systemic and perceptual barriers to help seeking.  Continue reading ‘Help! Research Based Approaches for Improving Service Utilization and Student Success’ »

Multiframe Thinking & Lasting Change

By James Beattie, PhD
Associate Director, ASUN Center for Student Engagement

Higher education stakeholders are increasingly demanding efficiency gains in the form of measurable outcomes from Colleges and Universities.  In fact, Robst (2001) indicated, “Government officials suggest that using performance measures and limiting state appropriations for higher education will control higher education costs and force institutions to provide an education more efficiently.” (p. 730).  The changing landscape of higher education and the United States economy has resulted in decreasing financial support for institutions of higher education at both the federal and state levels, and as such, has compelled higher education administrators to strategically implement policy designed to create measurable efficiencies.  One trend of efficiencies under scrutiny on a national scale are graduation rates; both in terms of percentages and timeframes.  Attewell and Monaghan (2016) stated, “Low completion rates and increased time to degree at U.S. colleges are a widespread concern for policymakers and academic leaders.” (p. 682).

The creation of positive and lasting change in retention and graduation on college campuses is an amorphous challenge that requires an adaptable holistic view encompassing students, administrators, and organizational culture and must be addressed from all four frameworks of Bolman and Deal—Political, Structural, Symbolic, and Human Resource.  If higher education administrators fail to address all four frameworks, they will have a limited view and will miss vital information that could facilitate positive and lasting change for retention and graduation rates.

Take for example the Nevada System of Higher Education initiative to move to a 30 to complete model.  In order to create positive and lasting change administrators need to address all four of the following frameworks. Continue reading ‘Multiframe Thinking & Lasting Change’ »

Where are all of the women?

By Amy Koeckes
Associate Director, Student Engagement Outreach

The Associated Students at the University of Nevada (ASUN) student government was founded in 1898 at the University of Nevada, Reno and currently has 24 elected student government positions per academic year. Research conducted through University archives shows, in ASUN’s 100+ year history, the students have elected a woman president only six times. The last time a woman held the president’s office in ASUN was in 2007.

Why is there a lack of women holding leadership positions in undergraduate student government at the University of Nevada, Reno?

To explore this question, I dug into the data for the past six undergraduate student government elections at Nevada. At first glance, the data indicates that women are less likely to win an office within student government. On average women were elected to 37% of the available positions in the past six years.

If we look more closely, for instance, at the 2016 ASUN Elections, out of the 43 students who ran for office, 16 identified as female. Of that number, 9 won an elected office within student government. Just over half (56%) of the women who ran won an office. The data shows women can win, but because fewer run, only 39% of the available elected positions are then held by women.

According to the University of Nevada, Reno’s common data set for Fall 2016, the university had 17,770 undergraduate students and 9,321 or 52% identified as female. So, the real question is, “Why is it that the University has more women attending, but fewer running for elected offices?” Continue reading ‘Where are all of the women?’ »

Gender Role Stress – How GRS might help explain sexual assault on college campuses

By Lisa Maletsky, MPH
Coordinator, Student Persistence Research

The Office of Student Persistence Research assessed sexual assault in two campus-wide surveys conducted in 2014 and 2016. Results from the most recent 2016 survey are consistent with the sexual assault literature (NETMAT presentation of survey highlights is available on the “Presentations” page of this blog). For example, the majority of respondents who identify as victims of sexual assault are female (87%). The majority of victims identified the perpetrator as male (90%) and as someone they know (89%). Sorority members and fraternity members are more likely to identify as victims as well (19% and 7% respectively). A quarter of male victims hesitate reporting their victimization because they are afraid it is not important or will not be taken seriously. Finally, a majority of all respondents believe alcohol facilitates sexual opportunity (59%) and alcohol was in fact consumed prior to a majority of victim reports (65%).

These gendered disparities indicate that social constructions of gender and gender role stress (GRS) may function as possible mechanisms underlying sexual assault. Gender role stress (GRS) is the experience of anxiety related to one’s perception that they are not performing their gender role adequately; individuals with stereotypical views of gender are more likely to experience this stress (Pleck, 1981). For men, the traditional masculine gender role is defined by power, dominance, extreme self-reliance, competitiveness, restricted emotionality, aggressiveness, and demonstrations of sexual prowess (Cohn & Zeichner, 2006; Unger, 1979). Research has connected male GRS to increased levels of aggression, emotional lability as well as emotional restrictiveness in tender situations, lower self-esteem, misogynistic and sexist attitudes, sexual prejudice, and sexual violence in particular (Cohn & Zeichner, 2006; Copenhaver, Lash, Eisler, 2000; Eisler, Skidmore & Ward, 1988; Saurer & Eisler, 1990). Thus, men who hold a narrow definition of manhood may use sex and sexual dominance to bolster feelings or perceptions that they are “real men.” Male GRS may also account for the reluctance men feel about identifying as victims of sexual assault because victimization is a threat to their masculine identity. Continue reading ‘Gender Role Stress – How GRS might help explain sexual assault on college campuses’ »

Building a standard for student media advisers

By Blythe Steelman
Coordinator, Student Publications and Marketing
ASUN Center for Student Engagement

“…you’re not going to find a one-size-fits all job description from people who do this.” — anonymous interview participant

“This” means advising student media organizations. In my role at the University of Nevada, Reno, I advise four different student media outlets: The Nevada Sagebrush, Insight Magazine, Brushfire Literature and Arts Journal and Wolf Pack Radio. I did not stumble into this job by chance, but rather sought it out after completing a year-long thesis research project that examined what the role of a college media adviser truly is. Simmons (2009) and Turner (2008) have written about the importance of advising college media organizations, and College Media Review (2015) calls it one of the challenging and rewarding positions someone could hold. However, while many have worked to defend the importance of advising these organizations, I was interested in the experience of advising these organizations. How does it differ from advising student government or general interest clubs? Is it more involved and does it mean being more of an educator than an adviser?

What I found in my thesis research is broad and far-reaching; participants talked about prepping students for the future, aiding in student success, building relationships with students, letting students take charge of the organizations, and many other experiences (Steelman, 2016).

I talked to 12 advisers and I received 12 different answers. But the truth is that you could talk to 100 advisers and receive 100 different answers. There are common threads of experience, but what I found most interesting during my interviews is how many people talked about the lack of standard job descriptions or structure for this position. Continue reading ‘Building a standard for student media advisers’ »

The Role of Student Affairs on the Post-election Campus

Joy, dismay, fear, elation, security, vulnerability, anger, betrayal, despair, hope. The results of the 2016 presidential election elicited a wide spectrum of reactions from both colleagues and students. The breadth and strength of the reactions prompted us to write to you, our colleagues, who, like our country, reflect diversity in all its forms including ideologies, attitudes, opinions and beliefs. Our message is a call to you to emerge, as you always have done, in order to do the important work of helping all stakeholders come together as a community to help students succeed in the broadest and most all-encompassing sense of the word.

If you are feeling as if what you believed about our nation is out of sync with today’s reality, reflect on what Jon Stewart said in an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning, November 17, 2016: “I don’t believe we are a fundamentally different country today than we were two weeks ago. The same country with all its grace and flaws, and volatility, and insecurity, and strength, and resilience exists today as it existed two weeks ago. The same country that elected Donald Trump elected Barack Obama.”

Post-election Silver Linings Playbook: Recommitting to Core Principles of Higher Education
By Dr. Shannon Ellis | January 18, 2017

Events have revealed a truth, and it’s a truth we must acknowledge and understand so we may best serve our students. There is great value in knowing where the country truly stands and clarify our role as Student Affairs professionals.So, how is our work different now?

Let’s start where we usually do not – with ourselves. Some of us were elated at the outsider being placed in a position in which he could tell insiders how things should be run. Some of us were crest fallen when it was clear the glass ceiling had not yet been shattered by the first female president.

Add to that the students – Trump and Clinton supporters alike – who sought counsel from us. Black women wept, telling us they feared for their safety. Black men asked us, “How are you doing?” White women in both camps were in disbelief. Women who supported Trump felt empowered by their belief that political correctness around equal pay and affirmative action would be dissolved. Women who supported Clinton were stunned, some wondering aloud about what kind of sexist workplace awaited them post-graduation. Legal and undocumented immigrant students feared for themselves, their parents, and their siblings.Not only were there incidents of “fisticuffs ” between roommates at the University of Nevada, Reno but deep divisions also surfaced among staff, characterized by chilling silence and sensitivity to words like “aftermath.”

As Student Affairs professionals, we now are put to the test to stand by a belief in a “no-censorship” approach to life – both on and off campus. We recommit to that principle of higher education.

Journalist and activist Gloria Steinem points out that the election is evidence that we are not living in a post-sexist, post-racist society. Seeing opportunity in the election results, scholar Shaun Harper wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education (January 9, 2017), “The polarizing nature of the 2016 campaign makes improving the racial climate a more urgent matter for higher education leaders…Donald Trump has given us a gift – in that the racial ugliness of our nation has been exposed.”

If the silver lining of the presidential election is that there is no longer any doubt that racism and other biases and prejudices persist, Harper also provides the following warning: “If we’re not careful, we will see a very serious clash of races on campuses. We shouldn’t wait for that to happen.”

Jon Stewart said “there is this idea that anyone who voted for [Trump] has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric. There are guys in my neighborhood that I love and respect, that I think have incredible qualities, who are not afraid of Mexicans, not afraid of Muslims, and not afraid of Blacks. They’re afraid of their insurance premiums.”

What is our role as Student Affairs professionals, then? I will tell you! It is to help students, faculty, and staff avoid viewing any group – Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, Muslims, immigrants, ANY labeled group – as a monolith.

The Student Affairs professionals needed today will help students wrestle with ideas, with perspectives and viewpoints that offend. These professionals will console, challenge, and affirm who students are and their aspirations for who they will become personally and professionally. Our time to develop this openness and willingness with students is brief. We are all on a lifelong journey to determine who we are – each of our students is a part of our journey, and we are just one part of theirs. This is our time to help students on our campuses be courageous, open, resolute – even stubborn – and willing to change their minds. This is, after all, what the academic world prides itself on – intellectual inquiry that requires an openness for discovering new ideas, overturning assumptions and biases, all in pursuit of truth. Higher education should model for all the ability to take joy in learning and growing, as well as the ability to welcome the ambiguity of “not knowing.”

This is it: Student Affairs for “such a time as this”
By Dr. Gwen Dungy | January 18, 2017


Versatile, disciplined, resourceful, and emotionally strong are some characteristics of successful Student Affairs professionals. These are transferable skills valued in many professions, but you chose to work in a college environment. Now is the time to navigate caution signs without losing either patience or direction and thrive, helping your institution prioritize students’ intellectual learning and emotional development by ensuring a supportive environment. Ensuring a supportive environment in times such as this will require different approaches, new tools, and a clear understanding of what you need to do your job.While others may view the possibility of turbulence on campus as a problem, you see an environment where you can shape and contribute to the future of students and your institution, alike, in an unprecedented manner. You embrace your role as mediator when there are controversies related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. You support faculty and other colleagues who create a space for dialogue and conversation about sensitive and controversial issues.

Times demand you shift focus solely from students within the bailiwick of Student Affairs to the entire campus. No one office, division, unit or person can create an inclusive and equitable campus climate. Wrenching change demands a new approach to collaboration.

Collaborate with your Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Office. You are in an optimal position to help faculty, staff, students, and administrators contribute to a climate of inclusion. Who more than professionals in Student Affairs understand how important it is for every member of the community to feel a sense of belonging? Extend your reach. Actions speak louder than words. Equity and inclusion must permeate a diverse institution at every level, every position, and every role. All stakeholders are responsible for identifying who is marginalized and in what circumstance.

Executive leaders have important visible and symbolic roles to play when there are demands for a shift in the focus of the institution. With your support, your campus leaders will understand and address what students need in order to feel a sense of belonging, to be assured they are getting the quality education expected, and to believe their opinions matter. You can help these leaders become more knowledgeable about campus climate and help make inclusion the norm.

As a professional in Student Affairs, you also have skills that support faculty, but not all faculty may be aware of these skills. Help faculty identify common experiences for students to share that both support curricular objectives and allow for the expression of differing opinions and emotions in a facilitated academic environment. This kind of environment will help students experience deep learning and discover the core of who they are. Offer your help to facilitate these discussions. Be the champion of intellectual learning coupled with personal development.

Likewise, staff who employ or mentor students may need your help to ensure they take advantage of teachable moments.

It is during these times that you need to shift your focus to the community at-large. Your education, training, and access to students have prepared you to do this work. During times that are both propitious and unfavorable, you must increase your communication and visibility with all stakeholders. To play a major role as mediator, mentor, teacher, and leader in an educational environment during uncertain times is why you went into Student Affairs. This is it. This is the time for you to assume your role with confidence and to ask for what you need to do your job.

It doesn’t take a technology wizard, just a good plan!

By Raul Rodriguez
Coordinator, ASUN Center for Student Engagement

Every day we use technology in our work environment and in our daily lives. As Student Affairs administrators we interact with students via emails, social media, and text messaging. The recent increase in technology integration in institutions of higher education has demanded changes in practices, and organization of student support services (Junco, 2010). With various social media and technology outlets, the opportunities to engage and involve students is easier than before.  How can we use the current technology to get students more involved and engaged?

The first thing that we need to consider is what technology, or social media students are using. We need to be able to meet the students where they are at. Understanding our student population and their preference for technology or social media can provide a clear path to develop strategies and plans to increase student involvement and engagement.

Create a strategy for the technology or social media that you choose to interact with the students. Each technology or social media serves a different purpose (Berry 2016). Continue reading ‘It doesn’t take a technology wizard, just a good plan!’ »