Lawrence University has selected Dr. Ashley Lewis as the new Assistant Vice President for Enrollment to help address retention issues. On Sunday, Nov. 14, Dr. Ashley Lewis will step into her new role. Currently, she is the Director of Student Success and Associate Dean of Exploratory Studies at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
Lawrence is working to improve its student retention rate, or percentage of students who attend Lawrence through graduation. According to Ken Anselment, Vice President of Enrollment and Lewis’s supervisor, the retention rate for year two is in the range of 85-91%, but drops down to 75-80% by year 4. Anselment also stated that the graduation rate is 79%, but they are shooting for 85%. The reasons for student departures are somewhat unclear, but administrators are hoping Lewis’s hiring can help answer that question.
Lewis will start out by working to implement a comprehensive system to allow faculty, staff and administration to communicate better and collaborate to help students. She will also be working on reimagining the transition from high school to college for incoming Lawrentians.
“I hope to add to what’s already being done by facilitating a cohesive and unified effort to track retention at Lawrence,” Lewis said.
Lewis was chosen because of her experience leading retention efforts at her prior university as well as her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Communication, Culture and Media Studies from Howard University, according to Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Linda Morgan-Clement, a member of the hiring committee.
She was also chosen because of her experience and passion looking at retention as an equity issue and beyond just the numbers, such as why students leave or demographic information about the students who leave. If the students leaving are disproportionately Black, or immigrants, or particular majors, she will be responsible for ensuring that staff have the relevant information, so they can better help students at risk of leaving.
“If we keep a bunch more students, but they all happen to be white males, she won’t just say that’s okay,” said Morgan-Clement.