header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
August 15
1849 - Eight-pound gold nugget found in San Feliciano Canyon (Val Verde/Piru area) [story]

CSUN Psychology Department

A celebration in the Center for Achievement in Psychological Science, which opened last fall to support students in CSUN’s Department of Psychology. Photo courtesy of Elise Fenn.

How do we close the graduation gap? How do we ensure students have the resources they need to succeed academically? Those are questions people in higher education — including at California State University, Northridge — have been grappling with for decades.

In a search for answers, faculty and staff in CSUN’s Department of Psychology asked their graduating students strategic questions about what they thought the department should do. The data department officials received inspired them to find ways to foster a more familial environment that provides academic and peer support as soon as new students step through the department’s doors, whether as freshmen, sophomores or transfer students.

“The key is asking the right questions and using the data to come up with solutions that work for our students,” said assistant professor of psychology Elise Fenn. “Several things emerged from that data, but one of the most important was that we foster a sense of belonging for our students — a sort of family that they trust to offer them guidance when necessary, and that they trust enough to ask for help when they need it.”

Psychology department chair Jill Razani agreed, adding that the department was dedicated to helping its students succeed.

The department’s effort, part of a university-wide initiative, began before the California State University Chancellor’s Office announced earlier this year its Graduation Initiative 2025 — a plan to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating gaps in graduation rates between better-served and underserved students, and between lower-income and higher-income students.

A key component of the CSUN effort is the use of data to help meet an individual department’s or college’s needs. University officials contend the raw data can provide insight into which students may be having trouble accessing resources and help faculty identify which students they are not reaching. Recognizing that each student is unique, as are the dynamics within a department and college, university officials encourage faculty and staff to create solutions that fit their specific needs.

The psychology department’s effort to examine the needs of its students began in 2015 with an exit survey of more than 300 graduating students.

“The information provided by the students — such as the need for increased offerings of certain courses and the wider dissemination of student resources — was quite helpful,” Razani said. “Action plans by the department were designed around this feedback.

“The department has been administering the exit survey annually, and plans to continue going forward,” she added.

Additionally, Fenn was tapped by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to serve as a “data champion” for the university-wide initiative. As part of that effort, department-level faculty members collect and review raw data that can provide insight into which students need more help.

While the Department of Psychology effort started independently of the university-wide initiative, Fenn said her tenure as a data champion offered additional information about opportunity gaps — the average GPA and retention rate — at both the university and college level.

“That was one of the things that motivated me to pursue what we were doing at the department level,” she said.

Armed with information, Fenn said, the department set out to foster a greater sense of belonging and support among its students to help close that gap.

She noted that navigating a college environment is easier for those students for whom going to college is part of their family culture, and who have family members to turn to when they need help. The same is not true for first-generation college students.

“Feeling that you belong and having the knowledge, or a map, for what you need to do when you are in college are critical for a student’s success,” Fenn said.

The department received campus support to open the Center for Achievement in Psychological Science this past fall. It is a place where students can gather, meet with peer mentors, attend workshops or just hang out.

“It’s a physical place where students can go between classes or ask questions if they need help — all in hopes of fostering a sense of belonging, a place that, as psychology students, is theirs,” Fenn said.

The center hosts coffee hours for faculty and students, and occasional discussions on topical subjects in the field of psychology and tips for surviving college.

The department also created a peer-mentoring program in which junior and senior psychology majors can get class credit for serving as mentors to freshmen and sophomores. The program gives the upperclassmen an opportunity to apply some of what they have learned in the classroom, while at the same time providing them a chance to help someone successfully navigate the path to graduation.

Fenn said department officials recognize that they may not be able to provide solutions to all the issues students have, so they are actively working to maintain relationships with organizations across the CSUN campus.

“We are looking to take an inclusive approach,” Fenn said. “Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we want to be a central hub for students to find the resources that already exist on campus and direct them to those resources.

“The ultimate goal is to see our students succeed and graduate,” she said. “Our job is to help them do that.”

As the department’s efforts move forward, Fenn said, psychology faculty and staff will continue to ask questions and gather data about student needs, and what is working and what is not working in the department.

“The reality is, the needs of today’s students are probably going to be different than those of the students we’ll have in 10 years,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ve created a model that is flexible enough to change and grow as the needs of our students do.”

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Friday, Aug 12, 2022
Marvel Comics’ best-known, tree-like sentient being, Groot, a character that became widely popular through the action comedy "Guardians of the Galaxy," gets his own animated show on Disney+ this week.
Monday, Aug 8, 2022
The Master's University has hired Dave Caldwell as its next sports information director.  
Monday, Aug 8, 2022
The Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees will hold a Business Meeting Wednesday, Aug. 10.
Tuesday, Aug 2, 2022
The Wheeler North Reef, among the world’s largest artificial reefs built to mitigate environmental impacts, was constructed off the San Clemente coast starting in the late 1990s as a way to mitigate the harmful impact the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was having on local marine life.
Monday, Aug 1, 2022
The latest issue of The Pool, the California Institute of the Arts alumnx/alumni magazine, is now online.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Heads Up! The city of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station urge parents to practice "safe pedestrian skills."
Parents Urged to Practice Back-to-School Safety
1849 - Eight-pound gold nugget found in San Feliciano Canyon (Val Verde/Piru area) [story]
1986 - Canyon Country's Mitchell adobe demolished; components salvaged & later rebuilt at Heritage Junction [story]
Mitchell adobe
1961 - First Mass celebrated at new Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church (3rd building) in Newhall. Cardinal McIntyre attends [story]
Are you worried about getting diabetes? Have you been told that you have pre-diabetes? One out of three American adults has prediabetes.
Aug. 16: Henry Mayo Hosts Diabetes Prevention Program
Avian influenza refers to a family of influenza or flu viruses that commonly infect birds.
L.A. County Public Health Urges Public to Protect Pet Birds from Bird Flu
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 19 new deaths throughout L.A. County, 3,995 new cases countywide and 112 new cases in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Friday COVID Roundup: County Moves to Medium Community Level
Marvel Comics’ best-known, tree-like sentient being, Groot, a character that became widely popular through the action comedy "Guardians of the Galaxy," gets his own animated show on Disney+ this week.
CalArts Alum Kirsten Lepore Brings ‘I am Groot’ to Disney+
Work along the I-5 corridor in Burbank continues and will include nighttime lane reductions and the closing of the Verdugo Avenue off-ramp during the week of Aug. 15 to Aug. 18.
I-5 Corridor Improvements Include Nighttime Lane Reductions
As part of his legislative package calling on accountability, transparency, and integrity in the state government's procurement process, Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, announced Senate Bill 1271 (SB 1271) passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Aug. 11.
Wilk’s Measure Increasing Transparency Passes Assembly Committee
The early portion of The Master's University women's soccer team's schedule in 2022 will have a national tournament-type feel.
TMU Women’s Soccer To Play Top Teams on Florida, Indiana Trips
Princess Cruises today announced updated COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, removing the vaccine requirement for most voyages of less than 16 days so that anyone can cruise and adjusting pre-travel testing requirements to make it less complicated.
Princess Cruises Removes Vaccine Requirement for Most Sailings
As the summer travel season wraps up, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reminds drivers to be responsible and never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Aug. 17-Sept. 5: LASD Will Increase End-of-Summer DUI Patrols, Checkpoints
Historically, California has been the most wildfire prone state in the United States. In 2021, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, reported over 4,000 fires that burned 60,507 acres across the state.
Ken Striplin | Keep Your Family, Home and Property Safe from Wildfires
The county of Los Angeles Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission is hosting a Special Hearing on Deputy Gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Aug: 19 Special Hearing on L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Gangs
1944 - Newhall Refinery on Sierra Highway destroyed by fire (then rebuilt) [watch film]
As local students get ready to head back to class for the new school year, your Salvation Army Santa Clarita Corps wants to ensure they have the supplies and resources necessary for success.
Salvation Army Santa Clarita Hosting Back-to-School Drive
The Rancho Camulos National Historic Landmark Presents: "Sundays at the Landmark" on Sunday, Aug. 28, with Dave Berg. He will present "Stories to Share.
Aug. 28: Author Dave Berg Presents ‘Stories to Share’ at Rancho Camulos
The WiSH Education Foundation's much-anticipated Cocktails on the Roof event is back for the community to enjoy on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Subaru of Valencia campus.
Nov. 19: Cocktails on the Roof Returns with ‘Share the Love’ Event
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station is reminding residents that no one will ever call your home demanding payment for "outstanding warrants."
SCV Sheriff’s Station Warning Residents of Scam Calls
Carousel Ranch, in Agua Dulce, was presented with a $5,000 donation from the Logix Federal Credit Union Community Stars Foundation.
Logix Foundation Donates $5K to Carousel Ranch
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday no additional deaths and 107 new cases in the Santa Clarita Valley, with a total of 15 new deaths and 4,345 new cases countywide.
Thursday COVID Roundup: 107 New SCV Cases; No Additional Deaths
The California Department of Transportation announces overnight full closures of Interstate 210 in the San Fernando Valley for striping and staging of a temporary lane configuration for a paving project.
Caltrans Announces Full I-210 Closures
The Valencia High School Band and Color Guard will hold a Clothes 4 Cash clothing drive fundraiser every Tuesday, Aug. 16 to Sept. 13.
Valencia Band, Color Guard Holding Clothes 4 Cash Fundraiser
%d bloggers like this: