by Sandy Gholston - August 14, 2009
For 125 years, opportunity has been a cornerstone of Ferris State University's identity. University College, in many ways, embodies the institution's relentless desire to strengthen opportunities for students to earn a college education while taking extra steps to help ensure a bright future with a college degree.
Today, University College dean William Potter remains committed to the UC mission as defined by its statement of purpose: "Provide developmental courses, educational counseling and academic services that will empower students enrolled at Ferris State University to achieve their educational and career goals." While the opportunity Ferris provides is important, helping to cultivate raw opportunity into refined success is part of the continuing mission that drives University College.
"We feel that our programs are helping to better prepare students and to keep them on a good academic track and to get them into their program," said Dr. Potter, who sees University College programs as helping students discover their interests while harnessing their focus and enthusiasm so students stay on track toward earning a college degree.
Oftentimes, new students may simply need a bit of the guiding hand of experience to navigate the early stages of college. That can be particularly important for many students who are in a new environment.
"I think what we do (leads to) better student performance, better student retention and higher graduation rates," said Potter, who has a bachelor's degree from Alma College, in history; a master's degree from Central Michigan University, in history; and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University, in university administration. "I think the fact we have all of these services at one college has been of great benefit to this University. If we were to put these services in the individual colleges then they could get buried as a lower priority, but in University College this is our top priority. This is what we do and it is job one for us."
The staff of University College, which celebrated a decade of existence during the 2007-08 academic school year, does more than meets the eye each day. Staff members return every day to do what they can to help ensure more students graduate from Ferris and fulfill their dreams.
"We're here to help our students become successful," added Potter, who was recently recognized with FSU's Distinguished Staff Award.
The road to success is hardly without its pitfalls, rocky points, twists and turns. Still, the unique mission of University College provides students with options. Whether a student is in need of a math tutor, a class to help discover what they want to be, or a few minutes to discuss career goals — it is likely University College can assist.
"We are a safety net at University College," Potter said of a college that offers services that benefit more than 10,000 students each year. "We think what we do is very helpful and we feel very fortunate to have college status here at Ferris State University, even though we don't offer any of the traditional degrees the other colleges offer and most of what we do is with students during their freshmen and sophomore years."
Opportunity backed by support is critical.
"Our goal is to help students by giving them structure and guiding them in the right direction," said Potter, who over the years has led campus initiatives that include the Political Engagement Project, T.I.P. Scholars Program and the Academic Advising Implementation Team. "What we try to do is help them to focus and put them on the right track."
University College strengthens Ferris State University's core value of Opportunity.