A Saginaw Valley State University professor's commitment to helping college students follow through on earning their academic degrees in turn earned him national recognition from his peers.
David Schneider, SVSU professor of communication, was recognized as the 2019 Higher Educator of the Year recipient by The National Education Association and the National Council of Higher Education earlier this month.
Outside of his work teaching in SVSU classrooms for the past 34 years, Schneider also serves as an educator for educators while hosting workshops across the nation for college faculty. The subject of those teachings: How to improve college retention rates, which measure the number of students who follow through on graduating after enrolling as freshmen.
“Many people view student failure in college as something due to lack of academic ability, but the research shows that's a big misconception,” Schneider said. “Most of our students are academically prepared but are struggling because of the way they're adjusting to the challenges of college.”
There are several solutions to helping those wayward students find footing, he said. One of the most effective ways involves encouraging faculty members to connect their pupils with the outside-the-classroom support centers – such as tutoring services – available at many higher education institutions.
Often, when struggling students are introduced to such services, they discover their high-achieving peers already utilizing the resources to boost academic performance. This has the effect of eliminating the stigmas that sometimes repel people from seeking support, Schneider said.
It also connects students with their peers working in those centers, creating a connection that may help a struggling student find the sort of social support – whether it means making new friends or joining a student organization – that sometimes provides a sense of direction in college for students seeking a social compass.
“Faculty have to make the students feel more connected,” Schneider said.
SVSU's academic support services are well-equipped to make those connections for students, and the university's faculty are successful in directing students to those resources, he said. Schneider hopes to spread those conditions favorable to retention rates to higher education institutions across the U.S. by hosting his workshops.
In receiving the 2019 Higher Educator of the Year award, Schneider also was credited for his support of his industry's labor unions. He has served as president of SVSU's faculty union as well as president and board member of the Michigan Association of Higher Education.
“It's very moving, having been recognized in this manner by my peers,” he said. “It's awe-striking.”
Schneider credited his success in part to the support he receives from his colleagues in education across the nation.
“I'm a product of a larger team,” he said.
Schneider was nominated for the award by one of those peers: Colleen Pilgrim, an associate professor of psychology at Schoolcraft College in Livonia.