Sandlin hopes to improve student retention, success

Staff Reporter

Kim Sandlin wants more students to feel at home at Wichita State for a longer time.

Currently, she is assistant director of admissions, but her new job as assistant director of student success starts next week.

“I’ve always had an interest in (student) retention,” Sandlin said. “A lot of people start at Wichita State and then for whatever reason feel it’s not the place for them or they don’t find the services or programs they were looking for and sometimes it’s just that they didn’t know they were there.”

She said about 70 percent of students leave WSU after the first year, and the graduation rate is less than 70 percent of the students starting college at WSU.

Sandlin said her job is to help anyone considering transferring or not continuing his or her college educations.

“A lot of it is information on services that can help them succeed academically,” she said. “They get here and may have trouble with a particular topic and think there’s no way they can get help.”

Sandlin said many classes have supplemental instruction, free tutoring that can be one-on-one or in a group setting.

Some of those include the math and the writing labs.

“We don’t want students to flunk,” Sandlin said. “Part of our job is to help students to become more than they think they can become. Part of our job is to help them realize their potential.”

Bobby Gandu, WSU director of admissions, said Sandlin is well suited to do that. 

He has worked with her for about eight years.

“She has a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills she brings to the table,” he said. “She can help bridge the gap once the students are here.”

Sandlin realizes it is not an easy job. She said the Kansas Board of Regents set a goal in 2010 for universities to increase student retention by 10 percent by 2020. 

Sandlin said WSU being an urban university provides retention challenges other universities may not have. She said the scale of WSU’s diverse student population of traditional students, returning students, working students and high school guest students makes retention difficult. Each constituent may have different needs.

“We want to go about retaining students the right way,” Sandlin said. “We want to make sure we keep our doors open and don’t throw up barriers and more things that students will struggle with in order to even get into our doors, but on the other end of that is to create opportunities for students to make up that gap if there is a gap there.”

She said part of her motivation comes from having had people at WSU help her with choosing an academic direction and career.

A Wichita native, Sandlin graduated from East High School in 1992, earning an undergraduate degree in sociology from WSU in 1996 and a master’s degree in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green, Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1998. Later that year she was hired at WSU and has worked, since then, in different capacities in the Admissions Office for 14 years.