What if RIC students had an app that kept track of every important happening on campus and even rewarded them with prizes every time they were involved in a co-curricular activity? Well, it’s already being done under the new Vice President for Student Success Jason L. Meriwether. Incentivizing student engagement through a point system is one of the many strategies he will be spearheading to enhance the RIC experience for students.
A native of Guthrie, Kentucky, Meriwether is a tech-smart leader in higher education with the energy and passion of a seasoned coach. He is innovative, dynamic and motivational. Most of all, he “gets” today’s digital generation.
Prior to joining RIC’s leadership team, Meriwether was vice chancellor for enrollment management and student affairs at Indiana University Southeast – named one of the Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs by “Diverse Issues in Higher Education” in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He is former vice president of student engagement and enrollment management at Fisk University, where he also served as dean of student engagement, assistant dean of student affairs and adjunct professor of psychology, and he has held leadership positions in residential life.
Meriwether is a former member of the Presidential Task Force on Digital Technology in Student Affairs for the American College Personnel Association, an active member of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and an administrator who has published and lectured extensively on the topic of student engagement. Meriwether believes that success in student affairs and enrollment management involves the ability to adapt to new trends in technology.
The new RIC app that will be introduced by the Student Success team will allow students to easily access registration, student support and a wide range of other information and services. It will also feature a point system that tracks student participation in co-curricular activities. Called a co-curricular transcript, the app tallies points not only for participation in activities but for student achievements. Prizes range from RIC t-shirts and mugs to tuition scholarships.
Keep in mind that achievement doesn’t mean you have to be the athlete who scores the most points in a game, Meriwether said, “It’s the off-the-court leadership we want to celebrate, the athlete who is out there volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.”
Nearly 90 percent of RIC students are already involved in co-curricular activities, which include community service; field experiences; internships; music, theater and dance; practicums, service learning; student organizations; study abroad; and undergraduate research. RIC’s administration would like to see 100 percent involvement.
“And we need to celebrate this in our messaging,” said Meriwether. “At RIC, our students not only receive a world-class education, they have leadership opportunities outside of the classroom that are important to the state, to the region and even globally.”
Co-curricular models have been successfully used at Meriwether’s former institution, Indiana University Southeast, and at City University of New York, where RIC President Frank D. Sánchez was vice chancellor for student affairs.
“The president and I are in concert on the value of the co-curricular model,” said Meriwether, “and it is a model I think our students will embrace. By merging curricular and co-curricular activities, we prepare our students to lead in the workforce and in the community.”
Meriwether intends to continue to drive digital technology with content that galvanizes students. Most traditional college-age students communicate via Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, in that order, Meriwether said. He believes that by maintaining a consistent and adaptive digital presence, the college will be better able to build and maintain relationships with its students and enhance the RIC experience.
“We want our students to feel a sense of connectedness, a sense of belonging, that is unique to this college,” said Meriwether. To that end, buildings on campus have been getting a fresh coat of paint, communal spaces are being created with modernized furnishings, all to create a more welcoming environment for students.
As vice president, Meriwether’s central role will be to work with his team to gather data on current and prospective students that inform the way the Division of Student Success designs and offers services. Offices within his division are:
- Academic Support and Information Services (OASIS)
- NCAA Athletics and Recreation
- Career Development
- Counseling Center
- Financial Aid
- First Year Experience
- Health Services
- Learning for Life
- Preparatory Enrollment Program
- Residential Life and Housing
- Student Activities & Greek Life
- Student Community Government
- Student Union
- Upward Bound and other TRIO programs
- Veterans Resource Center
Data drawn from surveys and assessments will help guide decision making. It will allow the Division of Student Success to understand the key services RIC students use and those that they still need, beginning with their initial contact with the college through graduation.
“We’ll have a strategic plan,” Meriwether said, “but first we have to assess where we are and what we’ve done and then use that data to redesign how we deliver services. As we pull all of these units together, we will be examining every communication we make with students so that there is centralized messaging.”
“We are here to serve students and to create an environment where communication, assessment and celebrating student success is the norm, not just an occasion,” he said. “Establishment of the Division of Student Success will complement the college by shaping learning, engagement and leadership for our students. It is my honor to lead this work at RIC.”
RIC Vice President of Student Success Jason L. Meriwether earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from the University of Louisville (2001); his Master of Arts degree in psychology from Fisk University (2007); and his Ph.D. in educational administration, with a specialization in higher education leadership, from Indiana State University (2016). He was also selected for the inaugural Academic Leadership Academy at The Pennsylvania State University Center for the Study of Higher Education (2011).