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Freshman Retention: From Good to Great. Liz Donnelly Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Dean of Students Amanda Wrede Coordinator of First-Year Experience Greek Life Advisor Oklahoma City University February 2008. What is Good to Great ?.

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freshman retention from good to great

Freshman Retention: From Good to Great

Liz Donnelly

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs

Dean of Students

Amanda Wrede

Coordinator of First-Year Experience

Greek Life Advisor

Oklahoma City University

February 2008

what is good to great
What is Good to Great?
  • Business classic by author Jim Collins published 2001.
  • Jim Collins also authored Built to Last.
  • Good to Great examines corporations that converted mediocre performance into superior performance.
  • Identifies eleven corporations meeting the following criteria:
    • Fifteen-year cumulative stock return at or below the general stock market that transitioned to high performance defined as subsequent fifteen years of stock performance 3X the market.
what is good to great1
What is Good to Great?

The Good to Great studyattempts to explain the necessary components / commonalities / characteristics of organizations that make the leap from good to great.

“Good is the enemy of great.”

Page 1

oklahoma city university
Oklahoma City University

Private, united Methodist

Liberal arts




Enrollment: u-1800; g-1200; law- 600

40%Undergrad - performing arts

moving from good to great
Moving from Good to Great

OCU: Pre-2001

OCU: 2008

Revolving door of executive leadership

Enrollment: Incremental declines, heavily dependent on international students

Faculty: Disenfranchised

Staff: High turnover

Facilities: Deferred maintenance due to financial standing

Retention rate: 67%

Experienced, competent, dedicated executives

Enrollment: Steady increases; no longer dependent on single demographic

Faculty: Engaged in the student experience

Staff: Reduced turnover and engaged on campus


Retention rate: 80.3%

achieving good to great
Achieving Good to Great
  • Similar to Collins’ simple criteria for measuring corporate performance (stock market performance), the Fall-to-Fall Freshman Retention Rate was selected as a measure of institutional performance.
  • Underlying assumptions:
    • Undergraduate tuition is the primary revenue engine (92% tuition-driven budget).
    • Improving freshman retention requires comprehensive organizational change.
    • Improving freshman retention should not be driven solely by personality or programming – rather it should be embedded in the institutional culture.
good to great findings
Good to Great Findings
  • First Who… Then What?
    • Level 5 Leadership
      • Paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.
      • Rigorous, not ruthless.
      • Ambitious – for organization, not self.
      • The level 5 leaders in the study cohort were more often internal promotions as opposed to big, flashy personalities.
    • Get the Right People on the Bus in the Right Seats
      • Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.
      • Hire slow, fire fast.
      • Good to Great management teams debate vigorously, but unify behind decisions.
good to great applied
Good to Great Applied
  • First Who… Then What?
    • Level 5 Leadership
      • Sudden, unexpected resignation of the President with an 18-year tenure led to leadership void and high turnover of executive leadership.
      • Declines in recruitment, retention, and revenue.
      • Unplanned house-cleaning resulted in refilling of primary leadership seats within six -month period.
    • Get the Right People on the Bus in the Right Seats
      • Reduction in Force (RIF) – necessary correction in response to declining enrollment and revenues.
      • RIF provided opportunities to reorganize units and redistribute responsibilities.
good to great findings1
Good to Great Findings
  • Confront the Brutal Facts
    • Stockdale Paradox – maintaining unwavering faith in a positive outcome concurrent with facing the brutal truth.
    • By employing an honest, diligent search to determine the truth of a situation , the right decisions will become self-evident.
      • Lead with questions, not answers.
      • Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion.
      • Conduct autopsies without blame.
      • Build red flag mechanisms that turn information into information that cannot be ignored.
    • Motivation is a waste of time – the right people self-motivate.
good to great applied1
Good to Great Applied
  • Confront the Brutal Facts
    • New level 5 executives articulated Stockdale Paradox and a confident vision – one of hope concurrent with serious review of the situation:
      • Budget declines made necessary a reduction in force
      • Instituted permanent long-range planning process
      • Unit-level program review
      • Developed systemic reporting protocols (enrollment, retention, and revenue models)
      • Rigorous peer and benchmarks
      • Employed assessment of constituent satisfaction
good to great findings2
Good to Great Findings


good to great applied2
Good to Great Applied


good to great
Good to Great
  • A Culture of Discipline - Findings
    • Disciplined thought, disciplined people, disciplined action.
    • Create a “stop doing” list – as important as “to do” lists.
    • Shun opportunities outside the identified concentric circles.
  • Culture of Discipline - Applied
    • Increased rigor of admissions requirements.
    • Reduced tuition discount rates.
    • Unit-level redistribution of duties.
    • User-based revenue models – Student Service Fee and Housing.
    • Institution-wide Retention and Graduation Task Force.
    • Encourage entrepreneurship – fund initiatives that project revenue.
good to great1
Good to Great
  • Technology Accelerators - Findings
    • Good to Great organizations use technology to accelerate momentum, not to create it.
    • Avoid technology fads.
  • Technology Accelerators - Applied
    • Created and resourced Office of Institutional Research
    • Right people on the bus to utilize Student Information System
    • Online library resources to facilitate learning
    • Utilized technology and chat services in admissions
    • Development and support to utilize i features in the classroom to facilitate learning
good to great findings3
Good to Great Findings
  • The Flywheel
    • Good to Great transformations are not the result of a single momentous action.
    • Good to Great transformations are the result of a series of build-ups and breakthroughs – like pushes on a flywheel.
    • No quick fixes – usually breakthrough is recognized after the fact.
    • Incremental, evolutionary process.
good to great applied3
Good to Great Applied
  • The Flywheel
    • Shifted third party contracts to in-house: career services and facilities management
    • Added services: personal counseling; study abroad; First Year Experience
    • Overhauled admissions
    • Enhanced food services: staff , menu and facilities
    • Funded 1 FTE First Year Experience staff position
    • Student-managed student activity programming
    • Re-evaluated and enforced housing policies, modern and more student friendly
    • Refinanced debt to free cash flow for capital improvements
    • Renovated or constructed numerous facilities
    • Added varsity sports: Crew, Volleyball, and Wrestling
    • Added academic programs
    • Improved faculty services: development; searches
    • Developed diversity programs
    • Prioritized salary increases and improved benefits to achieve market
good to great findings4
Good to Great Findings
  • From Good to Great to Built to Last
    • Clock building, not time-telling.
    • The genius of AND – embrace both extremes on a number of dimensions at the same time.
    • Core ideology
    • Preserve the core while stimulating progress.
    • Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAG)
good to great applied4
Good to Great Applied
  • From Good to Great to Built to Last
    • Emphasis on student-centered pedagogy
    • Innovative faculty development
    • Focus on assessment of student learning (Learning Reconsidered)
    • Upcoming presidential search and possible turnover of other executives
    • Retirement of baby-boom faculty and staff
    • Graduation Task Force
    • Large capital projects: Science Building; Recreation Center; Nursing School expansion; Law School expansion
    • Grow endowment with emphasis on scholarships and faculty chairs
big hairy audacious goals
Big ,Hairy, Audacious Goals

Enrollment: Increase freshman class size to 500

Achieve top ten ranking in US News and World Report

Retention Rate: 85% by 2009

Graduation Rate: 70%


Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.