The efficacy of the Ellison model as a retention initiative for first semester freshmen

Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Janice R. Sandiford

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Deryl G. Hunt

Third Advisor's Name

Liane Dornheim

Fourth Advisor's Name

Richard J. Correnti

Date of Defense



The freshman year is the most critical year of matriculation for students in higher education. One in four freshman students drops out of higher education after the first year. In fact, the first two to six weeks of college represent a very critical transition period when students make the decision to persist or depart from the institution. Many students leave because they are unable to make a connection with the institution. Retention is often profoundly affected by student involvement in the academic environment, satisfaction with the campus climate and the institution's response to diversity. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine and evaluate an effective institutional response that promotes freshman retention and academic success. The tenets (diversity training, conflict management, and community building) of a mentoring model were applied to the freshman experience seminar class (experimental group) as a pedagogical method of instruction to determine its efficacy as a retention initiative when compared with the traditional freshman experience seminar class (comparison group).

The quantitative study employed a quasi-experimental research design based on Astin's (1993) I-E-O model. The model examined the relationships between the characteristics students bring with them to college, called inputs, their experiences in the environment during college, and the outcomes students achieved during matriculation. Fifty-two students enrolled in the freshman seminar class participated in the study.

Demographic data and input variables between groups were analyzed using chisquare, t-tests and multivariate analyses. Overall, students in the experimental group had significantly higher satisfaction (campus climate) scores than the comparison group. An analysis of the students' willingness to interact with others from diverse groups indicated a significant difference between groups, with the experimental group scoring higher than the comparison group. Students in the experimental group were significantly more involved in campus activities than students in the comparison group. No significant differences were found between groups relative to the mean grade point average and reenrollment for fall semester 2001.

While the mentoring model did not directly affect re-enrollment of students, the model did promote student satisfaction with the institution, an appreciation for diversity of contact and it encouraged involvement in the campus community. These are all essential outcomes of a quality retention program.



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