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July 12, 2024

Head of student success aims to reverse UWRF trends

Falcon News Service

March 28, 2022

University class sizes have been decreasing across the country due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. UW-River Falls is trying to change that by introducing a new position, the assistant chancellor for student success.

Jamie Zamjahn started in the position at the beginning of this academic year.

Zamjahn grew up in Chaska, Minnesota. He graduated from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and later Idaho State University. Zamjahn previously was the senior director of student success and advising at Sonoma State University in California.

He has high hopes to improve retention and, more specifically, the graduation rate.

“For me, and what I do, the student success is really how we can get our students to graduation as quick as possible to make sure that they’re leaving school with a degree and with as little debt as possible,” he said.

Although new to UWRF, Zamjahn has spent years developing ideas to help students succeed in their college graduations.

“I’ve had lots of success at my previous institutions around improving completion rates, lowering equity gaps, utilizing the model that we’re working to implement here but tweaking it for UWRF,” he continued.

The last few years haven’t exactly been easy on most, with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the world and halting many lives. It also has led to lower graduation rates and retention rates in general. Students have been feeling the difference with a noticeable drop in students on campus, even in places like the University Center, which used to be packed daily.

“Before COVID, this school had over 6,000 students, so there were always people around campus,” said Kevin Paulson, a senior at the UWRF. “It was especially noticeable during lunch and dinner periods when there would be a line stretching across the university center for people waiting to get in to dine, and the dining room was always full.”

In fall 2019, before the pandemic, total student enrollment at UW-River Falls stood at 5,977, according to UW data. At the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year, enrollment had dropped to 5,410.

Zamjahn noted the troubles students have faced throughout the coronavirus pandemic and how they affect the university.

“So we have two years’ worth of graduates that things could have happened that they had to leave school, that they had to slow down and take less credits,” he said. “And so we have to take these different life issues into consideration as well, but then we also have to start looking at how we can support around that.”

Moving forward Zamjahn plans to help provide options to those students who have had a hard time throughout the pandemic and also continue to help new students who are coming to UWRF for the first time.

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