Big Den Initiative

Utah Valley University — Goal 1 Initiative Big Den Initiative

Building upon UVU's existing efforts, the Big Den Initiative promotes intentional outreach and support for First-Generation, Adult Learners, and Latinx students to help improve retention and graduation rates.

As background, this target population is 704 and growing. Approximately 37% of all undergraduates at UVU are first-generation students and, on average, these students retain and graduate at a 5% lower rate compared to continuing-generation students. Latino students complete at a rate of 10% lower than the overall UVU student completion rate. About one of every seven Utahns (14.4%) is Hispanic or Latino and more than one out of every five new Utahns (22.8%) is Hispanic. Targeted and intentional outreach for this student population can support them throughout their education and into their post-graduate employment.

Through targeted student outreach and retention and completion efforts—like summer bridge programs, purpose-first career development, digital literacy—the initiative aims to increase apprenticeship engagement among current students in the target population, as well as support the matriculation and graduation of more First-Generation, Adult Learner, and Latino students.

Initiative success will be measured by tracking annual student cohorts and enrollment increases, as well as retention and completion rates. Ideally, this initiative will drive increased rates to post-graduation destinations. As an additional barometer, First-Destination Surveys (FDS) will be administered to those who persist to graduation to gain an understanding of their employment and/or graduate school status.

The American dream depends on social and economic mobility. Social and economic mobility, in turn, hinges on access to affordable, inclusive, and quality education. In Utah, as demographics change, we need to focus more resources on under-represented populations, including first-generation students, Hispanics, adult learners, Blacks, and others. They are hungry for opportunity. They want to lead productive and dignified lives. That is the focus of UVU’s Big Den Initiative. Working with the state government and our community, we are empowering people and lifting their aspirations and qualifications through inclusive higher education.

Astrid Tuminez, Utah Valley University

Initiative Differentiators

This initiative leverages the success of the individual initiatives that UVU is involved in into a combined effort aimed at improving student success while expediating UVU efforts to achieve Hispanic Serving Designation status.

Key Interventions and Milestones

This initiative will be driven by a comprehensive recruiting approach, including targeted student outreach utilizing technology, media, community partnerships, parents, and events. Retention and completion efforts will include summer bridge programs, streamlined onboarding efforts, purpose-first career development, digital literacy, prior learning assessments, leadership opportunities, personalized advising, faculty and peer mentoring, social connection events, childcare, and financial resources.

Expected Impact

Existing UVU efforts include the First-Generation “I am First” Initiative, Latino Initiative, and “Some College, No Degree” Initiative. UVU received national recognition as a First-Generation Forward Advisory institution by NASPA and was invited to be an inaugural member of the First Scholars Network, funded and directed by the Suder Foundation. The Latino Initiative has increased UVU’s Latino student enrollment by 361% and Latino graduation headcount by 425%, in addition to being honored by the White House. For the Big Den initiative, we hope that our impact will be improved retention and graduation rates for First-Generation, Adult Learners, and Latinx students.