Michelle Rippy

Michelle Rippy

"At Cal State East Bay, we're using data to make ​informed decisions about how to improve student suc​cess."

College wasn't easy for Michelle Rippy. A first-generation student, she lacked self-confidence and even had thoughts of dropping out. Thankfully, the support of a few faculty members kept that from happening. Now the assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice Administration at her alma mater, California State University, East Bay​, is paying it forward, determined to find the best ways to increase persistence to graduation among first-generation students.

A recent accomplishment is Rippy's completion of the CSU Certificate Program in Student Success Analytics, which empowers faculty, staff and administrators to use data such as dropout rates and pinpointing equity gaps to help more students earn a college degree. The program is part of the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025​ in which evidence-based successes are shared across the system to ensure the most useful academic-support practices are adopted.

“After I reviewed the data, I recognized the equity gaps between first-generation and non-first-generation students," Rippy explains. “The glaring standout from many studies was the lack of community that first-generation students may feel." That's when she first came up with the idea of holding a lunch mixer for first-generation students, faculty and staff. ​

“The success of this event encouraged me to start the first-generation student cohort in fall 2019 to improve on academic knowledge, academic navigation and building the foundations for a community," she says. "I've recently run into two freshmen who attended the first-generation freshmen orientation in August 2019 and both said they felt more comfortable in their courses because of the information gained in the orientation."

Rippy already has fans of her work. “Graduation Initiative 2025 challenges all of us at the CSU to determine what role we can play to close equity gaps on our campuses and to promote student success," says Nele Hempel-Lamer, Ph.D., director of the Certificate Program in Student Success Analytics. “Michelle Rippy's activism on behalf of first-generation students is a great example of what can happen when campus stakeholders are empowered by data to help remove institutional barriers for their students."

Rippy's ultimate goal? To create a first-generation institute on campus where students can find all the services they need to excel—academic, psychological, intellectual and physical. "It would be open to all students but focus on first-gen students, with specific and helpful resources, volunteer opportunities, research opportunities and other events," she says. "These activities are based on research showing how to improve student success and retention, as well as my own experiences on campus." 

Read on to learn more about Michelle's story and about the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025, which strives to increase graduation rates for all students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps.

Click one of the links below to find data-informed tools t​​​​hat aid student sucess.


PHOTOGRAPHY: Patrick Record; courtesy of Michelle Rippy

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