University hires retention director

The University’s new director of retention is finally on campus after being hired in January.

Jamie Mantooth, director of student retention, assumed his position on April 11. The search for the position as director of retention began after Carmen Garland’s retirement. Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, was interim co-chair on the President’s Commission on Student Retention until Mantooth was hired.

Mantooth has spent the last 11 years at Auburn University in Alabama, directing various programs such as Greek life, student affairs and parent organizations. His purpose at Murray State is to help improve student retention.

Mantooth said 25 to 30 percent of Murray State students don’t return after their first year at Murray State and he wants to find out why.

“I just met with the first group of first-year leaders and they seem eager to start the new school year,” he said. “Their role is extremely important in the first line of retention.”

He said the first six weeks students are on campus are the most critical and first-year leaders play a large part in helping freshman adjust to the campus life.

The President’s Commission on Student Retention focuses on retaining undergraduate and graduate students, and making sure they graduate from the University.

Mantooth said Murray State is a quality institution, offering educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom environment.

“My overarching goal is to retain as many students as possible so they can realize those opportunities,” Mantooth said. “I would like to see this office establish itself as a resource center for students, faculty and staff who want to find help or refer students to us for help.”

Mantooth said he has many short-term goals which include implementing the Making Achievement Possible Works program and the hire of a retention specialist to help with the program.

“My long-term goals are to establish a system of shared communication between the offices who are doing retention work, establish a parent and family network as a primary communication and steadily increase retention rate of Murray State students.”

Mantooth said he is working to implement plans for the upcoming academic year to help with student retention.

“Right now I am in the information gathering stage,” Mantooth said. “I am meeting with various departments and people and trying to learn as much about the University as I can. I have already learned so much, and am beginning to see areas where change is possible.”

Renae Duncan, associate provost for undergraduate education, co-chaired the commission along with Garland, and Mantooth will be joining her in implementing ideas to retain students. She said the goal is to drastically reduce the number of students who do not return.

“I think what Jamie brings is previous experience in the work of retention,” Duncan said. “We see the retention effort as one of the biggest priorities of Murray State; we want our students to graduate; we want them to walk across the stage which is what our retention effort is all about.”