Columbia, Mo. (August 16, 2022) — Two people at the Missouri School of Journalism have received the 2022 MU Connect Champions Award from Mizzou’s Office of Undergraduate Studies. Laura Johnston — associate professor and associate chair for journalism professions — and academic advisor Lauren Pike represent distinct aspects of MU Connect, an “early alert” student success application used by faculty, advisors, and students.
“Laura and Lauren demonstrate how student success is at the core of everything we do at the School of Journalism,” said Lynda Kraxberger, associate dean for undergraduate studies at the School. “Their enthusiastic use of MU Connect to increase communication between teachers, advisers, and students stands as a model for their peers and shines a light on all the tireless efforts that go toward supporting students at the School.”
MU Connect uses a largely automated early alert system to keep a “success network” of advisors, instructors, course coordinators, and others informed about student performance, while also serving as a handy tool for people within that network to provide feedback and schedule meetings with students. The Champions Award honors those who use the tool to meaningfully improve teaching, learning, and student success at Mizzou.
Johnston serves as course coordinator for J1300, an introductory writing course at the School, and also teaches cross-platform editing and producing. She said MU Connect’s ability to alert her to patterns or subtle warning signs, such as a student missing class repeatedly on a specific day, helps her to address potential issues with students before they grow into bigger problems. Still, she emphasized that the tool works both ways, not only keeping faculty and staff informed but allowing students to closely track their own performance.
“I use MU Connect to make sure students are aware of their progress in class and are able to be successful learners while they’re here,” Johnston said. “And it’s not just for the bad stuff; I can give kudos and compliments, which is something I do a lot.”
“I use MU Connect to make sure students are aware of their progress in class and are able to be successful learners while they’re here.”
Johnston said MU Connect also helps promote communication with other course coordinators and advisors, as teachers can look up a given student’s advisor and the other classes they are taking to gather more information about any concerns with performance, attendance, or other potential issues.
On the advising side of things, Pike strives to be a resource for students navigating their college careers and uses MU Connect to take advantage of a schoolwide — even campuswide — network of faculty and staff invested in helping students achieve their goals. For Pike, it’s in making that network tighter and more responsive that the tool really shines.
“I think the more eyes on a student issue, the better,” Pike said. “Whenever we see an alert from a student, it’s usually first raised when a professor has made an attempt to reach out to the student but hasn’t heard back, and it really quickly clues in another person in the student success network. In terms of looping in more people and being able to see a record of the flags a student has had, MU Connect is really helpful.”
Johnston and Pike represent different generations and different areas of emphasis — Johnston has decades of experience in the news industry, including more than 17 years in editing roles at the Columbia Missourian, while Pike began her career as an advisor in 2021 — but these differences represent the breadth of the success network that the tool brings together in service of students.
“There are so many instructors and advisors across campus who use it, and I hope that tells students that we are looking out for them,” Johnston said. “I can’t succeed if my students don’t succeed.”
Updated: August 16, 2022