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President’s Legacy Forum Focuses on Student Retention

February 20, 2008

The fourth President’s Legacy Forum, held on February 12 and 13, focused on the issue of student retention and what steps all members of the Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) community can take to help increase the number of students who complete their degrees. The two-day event included a General Assembly, attended by the full University community, as well as separate discussions with students, staff and faculty facilitated by Dr. Howard Adams, a retention expert working as a consultant to B-CU.

President Reed opened the General Assembly by explaining that the morning’s discussion would be led by a panel of students, noting: “One of our strategic goals is to increase civic engagement and social responsibility. To do that, students must be part of the dialogue. They must lead and help set new directions for the University.” She further noted that retention – “completing what you have started; not leaving Bethune-Cookman University without the degree you came here to get” – should be a priority for the students themselves, as well as faculty and administration.

The student panelists each spoke about different issues related to retention:

• Mr. Justin Bynum, a junior majoring in religion/philosophy, addressed the impact graduating from college can have on future career success. He stated that “success is not guaranteed, but must be worked for . . . there is no free lunch” and that “college is an investment; we cannot afford to throw money away without getting what we came for.”

• Ms. Cheri Bender, a freshman majoring in speech communications, spoke about the importance of setting priorities – from making sure you prioritize your class assignments and complete them on time, to prioritizing your education and saying no to things that would jeopardize it.

• Ms. Xavondra Handfield, a junior majoring in speech communications, discussed the role that mentors can play in helping students graduate and succeed in life. She challenged faculty and staff to become mentors, noting that “the presence of one person in our lives who thinks we can make it can make all the difference.”

• Mr. Julian Smith, a senior majoring in accounting, talked about taking pride in setting goals and having the will to achieve them, urging his fellow students to “play, plan, produce, with a sense of urgency.”

Following the student presentations, Dr. Adams spoke to the assembly, emphasizing the importance of students taking responsibility for their education. “Living is about making choices. You make a choice to come and you make a choice to stay,” he said. “There is a quote I want you to remember: opportunity will knock, but it will not pick a lock.”

In addition, Dr. Adams summarized the student presentations, distilling them into four key points for students to keep in mind as they work toward their degrees:

• Define what success means for you; work with a purpose;

• Have a protocol for life; strive for excellence;

• Those with mentors get farther than those without;

• Graduation is an end result – you are not just passing through. Following the General Assembly, Dr. Adams led separate sessions with students, faculty and staff to address what each group can do to increase student retention at Bethune-Cookman University.

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About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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