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Student Alert Group Engagement [SAGE] program: identifying, helping, and retaining students of concern using a cross-campus approach

What is Student Alert Group Engagement [SAGE]?

SAGE is a network of staff and faculty that meets weekly to review a list of students on the alert system, with an objective of helping these students succeed at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. SAGE is currently chaired by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and will eventually be chaired by the new Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. Through technology that allows faculty, staff, and administrators to register concern about a student electronically on a secured website, we are able to make contact with appropriate campus resources in order to assist students who are experiencing a variety of difficulties. The SAGE program includes a "first response" administrative follow-up on cases submitted on a daily basis, with a more thorough follow-up and case management of individual students, and tracking of their experiences by SAGE Action team members.

How does SAGE work?

Students are referred to the SAGE program by UMass Dartmouth faculty, staff, or administrators via a secured website when the students exhibit behavior that causes a concern, or appear to be "at-risk."
The "at-risk" description refers to students who seem to be having problems or difficulties, e.g., sudden unexplained series of absences, disturbing or problematic expressions on assigned written papers, behavior problems or dramatic change in behavior, interpersonal difficulties, family crisis, financial problems, or indications they will leave the university. Each day, the Associate Dean of Student in the Student Affairs office will provide an administrative "first response" within 24 hours on cases submitted. This will be followed by a more thorough case management of individual students. For most students, a proactive intervention plan will be developed by the SAGE Action Team comprised primarily of Associate/Assistant deans of the colleges and student affairs that meets weekly to review reported cases.
Why refer students?

One objective of the SAGE program is improved student retention and higher graduation rates. Students who transfer from UMass Dartmouth, or leave college entirely, often do so because of poor academic performance or personal problems that negatively impact their student status. Students often recognize they need help, but are uncertain about where or how to obtain it. Students who are contacted by the SAGE program will learn what resources are available to help them. The SAGE program provides additional, coordinated resources for students who are experiencing either personal or academic difficulties, and it can give individualized help to struggling students. This support is beneficial to both the student experiencing difficulties, and faculty, staff, or administrators who have been working with the student. By having a central reference source for students at risk, the university community can coordinate the most effective support for the student. Duplication of effort is avoided and the risk of giving conflicting information to a student is mitigated. Most importantly, it allows the university to intervene proactively to assist students in crisis and possibly avoiding Virginia Tech type of tragedy.

How can students be referred?
From the university’s home page, go to SAGE under Quick Links or go to Faculty & Staff portal and click on SAGE under More Links and complete the student alert form. You will receive a follow-up communication within 24 hours from Associate Dean of Students Mary Beckwith once the alert has processed. You may also call 508.999.6402 and speak with her directly. We anticipate the SAGE site to be activated on February 19th.

Who participates in SAGE?
Participation in SAGE is voluntary. A faculty member may choose to submit an "alert" on a student who has sudden, unexplained series of absences ; have expressed troublesome thoughts on assignments, behave in a disruptive manner in class and ignore faculty attempts to correct the behavior; or give faculty other reasons for concern. Staff member or administrators may also file an alert if they are concerned about a student for any reason. For example, if a staffer or administrator feels a student is not coping effectively with physical or emotional stress, he or she may write an alert to SAGE. They can also file an alert if they are aware of a major family problem or crisis facing a student; of if they have seen problematic behavior in a student who has been unresponsive to overtures of assistance.

What policy governs the SAGE program?
1. Only SAGE action team members have access to the SAGE database and related student information files.
2. The information submitted through the SAGE reporting system about student concerns does not constitute an educational record under FERPA. It is considered a working communication triggering a process.
3. Alerts and case management follow-up notes on individual students will be kept on the SAGE database until the student's separation from the university.
4. Access to information about a student who is referred is shared with appropriate faculty and staff on a need-to-know basis only.
5. The SAGE program will be piloted for three years [AY 09-11] at which time we will assess its impact on students who have been referred /identified and consider the responses of faculty and staff members who have used the program. These assessments of the program's effectiveness will determine whether SAGE is to be continued or terminated.