Indian River Community College- Dedicated to Student Success
Indian River Community College (IRCC) is a two-year community college that
offers Associate in Arts Degrees, Associate in Science Technical Degrees, and
certificates. IRCC serves four counties and 11,700 full time students.
Administered by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, IRCC participated in
the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) in 2004. All site
campuses were included in this survey, and 65 instructors and 775 students participated.
In April of this year, the Associate Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, Tina Hart,
discussed IRCC’s level of student engagement and benchmark scores at a faculty
meeting. Overall, IRCC’s rankings were similar to community colleges of the same size.
CCSSE graded IRCC’s benchmark scores as follows: Active and Collaborative Learning
at 48%, Student Effort at 49.9%, Academic Challenge at 50.2%, Student-Faculty
Interaction at 50.2%, and Support for Learners at 51.5%.
Indian River Community College Athletic Teams
Indian River Community College’s Athletics Department participates in NJCAA
Men’s Baseball I, Men’s and Women’s Basketball I, Men’s and Women’s Swimming and
Diving I, Women’s Volleyball I, and Fast Pitch Softball I. IRCC’s athletic teams have
won a total of 58 NJCAA Team National Championship titles. Men’s Swimming and
Diving have won 31 championships, Women’s Swimming and Diving have won 29
championships, Women’s Tennis has won one championship, and Women's Division I
Fast Pitch Softball team has won one championship.
All IRCC student athletes are held accountable to the NJCAA rules of eligibility,
the rules and regulations of the Southern Conference, and the rules of Indian River
Community College. Students are allowed two seasons of competition in any sport at
IRCC. IRCC is a Division I school, and offers many full athletic scholarships. Student
athletes must maintain full time status (12 credits or more) during the season of the sport
in which they participate. After initial full-time enrollment, they must have passed 12
credit hours with a 1.75 GPA. Student athletes must make progress toward graduation,
and thus before participation in a second season, must have 24 semester hours with a 2.00
GPA or higher.
What Prompted the Focus on Student-Athlete Engagement?
As many of IRCC’s student-athletes transfer to four-year Division I colleges, the
rules enforced in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) directly affect
IRCC’s student-athletes. Lately, the state of academics in college athletics programs has
been hotly debated in the news, due to the NCAA decision to enforce what is termed the
Academic Progress Rate. Essentially, the APR is an indicator of how well a team is
making progress towards graduating its student-athletes. The new rules state that every
player must complete 20 percent of the course work needed for a bachelor’s degree per
year to remain eligible for sports. Athletic teams will earn points based on their athletes’
grades on a scale of 1 to 1,000. Beginning next year, teams scoring below 925 will lose a
scholarship for every player who fails too many classes to be eligible for sports.
Knowing this, IRCC’s student-athletes must be prepared academically for these new
challenges that lie ahead because academics count now, more than ever.
The Library’s Role in Engaging Student-Athletes
The Library at IRCC has supported the student-athletes’ mandatory study halls for
several years. The student-athletes are required to be in the Library on average six hours
a week, and thus the Librarians have had the unique opportunity to work closely with
them, as well as their coaches. The student-athletes feel comfortable in coming to the
reference desk with their research questions, giving the Library staff adequate
opportunity to gain their trust and respect.
Over time, the Library staff realized that they had the unique opportunity to
develop a partnership with the Athletic Department and could use this chance to turn the
mandatory study halls into something far more beneficial to the student-athletes. After
much brainstorming, as well as soliciting feedback from coaches and the student-athletes
themselves, new and improved practices were developed in the hope of strengthening
their academic success. Through research and discussion, the Library has developed new
practices to address all five CCSSE benchmarks in the plan to further engage IRCC’s
Active and Collaborative Learning
Many students, including student-athletes, benefit from learning community style
environments. This fall 2005, IRCC’s Library will be remodeled into a true learning
community when it integrates its facilities with IRCC’s tutoring center. Along with the
Library and tutoring center, this building will include new high tech computer stations, a
computer lab, study rooms, as well as designated areas for socializing. Additionally, this
building will have WI-FI technology. Already considered a hangout by students and
student-athletes, once this remodel is complete the new building will be a true academic
hub for students. IRCC’s Diving Coach, Donnie Torres, said he is particularly excited
about the merger between the Library and the tutoring center, because now he can shift
his student-athletes from the Library “right up the stairs” to the tutoring lab- practically
ensuring their academic success. It is the hope of the Library and the athletic coaches
that student-athlete grades, retention, and overall success will increase.
Athletes must train and play their sports for 40-50 hours a week. Obviously,
because their time is limited, it is imperative they accomplish as much as they can while
in study hall at the Library. Many student-athletes find when they come to study hall,
they have a hard time concentrating and staying on task. A Librarian brought this
problem to the attention of Associate Dean Tina Hart. In reaction to this, Dean Hart has
offered to test all incoming student-athletes’ learning styles, which helps identify study
preferences when attempting to learn new and difficult material. The findings should
help the student-athletes identify and utilize their preferred study habits (see enclosed
sample learning styles assessment). Dean Hart will meet with the student-athletes in the
presence of their coaches to teach them how they can best meet their individual studying
needs, which should help them manage their study time in the Library more productively.
Inspired by student-athletes’ often cited preference for tactile and kinesthetic
learning styles, a Librarian created a MLA citation learning object (see enclosed CD
“MLA Tutorial”). As any Librarian would attest to, one of the most difficult concepts
students have grasping are citation styles, especially for online databases. The Library’s
learning object is specifically designed to meet their learning styles by using visual and
tactile tools to teach them these concepts. The learning object allows the student to
engage in practice questions at the end to test their newly acquired knowledge.
A very important piece of data that the Library uses to gauge student effort is
noting what percentage of students work on research papers that require integrating ideas
or information from various sources. Students that research literary criticism and use
these works in their papers to back up their ideas will have more solid based papers and
obtain more feedback that is positive from their professors. The Library staff makes it a
priority that each student walk away with scholarly research and/or criticism that meets
their information needs, and that they also know how to properly cite this research.
Whether they take the Library faculty’s one-credit classes, or if they are taught one-on-
one, the student-athletes have been taught by the Librarians how to conduct this research.
In the past, IRCC Librarians have offered the one credit LIS 2004 to students, and
occasionally a student-athlete in need of a credit for athletic eligibility would take the
course. Last fall, a faculty Librarian approached two coaches (Women’s Basketball and
Swimming and Diving) and offered to teach their entire teams this course in a weekend
format. As this course teaches electronic research skills and citation styles, this
knowledge would be very useful to them before they had to write any final papers. The
class was successful, with many of the athletes stating that they were able to use what
they learned in their assignments (see enclosed CD “Athletes’ Advantage” for more
student-athlete testimonials). It also gave many of them a chance to clarify their
questions about citation formats. Due to this success, the Vice President of Student
Affairs, Johnny Moore, told the Athletic Coaches that he is considering making this
course mandatory for all student-athletes on scholarship.
Student- Faculty Interaction
Student-athletes are appreciative when a faculty member really takes an interest in
them and their work. Not only does this benefit the academic success of the student, it
also increases the connection the student has to the College and the Library, thereby
increasing student retention and graduation rates. The Library faculty interacts with the
student-athletes early on and often, ensuring engagement for their time at IRCC. When
potential athletes request an information packet for recruitment to IRCC college sports,
they encounter a brochure in the packet that markets the Library’s available resources.
Additionally, the Library staff participates in a special athletes-only orientation in the fall
New practices to be implemented in fall 2005 will include team library tours and
immediate database training in preparation for academic success from the start. An
online orientation resource will be developed to supplement the in-person orientations.
In addition, email contacts will be established between the different teams and the
Librarians to allow student-athletes to ask for assistance at any time.
One of the best ways to engage student-athletes is by showing them they are
recognized as individuals, and not only “some athlete on a team”. It is a priority for
Library staff to learn as many of the student-athletes names as possible. Beginning in fall
2005, a Team Notebook (for every team) will be located at the reference desk (see
enclosed for a Women’s Basketball Team example). The team books will have a color
pictorial of all teams, and will have contact information for coaches and those in charge
of Student Affairs. Additionally, upon meeting with the teams, the Library faculty in
conjunction with the coaches will identify which gatekeeper courses (core courses)
student-athletes signed up for and retrieve syllabi for these courses. These will be
included in the notebooks to help Library staff identify needed resources and have them
available for study hall.
As IRCC’s student-athletes, and other student groups, are often in the local
newspapers, a great way to show that the Library takes a genuine interest in them is to
hang an announcement board in a prominent place in the Library to highlight their
Lastly, what better way to prove to the student-athletes that the Library cares
about their athletic efforts than to attend their games? The Library staff has been big
supporters of all teams’ games, and the Library had 100% volunteer participation at the
IRCC hosted National Swimming and Diving Nationals this year.
Support for Learners
Of course, the true test of how effective the Library is in engaging students really
comes down to one thing- do the students use the Library and how important do they feel
these services are? Last fall 2004, the Library surveyed library-users, with many student-
athletes as respondents (we asked them to take the survey during study hall). Survey
respondents rated their satisfaction as excellent in the following areas: research access
from home (i.e. dorms), online databases, Library staff, instructional sessions, and
interlibrary loan services.
The IRCC Library is also particularly excited about creating liaisons with the
athletic coaches to discuss the purchase of books and videos for their usage. Last year,
the Head Women’s Basketball Coach worked with a Librarian to select videos that would
help her athletes playing strategy. Previously, this has been an untapped resource of
collection development, but the Library recognizes now how much benefit it would bring
by allowing the Athletics Department to feel they have ownership in the Library’s
Additionally, in 2004, a Librarian updated all sports books and promoted them at
the Library. By watching the circulation rates of these books and soliciting feedback
from the student-athletes and coaches, the Librarians realized that these books were a
popular and well needed update to the collection.
Evidence of Effectiveness
With these new and improved practices implemented, the Library and the
Athletics Department hope to see an improvement in grades and decrease in withdrawals
from courses. Especially of concern are the gatekeeper, or core, courses that students
depend on for making progress towards graduation. The Library staff believes that by
engaging these student-athletes early on, courses like English, Humanities, and History
no longer have to be an obstacle that hinders their academic and professional goals.
The Librarians, in conjunction with the Athletic Coaches, are planning on
recording data to chart the student-athletes’ progress in their courses and their retention
rate in classes. Although the majority of IRCC student-athletes graduate and are
recruited by four-year colleges, many student-athletes have a high course withdrawal and
failure rate, which the Library staff hopes to help decrease.
Another measure to determine the Library’s effectiveness of engaging student-
athletes is by observing the actual usage of Library services (outside of the required study
hall). Services (including reference, database, and citation assistance) provided to the
student-athletes are utilized continually, even when their required study hall is not in
session. The student-athletes know they are welcome here- the Library faculty have an
open door policy and students are well aware of that. They come for assistance without
hesitation, and that is more proof that the Library staff has engaged those student-
athletes. They have learned research skills from the Library faculty and it is especially
rewarding when they are observed teaching their teammates how to do online research!
Finally, another measure of effectiveness actually surprised the Library. One of
IRCC’s Librarians is sponsoring a Book Club for students in fall 2005. Two swimmers
overheard this being discussed and actually asked to join it! The Library cannot help but
feel that this is an example of true engagement in action! Not only did student-athletes
want to join a club where reading is the goal, but one that is sponsored by a Librarian!
Duplication of IRCC Library’s Practices
Indian River Community College Library believes that other community college
libraries can easily duplicate their practices and results by doing the following:
Engage the student-athletes by building relationships with them on an individual
basis. They appreciate your seeing them as people and not always as “one of the
Let them know you support them by attending their games. They will notice your
Understand their unique learning styles and adapt conventional library research
tools to those styles.
Most community colleges libraries offer the statewide course LIS 2004 or
something similar. Try offering it to the student-athletes early on in the semester
when they would most benefit by it- not towards the end when they need an “easy
Be flexible with them. Studies have proven time and again the effect of
individuals when they are in a group. Teams will act rowdy and loud by nature of
the group effect, but with careful planning of the room design, setting firm ground
rules, and closely working with the coaches, study hall can be a pleasurable
experience for all involved.