Xiaodan Hu’s dream is to one day learn carpentry.
But these days the assistant professor in NIU’s Higher Education program is pursuing her passion of building young minds and paving paths for future leaders and educators.
Hu, who came to NIU in 2017, is focusing her research on how state and institutional initiatives’ affect student success.
In 2019, she received a grant to research academic equity issues in the College of Education, and hopes her findings will lead to future benefits for students at NIU. She found that with the proper support and encouragement early in their college career, all students can succeed equally.
“While we found structural inequity exists in the College of Education just as it does in most institutions, our results show that historically marginalized groups of students can succeed as much as others with proper support,” she said.
As part of the project, she used the data of three cohorts of full-time undergraduate students who entered NIU between 2010 and 2012, and found that though the overall retention rate and graduation rate of students exceeded the average level of NIU and peer institutions in Illinois, there was an achievement gap among student demographic groups.
“According to our further analysis using prediction models, only first-semester enrollment and performance factors are most critically associated with a student’s success,” she said.
To make sure students get the support they need from their first semester and continue to have strong academic performance, she offered several recommendations, including making students more aware of the many services already readily available to them across campus.
“The grant was a great opportunity for me to apply my expertise in higher education and support student success and decision-making in my own college,” she said.