Southeast Missouri State University has been recognized as a finalist for the Arcus Award for Achievement in Educational Attainment from the St. Louis Regional Chamber.Southeast now vies for the award alongside five other finalists, with the award to be presented March 1 at the 5th Annual Arcus Awards, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand. The awards, presented by RubinBrown LLP, will honor 51 companies, organizations and institutions that make St. Louis a more attractive place to live, work and invest.This is a tremendous honor for Southeast knowing we are competing among a respected field of quality nominees from across the St. Louis area, said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University.The Arcus Awards are often described as the Academy Awards of the St. Louis business community and highlight amazing stories of businesses demonstrating exceptional leadership throughout the region. The Arcus Award for Achievement in Educational Attainment is presented to a company, organization or institution for providing leadership through the creation of a program or initiative that promotes college degree attainment, improved educational outcomes or on-the-job training.Other finalists along with Southeast Missouri State University in the Achievement in Education Attainment category are Fontbonne University, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, PNC Financial Services, St. Louis American Foundation and St. Louis Graduates.Southeast was selected by a panel of independent judges and was recognized for embracing a campus culture supporting student persistence and completion, and for its Transfer Mentor Program.I am extremely proud to be recognized for the strides Southeast is making to improve degree attainment on our campus. Improving college completion rates is crucial as we strive to prepare students with the knowledge and skills they need for jobs of the future, Vargas said.Towards the first goal, Southeast is working towards retaining at least 80 percent of all first-time students to the second year and graduating at least 60 percent of this cohort in six years. Since implementation of this goal, the University has realized a 1.1 percent increase in its retention rate and a 3.2 percent increase in the six-year graduation rate. Both are the highest rate since Southeast began tracking this data. Last fall, the University reported that 75.4 percent of its new students from fall 2016 returned for the fall 2017 semester, a sign the University is making progress towards its retention goals.Student success, through academic excellence and engagement, is our top priority, Vargas said. Our institutional commitment to student learning and personal support instills a sense of confidence in our students as they plan for their future. At Southeast, this begins from their first time on campus to the day they get their diploma.As part of reaching these goals, the campus community has updated and developed relevant academic programs in unmanned aircraft systems, Geographic Information Science, cybersecurity, industrial and systems engineering, and health communication, among others and has enhanced academic and student engagement.One change influencing this success is the elimination of nine hours of upper-division requirements in Southeasts University Studies program, its general education curriculum. In addition, all existing and new degree programs at Southeast are undergoing a review to ensure they do not unnecessarily require more than 120 credit hours.Southeast also has implemented new developmental math labs and a redesigned math curriculum. All of these initiatives will allow students to complete their degree with less cost and graduate more quickly.In response to Senate Bill 997, Southeast also is working along with Missouris two- and four-year public colleges and universities to collaborate on a 42-credit hour general education equivalency matrix (CORE 42), so courses taken anywhere within Missouri higher education will count if a student transfers.The intent is to make transferring general education credits between institutions simpler and more consistent for students, as well as more predictable for schools.Additionally, Southeast has committed to better serving and supporting its transfer student population, which grew to 582 students in fall 2017, an indication the Universitys Transfer Mentor Program implemented in February 2017, is making an impact.Through partnerships with Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri, Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Illinois, Southeast helps community college students plan a pathway to success, enhancing their transition to Southeast early on to complete their degree.The program establishes significant partnerships among the community colleges, their students and Southeast, Vargas said. By providing the tools and resources they need, we work together to support students as they plan and track their degree from their first semester at their two-year school through their first semester at Southeast.As part of the free program, students have access to academic advising at Southeast and Southeasts web-based degree management system. The program also provides students opportunities for concurrent enrollment and reverse transfer to earn their Associate of Arts degrees.Currently, 118 community college students are enrolled in and benefiting from the Transfer Mentor Program.Arcus Awards are given in eight categories: educational attainment, biosciences, financial services, health, logistics, entrepreneurship and innovation, inclusion and talent attraction, and public policy. Two Signature Awards also are presented: the Ameren Corporate Citizenship Award and the BMO Harris Bank St. Louis Spirit Award.The Arcus Awards are presented to companies, organizations and institutions that demonstrate exceptional commitment to leading the St. Louis regions authentic economic strengths and championing a better tomorrow for our region. These awards recognize companies and organizations that make the St. Louis region the best place to live, work and invest. With more than 20,000 alumni residing in the St. Louis region and a large number of students attending Southeast from that area, Southeast has long been vested in the economic prosperity of the greater metro area. Since 2013, Southeast has been an active participant in the Regional Chambers higher education initiatives and Southeast President Dr. Carlos Vargas is an Ex-Officio member of the Chambers Board of Directors.