Addressing Misperceptions of Underprepared Students

A Case Study at a Public American University


  • Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
  • Melissa Cheese Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
  • Scott Richardson University of Houston-Clear Lake


Underprepared students, Underrepresented minorities, Cultural responsiveness, At-promise, Faculty/staff networking


This study examines faculty/staff perceptions of underprepared students as well as the experiences of these students in the college setting. Understanding that this crucial population has poor retention, we sought to understand who they were and how the faculty/staff felt about them in an effort to better serve them. While most students surveyed believed their professors wanted them to succeed and were interested in their learning, they also offered insight into areas where faculty could further assist their progress. Faculty/staff revealed both positive and negative feelings about underprepared students, often acknowledging feelings of helplessness when working with them. Through data analysis of surveys from both populations, we identified key areas of focus on which to build a professional development model. By bridging gaps in faculty/staff understanding through a faculty networking approach, we are working together to become more student-ready in addressing student needs wherever they fall, thus promoting student success and retention.

Author Biographies

Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar is an assistant professor of writing in the Department of Academic Enrichment at Bloomsburg University. She earned her doctorate of education in educational leadership from the University of Delaware. Her research interests include providing meaningful feedback, utilizing metacognitive revision to promote writing achievement, and working with at-promise students.


Melissa Cheese, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Melissa Cheese is an assistant professor of reading in the Department of Academic Enrichment at Bloomsburg University. She earned her Ed.D. in literacy studies from Hofstra University. Her research interests include using literacy practices, culturally relevant pedagogy, and student success and retention strategies to support at-promise students’ learning and development.

Scott Richardson, University of Houston-Clear Lake

Scott Richardson is the chief diversity and inclusion officer at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He earned his doctorate of education in higher education administration at Widener University. His research interests include the human condition, social and critical thinking, and race relations. He is a very proud alumnus of the Milton S. Hershey School. Without that opportunity, he would not be who he is today.