Memo Banner "Message from Provost Storrs"

September 27, 2021



To:    UNCG Faculty

From:  Debbie Storrs, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor
Sarah Daynes, Faculty Senate Chair
Regina McCoy, Provost Fellow for Student Success

Re:      Starfish Midterm Communication to Faculty

Dear faculty,

Faculty are critical to student retention and success. We recognize the work you do every day in classrooms, labs, studios, and office hours to support students’ academic journeys. We are now at a critical juncture in the fall semester and ask for your engagement in using Starfish, a retention software platform, to communicate to undergraduate students about their course progress.  Starfish is not the only action or communication we are engaged in with students, but it is the best tool we currently have for communicating with students about course progress, identifying students who need interventive support, and creating an empirically informed picture of the student success environment at the course level.

As we complete week six of the semester, we ask that you give special attention this term to raise Starfish flags which communicate to the student about their academic performance. Many students need this nudge—or even a push—as they enter the second half of the semester. A strong signal from you now can make all the difference in how students approach their remaining coursework, as well as trigger interventions from student-support professionals on campus for students who need extra help. These just-in-time interventions can make all the difference for many students and can help retain students.  Academic support staff will respond to students with multiple flags and will only contact you if additional faculty information or support is needed.

The last day to withdraw from the fall semester without a WF grade (which counts as an F in GPA calculations) is October 8th. Students who are currently struggling need detailed feedback from you so they can make an informed decision to withdraw or stay in your course(s) and seek out additional academic support. While we know that you can communicate this information to them directly, raising flags and communicating through Starfish as well creates a record that better helps us understand school, college, and institutional patterns of W and WF grades.

Here are specific requests:

  • Before October 4th, please complete the 7th week Academic Status Report in Starfish for all students in your undergraduate courses. If you are constrained on time, please focus on raising flags for students who have not attended regularly, have performed at a D or F level in assignments, or have disclosed mental health struggles or other personal concerns that are impacting their academic progress.
  • When you raise a flag, a comment box will give you an opportunity to provide more information about why the flag is being raised. Please do not duplicate the wording from the Starfish flag in the comment box. Instead, provide a brief but specific comment on what the issue is and what their options are. For example, if you raise a flag because the student is performing at a D or F level because they failed to turn in an assignment your comment can explain whether the student can turn it in late, what the penalty (if any) will be, and how turning in the assignment could improve the student’s grade.
  • There are other kinds of flags you can raise in Starfish including Personal Concern, Disruptive Behavior Concern, or Academic Integrity Concern flags. These flags will not be seen by your students. Instead, they will be read by staff in the Dean of Students Office and/or the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities. Specific comments will therefore be required for any of these items raised, so these offices can respond appropriately. Please take the time to raise these flags as these are often the students who need support.
  • Raise a referral to directly connect students and academic support staff when there is a specific service your students should use to address the academic flags you have raised. Referral options include tutoring and academic skill development in the Academic Achievement Center, the Writing and Speaking Centers, and the Math Help Center.
  • If you have time, you can also give students Kudos in Starfish to recognize excellent work.

What happens after you complete your Starfish updates?  Any academic flags, kudos, or referrals you issue will be instantly emailed to the student, along with your comments (except, as noted above, for personal concern, disruptive behavior, or academic integrity flags).  This information is also seen by their academic advisors and academic support staff, who are mobiling to engage in additional outreach to students with multiple raised flags. Last year, over 87% of student respondents took action to improve their academic situation after receiving a Starfish flag. Most students went back to their instructors, sought help from campus resources, or spoke with their advisors for guidance.

To get access to your Starfish Academic Status Reports, log in to Starfish at and then click on “Outstanding Academic Status Reports” at the top of your home page. If you teach multiple undergraduate courses, you will have a separate report for each course, just use the drop-down menu to view all reports. (Note: Starfish works best with Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.)

You can find more information on how these reports work by taking a look at this handy quick guide. If you would like assistance with completing the Academic Status Report, we encourage you to reach out to Devonne Gaddy in the Students First Office at

Thank you for  taking this important step in helping students understand their performance so far in the term, as well as what they can do to finish strong.

With best wishes,

Debbie Storrs, Provost
Sarah Daynes, Faculty Senate Chair
Regina McCoy, Provost Fellow for Student Success