John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Gardner Institute Names Kristie Pirkey, APR, Director of Marketing and Communications

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, a national non-profit focused on helping higher education institutions improve student learning, persistence and completion, is pleased to announce the appointment of Kristie Pirkey, APR to the position of Director of Marketing and Communications. Selected after a national search, Ms. Pirkey began her work on January 12, 2015.

“Kristie is a seasoned marketing and communications professional who will greatly enhance the manner in which we disseminate information to former, current and new partners about the most effective ways to boost student learning, retention and completion,” said Drew Koch, the Gardner Institute’s Executive Vice President. “We are thrilled to have her as a part of our team.”

“At the Gardner Institute, we constantly strive to inform institutions about the very best in student success practices,” added John N. Gardner, President of the Gardner Institute. “With the support and expertise of Kristie Pirkey in this newly established role, we know that we will be able to enhance this effort and add to our momentum as a national student success non-profit organization.”

A 15-year non-profit professional specializing in marketing and corporate communications, Pirkey most recently served as Association Director of Public Relations and Communications for the YMCA of San Diego County. At the Y, she was responsible for strategic direction and implementation of the charitable non-profit Association’s marketing, public relations and communications program including media relations, branch support and countywide events.

Prior to her work with the Y and for more than seven years, she served as Director of Corporate Communications with the American Council on Exercise (ACE), an accredited, national non-profit organization dedicated to the education, training and certification of more than 45,000 fitness professionals.

“I am excited to join the John N. Gardner Institute, collaborate with higher education institutions and expand our collective impact,” Pirkey said. “I am passionate about serving mission driven organizations and honored for the opportunity to focus our efforts and build on the incredible reputation of the Institute.”

A native of California, Ms. Pirkey earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Menlo College in Atherton, CA and her accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America.

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National Survey of Student Success Practices in Two-Year Colleges

National Survey of Student Success Initiatives at Two-Year Colleges

The Gardner Institute administered the “National Survey of Student Success Initiatives at Two-Year Colleges” designed to investigate student success practices, policies, and services at two-year colleges.

Gardner Institute Announces Inaugural G2C Pilot Cohort

November 4, 2013

Twelve Colleges and Universities Partner with the John N. Gardner Institute to Transform Gateway Courses in Inaugural Gateways to Completion™ Cohort

Brevard, North Carolina – The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education today announced that 12 colleges and universities have been selected as Founding Institutions for the pilot of the Gateways to Completion™ (G2C™) process. Gateways to Completion is a structured course transformation process through which faculty and staff analyze student and institutional performance in lower division and/or developmental education courses. The Gardner Institute developed the G2C process with extensive input from the thirty-two member G2C National Advisory Committee.

Each of the 12 pilot institutions has agreed to focus their analysis on up to five high-risk gateway courses. The courses will be identified by each institution using evidence collected during the first year of the three-year G2C process. The analysis will inform the creation of evidenced-based course transformation plans that the institutions will subsequently implement.

“Gateway courses enroll large numbers of undergraduate students,” stated Drew Koch, the Gardner Institute’s Executive Vice President. “Research studies, such as Clifford Adelman’s Answers in the Toolbox and The Toolbox Revisited, show that students who do not succeed in gateway courses are significantly less likely to complete their stated programs of study and they are also are less likely to complete college degrees anywhere.”

“Failure rates in these courses often exceed 40% and 50%,” Koch continued. “Given the connection between the completion of a postsecondary credential and both economic and personal well being, these high failure rates are unacceptable. The nation simply cannot realize its Completion Agenda goals and institutions cannot maintain the public’s trust if colleges and universities do not take decisive action to address these high failure rates. The institutions involved in the G2C pilot recognize this, and their faculty and staff are using G2C to intentionally and positively address the issue.”

“The 12 G2C Founding Institutions serve as a representative cross section of higher education in the United States,” added John Gardner, Institute President. Two are classified as associates colleges, three as baccalaureate colleges, four as masters colleges and universities, and three as research universities. The cohort includes six member institutions of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, three members of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, two members of the American Association of Community Colleges, and one member of the League for Innovation in the Community College. It includes public and private colleges and universities as well as non-profit and proprietary institutions.

“The cohort’s composition shows that this is an issue that spans all of academe,” added Gardner. “We applaud these institutions for their willingness to take action on this issue. They are true leaders and innovators in the student success movement.”

Faculty play a significant role in the G2C process. The plans the faculty generate working with their academic and student affairs colleagues are supported with G2C predictive analytics and dashboard tools. In addition, G2C participating institutions take part in the annual G2C Community of Practice meeting and they also have the option to attend and/or present at the annual Gateway Course Experience Conference.

“We will learn much with and from the twelve G2C Founding Institutions,” shared Koch. “These lessons will be applied to assist them as well as the next cohort of G2C institutions that will join the current colleges and universities in Fall 2014.”

The Gardner Institute is a North Carolina-based, federally-recognized non-profit organization. Since 1999, the Institute has worked with hundreds of postsecondary institutions within the United States as well as a select number of international institutions to improve undergraduate student learning, success, retention and completion rates.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Andrew K. Koch
Executive Vice President
John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education / 828-877-3549

John Gardner Has New Book Published

John Gardner recently had a new book published, Developing and Sustaining Successful First-Year Programs, with Gerald M. Greenfield and Jennifer R Keup, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2013.

Publication Date: August 5, 2013 | ISBN-10: 0470603348 | ISBN-13: 978-0470603345

The book is available as an e-pub, in print format, and Kindle.

Andrew Koch Named 2013-14 ACE Fellow

Drew Koch, Gardner Institute Executive Vice President, named 2013-14 ACE Fellow
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National Survey of Student Success Initiatives in Two-Year Colleges Report to be Published in Winter 2013-14

The Gardner Institute is pleased to announce the upcoming report of our National Survey to investigate selected initiatives designed to improve the success and retention of students at two-year colleges. The survey does not cover all student success initiatives, but focuses on three major components of the student experience that occur widely in two year colleges in the United States: entry experiences, student support experiences, and career readiness experiences. This survey was developed by the Gardner Institute and is being sponsored in part by Ellucian and Starfish Retention Solutions. Results will be available to survey respondents in the next few months and to the educational community via our web

Gardner Institute Announces New Effort to Mobilize Institutions to Improve Gateway Course Success

Gardner Institute Announces Gateways to Completion™ – New Effort Mobilizes Institutions Seeking to Improve Performance in High Failure Rate Courses

February 9, 2013

Point Clear, Alabama – The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education today publically unveiled Gateways to Completion (G2C™), a new effort to help institutions address high failure rates in gateway courses. Speaking with a group of chief academic officers at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) 2013 Academic Affairs Winter Meeting, the Institute’s President, John Gardner, and Executive Vice President, Drew Koch, shared how and why the time is right for higher education institutions and systems to create and implement a comprehensive strategy to improve institutional performance and student success in gateway courses.

“Gateway courses, such as introductory-level math, English, chemistry, biology, and psychology, typically enroll, and present challenges to, large numbers of first- and second-year students” said Koch. “These failure rates negatively impact student academic performance and retention, and in many cases degree completion. In an era where heightened institutional accountability, performance-based funding, and the needs of the Completion Agenda are paramount, higher education institutions simply cannot tolerate these kinds of outcomes,” Koch continued.

“The Gateways to Completion effort draws on the Gardner Institute’s proven expertise with helping institutions create and implement action plans for student success,” added Gardner. “Specifically, we are drawing on the experience the Institute has derived working with nearly 250 institutions to create and implement action plans for first-year and/or transfer student success via Foundations of Excellence.”

Independent research correlates the high implementation of a Foundations of Excellence-generated action plan with substantial increases in IPEDS first-to-second year retention rates and retention-related tuition revenue. “We are confident that these kinds of outcomes can be carried over to our new, focused work with G2C,” Gardner stated.

“Gateways to Completion will link the Gardner Institute’s seasoned student success expertise to dashboards and predictive analytics tools. This combination will allow institutions to create, implement, and continuously improve a strategic, multi-year effort focused on improving gateway course success. As with Foundations of Excellence, faculty will be at the heart of the effort. In short, G2C links strategic action planning with intervention tactics and tools – with the goal being making the whole greater than the sum of the pieces” shared Koch.

The Gardner Institute is currently accepting applications from all higher education institution and system types – two-year, four-year, public, private, etc. The applications will be considered for inclusion in the Gardner Institute’s pilot group of Gateways to Completion institutions. The pilot institutions will be selected this spring and summer and will begin their three-year involvement with G2C in Fall 2013.

For more information on the G2C project, visit the Gateways to Completion website or contact:

Drew Koch
Executive Vice President

John Gardner, an educator who made the University of South Carolina an international leader in improving students’ freshman-year experience, will speak at the USC summer commencement exercises Aug. 4.

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A recent article in Change Magazine identifies FoE as a national initiative that improves undergraduate education despite tough economic times

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