John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

John N. Gardner Institute Appoints Stephanie M. Foote, Ph.D. as Assistant Vice President for Teaching, Learning, and Evidence-Based Practices

John N. Gardner Institute Appoints Stephanie M. Foote, Ph.D. as Assistant Vice President for Teaching, Learning, and Evidence-Based Practices

BREVARD, NC. (August 2017) – The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, a national nonprofit focused on helping higher education institutions improve teaching, learning, retention, and completion and simultaneously advance equity and social justice, announced the appointment of Dr. Stephanie Foote as Assistant Vice President for Teaching, Learning, and Evidence-Based Practices.

“Dr. Foote’s experience with designing and implementing efforts to enhance teaching, learning, and success make her the ideal person to serve in this role,” commented Dr. Andrew K. Koch, Gardner Institute Chief Operating Officer.

“Her experiences as a teacher and scholar combined with her administrative acumen will help the Institute continue to innovate in its Teaching and Learning Academy and Analytics in Pedagogy and Curriculum efforts,” continued Koch. “She will also be a key leader in the development of additional national projects that will help institutions improve the scale and quality of their high-impact undergraduate education practices.”

“The Institute is fortunate to have someone as skilled as Dr. Foote join our team,” added John N. Gardner, President and Co-Founder of the Gardner Institute. “She has been a valued collaborator for nearly two decades, and we are thrilled to be able to now call her a member of the Institute’s staff.”

Prior to joining the Gardner Institute, Dr. Foote was the founding director of the Master of Science in First-Year Studies, professor of education in the Department of First-Year and Transition Studies, and faculty fellow for High-Impact Practices at Kennesaw State University (KSU). Before joining the faculty at KSU, she served as the founding Director of the Academic Success Center and First-Year Experience at the University of South Carolina Aiken, and was the Associate Director for Student Orientation and Family Programs at Stony Brook University.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the exemplary work of the Gardner Institute, and specifically, to help advance the existing efforts and to create new initiatives aimed at supporting teaching, learning, and evidence-based practices,” contributed Dr. Foote.

Dr. Foote, a recipient of the McGraw-Hill Excellence in Teaching First-Year Seminars award and a past recipient of the NODA Outstanding Research Award, earned her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in Educational Administration-Higher Education and has served as a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Lead Evaluator for several institutions during their reaffirmation process through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS-COC). She has participated in the Foundations of Excellence Process for both first-year and transfer students. Dr. Foote is also a member of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition National Advisory Board. She began her work at the Gardner Institute on August 1, 2017.

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For More Information, contact:

Julie Heller

Marketing and Communications Director

John N. Gardner Institute

heller@jngi.org

 

About the John N. Gardner Institute

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to partnering with colleges, universities, philanthropic organizations, educators, and other entities to increase institutional responsibility for improving outcomes associated with teaching, learning, retention, and completion. Through its efforts the Institute strives to advance higher education’s larger goal of achieving equity and social justice. Specific focus is given to helping institutions develop and implement strategic action plans for first-year, second-year and/or transfer student success; improving teaching, learning and success in gateway courses; and conducting professional development focused on advancing educational excellence. For more information, visit www.jngi.org.

 

 

 

Gardner Institute Advisor Peterson-Veatch Named Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean at Southwestern College

Peterson-Veatch Named Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College at Southwestern College

May 17, 2017

Southwestern College President Brad Andrews has announced that Ross Peterson-Veatch will be the next vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.  Dr. Peterson-Veatch will begin his duties July 1.

The new vice president will have responsibility for the academic vision and execution of academic programs at the college, including both the main campus and Professional Studies. During the past year’s national search to fill the position these duties have been performed by Tracy Frederick, interim provost, after former provost Andy Sheppard accepted a college presidency in Georgia.

“I am so pleased to be chosen as Southwestern’s new vice president for academic affairs,” Peterson-Veatch says.  “I am excited to join the Moundbuilder community and I look forward to working with faculty and administrators to continue Southwestern’s strong traditions of student engagement and academic excellence.”  

Peterson-Veatch has served as interim vice president for academic affairs and academic dean at Goshen College (Ind.) since 2015.  In that role he was responsible for providing leadership and oversight for all academic and student life programs and departments.  He served Goshen previously as associate vice president for academic affairs, primarily focused on adult and graduate programs. Before that, as associate academic dean, his duties included service on the college team developing strategic academic priorities. 

Prior to his tenure at Goshen, Peterson-Veatch was a faculty member at Indiana University in the liberal arts and management program, and has also held faculty appointments at Earlham College, Goucher College, and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. From 2001 to 2007 he served Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business as an instructional consultant focused on improvement of classroom teaching practice.

 “Southwestern is a college with a clear focus on students and their success and a commitment to developing students as leaders.  I am honored and humbled to be able to be a part of those efforts and to help extend them to a growing student body both in Winfield and beyond,” Peterson-Veatch adds.

Peterson-Veatch received his bachelor’s degree from Earlham College in Spanish and sociology/anthropology and holds master’s and doctorate degrees in folklore from Indiana University. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on professional learning communities and other topics.

His academic interests include leadership studies, folklore, history of ethnography and Colonial Latin American literature.  

“I look forward to partnering with him and am excited about the leadership and service he will provide Southwestern in the years to come,” Andrews says. 

Peterson-Veatch has been involved in college pedagogy initiatives since 1992 and served on the program committee for the 2009 annual meeting of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.  He is a member of the International Leadership Association, the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education, the American Conference of Academic Deans, and the American Folklore Society.

Peterson-Veatch and his wife, Erika, plan to move to Winfield this summer along with their sons, Oscar and Arthur.  

UHD Honored with UHS Board of Regents Academic Excellence Award for Faculty Work on Improving Student Success in Gateway Courses

UHD Honored with UHS Board of Regents Academic Excellence Award for Faculty Work on Improving Student Success in Gateway Courses

Undergraduate success in higher education is often dependent on a student’s performance in gateway courses – or those required entry-level classes that provide the academic foundations for selected majors.

Recognizing the importance of gateway courses to students’ long-term academic success, faculty at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) began efforts to improve student performance in these courses nearly two decades ago. This multiyear initiative has addressed numerous gateway courses on campus and is yielding positive results. The ongoing efforts in recent years have been housed in the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE) as part of a program called the Course Innovation Initiative (CI2).

For its efforts in helping students succeed in these necessary classes, UHD was awarded the University of Houston-System Board of Regents Academic Excellence Award. UHD was formally recognized with this honor during the Board’s May 18 meeting on the University of Houston campus.

“This award is a validation of UHD’s commitment to its students,” said UHD President Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “Success in gateway courses is essential to a student’s progression in a university setting. Too often, those who transition from high school to an institution of higher learning are challenged by a new academic standard and new ways of learning. Our faculty and staff have worked diligently to help students overcome these challenges and stay on the right path toward finishing UHD strong.”

Examples of strategies used by faculty in gateway courses include:

  • Reading guides or interactive online video lectures that help students prepare prior to attending class.
  • Team environments in which students collaborate with each other and supplemental instruction leaders (peer tutors).
  • Classroom problem solving activities.

Improved student engagement and learning was the primary goal of course redesign efforts. This was measured in a variety of ways, but is reflected most prominently by the percentage of students earning a C or better in selected courses. At the conclusion of the fall 2016 semester, students’ grades in gateway courses had improved significantly.

Some of the most marked improvements included scores in College Algebra with 64 percent of students earning A’s, B’s or C’s. Previously, 42 percent earned a C or better in this course.

Another leap was made in General Biology. By the conclusion of fall 2016, 65 percent of students earned A’s, B’s or C’s. Prior to that semester, 38 percent of students scored a C or higher.

 

Additional program outcomes are detailed in this chart:

Course Name 2016/17 Enrollment Baseline % ABC Current % ABC
English Composition I 1050 54 74
English Composition II 1044 56 69
Integrated Reading & Writing 213 70 83
US History I 1294 52 71
College Algebra 1120 42 64
College Math for Liberal Arts 246 53 65
Beginning Algebra 77 54 70
Intermediate Algebra 251 49 66
General Biology I 390 38 65
General Chemistry I 385 44 56
Federal Government 1145 59 75

 

These impressive academic results have helped students overcome trepidations regarding the leap from high school classrooms to university learning spaces. Faculty confidence also was bolstered as professors collaborated together on course design strategies and observed positive outcomes in the classroom.

“I began seeing a level of engagement I had never seen before in any of my other classes,” said Dr. Lisa Morano, professor of biology and microbiology. “I began to realize that influence from peers was an incredibly motivating factor for students.”

Faculty efforts to improve student success in gateway courses through the support of the CTLE are complemented by other initiatives aimed at supporting First Time in College students (FITCs). These include Supplemental Instruction, freshman seminar courses, Gator Gateway, an expanded orientation program for freshmen, faculty mentoring, and Gator Ready, which is aimed at simplifying the registration process for FTICs.

A video titled Active Learning and Gateway Courses was created to document faculty and staff efforts to improve student learning in gateway courses at UHD. The video, featuring faculty and student testimonials, can be viewed here.

 

About The University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. UHD is one of four distinct public universities within the University of Houston System. As a comprehensive four-year university, UHD —led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz —offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Business; Humanities and Social Science; Public Service, Sciences and Technology; and University College). Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 44,000 alumni and is noted nationally as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Minority-Serving Institution. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.

Six Colleges and Universities Join John N. Gardner Institute’s Inaugural Small Enrollment Institution Retention Consortium Cohort to Improve Student Success and Retention Rates


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Six Colleges and Universities Join John N. Gardner Institute’s Inaugural Small Enrollment Institution Retention Consortium Cohort to Improve Student Success and Retention Rates 

BREVARD, NC. (January 27, 2017) – The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI), a national leader in helping colleges and universities improve student success, is pleased to announce the six smaller enrollment institutions that have been selected as JNGI’s inaugural Small Enrollment Institution Retention Consortium.

Drawing on JNGI’s established Retention Performance Management process, the Small Enrollment Institution Retention Consortium will help these six institutions create and then implement strategic retention improvement plans focused on specific cohorts such as first-year, second-year, first-generation and low-income students. The work commenced in November 2016 and will occur over the next two academic years. It will include institution-specific efforts as well as sharing across a broader small enrollment institution community of practice.

The following institutions join the more than 300 that have worked with JNGI to build and implement a comprehensive strategic action plan to yield a new vision for enhanced learning and retention.

  • Blackburn College
  • Catawba College
  • Coker College
  • Frank Phillips College
  • Kent State University
  • Western Nevada College

“The Small Enrollment Institution Retention Consortium is designed to help these six institutions and others like them keep more of the students they admit – an outcome critical to fulfilling institutional mission and maintaining financial wellbeing,” said Drew Koch, Chief Operating Officer, John N. Gardner Institute. “Both the institution specific plan generation and implementation process and the broader cross-institution community of practice are focused on shared decision-making that leads to making informed, data-based decisions about strategic retention and completion efforts. The shared decisions and actions have the power to transform the institution and the students they serve.”

“This collaborative can be extremely transformational for our institutions and their students,” said John N. Gardner, President, John N. Gardner Institute. “We are proud to partner with these strategically-minded organizations in assessing and planning for excellence in their entire undergraduate experience.”

JNGI’s proven student learning, success, retention and completion processes have been used by hundreds of institutions – including entire systems and/or districts – to improve the first-year and/or transfer experience.

The Gardner Institute is currently accepting applications from colleges and/or universities interested in joining the other JNGI cohorts. For more information, visit wwww.jngi.org.

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For more information:

Julie Heller

Director, Marketing and Communications

John N. Gardner Institute

heller@jngi.org 314-602-2785

About the John N. Gardner Institute

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to partnering with colleges, universities, philanthropic organizations, educators, and other entities to increase institutional responsibility for improving outcomes associated with teaching, learning, retention, and completion. Through its efforts the Institute will strive to advance higher education’s larger goal of achieving equity and social justice.

 

Eight Michigan Public Postsecondary Institutions Partner with the John N. Gardner Institute to Improve Student Outcomes in High-Risk Courses

October 11, 2016

Eight Michigan Public Postsecondary Institutions Partner with the John N. Gardner Institute to Improve Student Outcomes in High-Risk Courses

Brevard, North Carolina – The nonprofit John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI) is pleased to announce that eight Michigan postsecondary institutions will participate in the three-year Michigan Gateways to Completion (Michigan G2C) project.

Participating institutions include Eastern Michigan University, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Lansing Community College, Oakland University, University of Michigan – Dearborn, Washtenaw Community College, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.

Michigan G2C will help the institutions’ faculty create and implement evidence-based plans to continuously improve teaching, learning and outcomes in courses with historically high rates of failure, sometimes called “gateway courses.” Gateway courses are often big survey courses (Biology 101, Intro to Psychology, etc.) that all students must take as they begin a desired major. Failure in these courses in directly tied to lack of degree completion – especially for low-income and first-generation students and students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

And failure is too common, especially for minority students. G2C pilot data from 13 institutions show that on average 43.4% of all students enrolled in Introductory Accounting received a D or worse. For African-American students, nearly two-thirds received a D, F, W (withdrawal) or I (incomplete), and for Latino students, the number was nearly three-fourths.

“We know that research supports that the kinds of assessment, active learning and in-class and out-of-class strategies that are a part of G2C are directly connected to improvements in retention and graduation rates,” stated Drew Koch, JNGI Chief Operation Officer. “This is especially true for historically underserved and underrepresented students. So this project is equally about advancing social justice as it is about improving teaching, learning and success.”

Made possible with grant support from The Kresge Foundation, the project is based on JNGI’s Gateways to Completion® process.  Launched in 2013, G2C is being used by more than 40 colleges and universities in the United States to help faculty and staff make meaningful and measurable changes in the ways that they facilitate teaching, learning and success.

Through this initiative, each participating institution will rework at least two of its gateway courses, which a potential of reaching up to 23,500 students each year after implementation.

“It has become quite obvious that success in gateway courses is critical to a student’s ability to continue progressing in their chosen major,” stated James Lentini, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oakland University. “The G2C initiative will allow us to find solutions that go beyond the notion that students must simply be better prepared. It is showing us that instructional delivery methods can be thoughtfully retooled to achieve both teaching goals for instructors and successful learning outcomes for students.”

“Despite a deep and genuine commitment to student success, and many successes to which we can legitimately and proudly point, far too many of our students— and, especially, far too many of our most vulnerable students—fail to complete their educational goals,” added Richard J. Prystowsky, Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Lansing Community College. “It is unconscionable for us to allow this to continue. Fortunately, the Michigan G2C initiative will enable colleges and universities in the state to ameliorate this problem in substantial ways in many of the courses that students take when they first come to college.”

Michigan is a focus state for Kresge’s Education program, and Michigan G2C will be connected with other postsecondary projects underway in the state that receive Kresge support, including the Michigan Guided Pathways Institute and the Institutional Learning Communities initiative involving institutions from the Michigan Association of State Universities.

More than 80 faculty and staff from the eight participating Michigan G2C institutions recently came together for the daylong Michigan G2C Launch Meeting hosted by Lansing Community College. Future project meetings will be hosted by the two-year and four year institutions participating in the effort.

“The gateway course experience is, regrettably, an under-analyzed and under-addressed aspect of college success,” said John N. Gardner, JNGI’s President. “During my more than four decades of work with the student movement in the United States, I have seen thousands of institutions implement all kinds of programs to help first-year students, but very few have given attention to gateway courses. This is where the ‘real first-year experience’ occurs. It is the most important work that we can be doing right now.”

“A unique aspect of this project is how it will unite both two-year and four-year institutions to address a common issue,” said William Moses, Kresge’s managing director for the Education Program. “Often, these institutions compete for students and limited resources. In the Michigan G2C effort, they will collaborate to find evidence-based approaches to improving gateway courses, so more Michigan students will keep on track to graduate.”

The project will last through the 2018-19 academic year. The first year of the effort will be focused on helping faculty and staff gather and analyze evidence to create course transformation plans. The redesigned courses will be taught and refined in the second and third years of the project.

For more information, contact:

Dr. Andrew K. Koch                                                  Krista Jahnke
Chief Operating Officer                                             Communications Officer
John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence                  The Kresge Foundation
in Undergraduate Education                                     kajahnke@kresge.org / 248-643-9630
koch@jngi.org / 828-877-3549

 

 

About the John N. Gardner Institute
The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education is a national non-profit focused on partnering with higher education institutions, individual educators, and other entities to improve teaching, learning, persistence and completion. The Institute helps higher education and related organizations to individually and/or collectively define or redefine excellence in undergraduate education – especially in the first and second years of college, the transfer experience, and in gateway courses. For more information, visit www.jngi.org.

About the Kresge Foundation
The Kresge Foundation is a $3.6 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grantmaking and social investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development in Detroit. In 2015, the Board of Trustees approved 371 grants totaling $125.2 million, and nine social investment commitments totaling $20.3 million. For more information, visit kresge.org.


 

MI_Launch_G2C

Over 80 faculty and staff from the eight Michigan G2C Institutions joined staff from the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and Kresge Foundation for the Michigan G2C project launch meeting at Lansing Community College on September 28, 2016.

WATCH: University of Central Florida takes Transfer Student Success to the Next Level with JNGI Foundations of Excellence(R)

WATCH: @UCF takes transfer student success to the next level with @jnginstitute Foundations of Excellence. Together we are working to help create and subsequently implement an evidence-based plan to improve student retention and completion for thousands of transfer students.

John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education Statement on and Actions Taken in Response to North Carolina House Bill 2

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI), a North Carolina based non-profit corporation, offers the following statement in response to the adoption of North Carolina House Bill 2.

The staff of JNGI wants it known that while we will continue to obey all State of North Carolina statutes and policies and those of the United States government as they may pertain to the operation of our legally constituted non-profit corporation, we believe:

  • The provisions of North Carolina House Bill 2 violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment and, in so doing, conflict with the fundamental values of our organization.
  • These values include promoting social justice and equal treatment and rights for all undergraduate college students and those who serve them regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, physical condition, religion, creed, nationality, immigration status, sexual orientation and/or identity.

Legally binding contracts finalized by the Institute well before the proposal and enactment of House Bill 2 prevent JNGI from moving four (4) upcoming professional meetings from Asheville, North Carolina during 2016.

However, JNGI will neither plan nor conduct any future professional events in North Carolina until the House Bill 2 is either rescinded by the North Carolina Legislature or invalidated by the Federal Courts.

In addition, we have moved all future events from North Carolina that could be altered without violating the terms of binding contracts. These events include the upcoming annual, in-person legally required meeting of our Board of Directors, as well as a retreat for JNGI senior staff advisors.

We understand and respect the fact that some of our higher education colleagues are barred from using institutional and/or public monies to travel to North Carolina in an official state or city employment capacity because of this legislation.

While we are not responsible for this legislative action, we profoundly regret its enactment. We believe that the majority of our fellow North Carolinians share our belief that this and any form of discrimination is an inappropriate moral affront to human dignity.

We implore you, the supporters of our work, to bear with us as we do our best under these circumstances, and we ask you to continue to grant us your respect and support.

The Staff of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Brevard, North Carolina

April 21, 2016

Ten University System of Georgia Institutions Launch Work in JNGI’S Gateway to Completion® Process to Improve Student Learning and Success in Historically High-Failure Rate Courses

BREVARD, NC. (June 6, 2016) – Student success in lower division and/or developmental-level “gateway” courses – such as accounting, biology, chemistry, history, math, psychology and writing/English – is a direct predictor of whether a student will be retained at a particular institution and/or complete a degree at any institution all together. This is why improving teaching and learning in gateway courses is one of the most pressing actions necessary in higher education today.

As a national non-profit leader in helping colleges and universities increase student learning and success, the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI) is proud to announce that the University System of Georgia (USG) has elected to address gateway course performance issues by working with JNGI’s Gateways to Completion (G2C) process

G2C is designed to provide institutions – most notably faculty – with processes, pedagogical and curricular guidance, and analytics tools to redesign teaching, learning and success in the gateway courses they teach.

Ten of the 29 USG public institutions of higher learning recently launched their efforts in JNGI’s three-year G2C process. This means that faculty in over a third of the institutions in one of the nation’s largest university systems are being mobilized to address failure in gateway courses and the persistence issues associated therewith.

“The University System of Georgia’s effort is the first-of-a-kind, system-wide application of the G2C process,” said Houston Davis, USG chief academic officer and executive vice chancellor. “This undertaking reflects the deep commitment the USG institutions and their faculties have for improving student learning and success. We are happy to work with a proven partner like the Gardner Institute.”

The following USG institutions join 20 other institutions currently involved in the G2C process:

  • East Georgia State College
  • Georgia Highlands College
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Georgia Southwestern State University
  • Gordon State College
  • Middle Georgia State University
  • Kennesaw State University
  • South Georgia State College
  • University of West Georgia
  • Valdosta State University

“The University System of Georgia’s effort is the first-of-a-kind, system-wide application of the G2C process,” said Drew Koch, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Leadership & Innovation Officer, John N. Gardner Institute. “This is a bold and ambitious undertaking, and it reflects the deep commitment that the USG institutions and their faculties have for improving student learning and success.”

“Our work with G2C to date shows that failure in these courses is not a hallmark of rigor or excellence,” added Koch. “Far too often, low-income and historically underrepresented students constitute the bulk of those who fail these courses. Higher education institutions cannot fulfill their mission to the communities they serve if they leave this issue unchecked.”

“We applaud USG for their leadership in and involvement with the G2C effort,” said John N. Gardner, President, John N. Gardner Institute. “They recognize that they cannot leave teaching and learning to chance, and they are getting their faculty involved in completion agenda-related work in meaningful and appropriate ways. We hope that other postsecondary systems and districts across the nation emulate the USG example and systematically address teaching and learning in their gateway courses.”

JNGI is currently accepting applications from individual institutions and/or systems interested in joining the next G2C cohort. For more information, visit jngi.org.

USG Continues Commitment to Student Success and Completion Through Gardner Institute Partnership

Ten University System of Georgia (USG) institutions recently launched an effort with The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (JNGI) three-year Gateway to Completion (G2C) process to improve teaching and learning in gateway courses.

Freshman and sophomore year courses and/or developmental-level “gateway” courses include accounting, biology, chemistry, history, math, psychology and writing/English. Success in these courses can be a direct predictor of student progression and completion.

“The University System of Georgia’s effort is the first-of-a-kind, system-wide application of the G2C process,” said Houston Davis, USG chief academic officer and executive vice chancellor. “This undertaking reflects the deep commitment the USG institutions and their faculties have for improving student learning and success. We are happy to work with a proven partner like the Gardner Institute.”

G2C is designed to provide institutions – more specifically, faculty – with processes, instructional and curricular guidance, and analytics tools to redesign teaching, learning and success in gateway courses. Faculty will address failure in gateway courses and the challenges associated with passing those courses.

“We applaud USG for their leadership in and involvement with the G2C effort,” said John N. Gardner, president, John N. Gardner Institute. “They recognize that they cannot leave teaching and learning to chance, and they are getting their faculty involved in completion agenda-related work in meaningful and appropriate ways. We hope that other postsecondary systems and districts across the nation emulate the USG example and systematically address teaching and learning in their gateway courses.”

The ten USG institutions participating in the three-year process are: East Georgia State College, Georgia Highlands State College, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Southwestern State University, Gordon State College, Kennesaw State University, Middle Georgia State University, South Georgia State College, University of West Georgia and Valdosta State University.

 

On Providing Learning Support for the Students You Actually Have

Appeared in the The Chronicle of Higher Education, MARCH 28, 2016
On Providing Learning Support for the Students You Actually Have
By John N. Gardner

I was quoted in a recent commentary in The Chronicle by Ashley Thorne, and while the quote was accurate, it was used to describe a point of view that I definitely do not hold. In the name of many thousands of faculty, staff, and administrators who dedicate themselves to what has become known as “student success” or “college success” work, I must disavow this point of view inaccurately attributed to me.

The essay was titled “Students Will Rise When Colleges Challenge Them to Read Good Books,” and I agree that this is one component of the beginning college experience that can contribute to student success. But it is just one of many necessary components. The real issue is what constitutes “good books” — titles being advocated by the National Association of Scholars, of which Thorne is executive director, or those selected by campus committees overseeing many “common reading” or “summer reading” programs.

Thorne quoted me as follows: “Plan for the students you actually have, not those you wish you had, or think you used to have, or think you used to be like.” I did make that statement in a presentation at a recent national conference on the first-year experience. And I stand by it.

Before the essay’s publication, Thorne extended to me the professional courtesy of attempting to confirm the quote in question. I provided her not only with the precise wording of what I had said, but also with the context for my statement, as follows: “Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the quote alone lacks the context for the statement. To be sure, I was not saying we shouldn’t aspire to have better students. I was speaking to the reality of the current demographics of U.S. higher education and the fact that many institutions do not align their policies and practices to the students they actually have — and that in turn leads to higher failure and attrition rates.” Thorne chose to ignore that context.

She went on to interpret my comments by writing, “In other words, be realistic; don’t expect too much of students.” I did not make or imply that statement, and it in no way represents my opinion. I do not know any serious academic or college-success professional today who would argue that we should expect little of students. To the contrary, the entire first-year-experience movement, of which I am a founder, and many other powerful undergraduate-reform initiatives have been focused on raising expectations for college students and institutions.

Most students attending colleges today are not those for whom American higher education was originally designed. I firmly believe that there is a direct correlation between what we expect of our students and what we get. We know that higher expectations generate greater learning. But we also know that higher expectations alone are not sufficient. Greater learning also results from support — support that can be provided, for example, by college-success courses in which common readings are often used.
Thorne argues that those of us responsible for the first year, especially those of us who select common readings, choose to “dumb down reading lists” and have a prevailing attitude of “resignation and low expectations.” As one who has spent nearly 50 years working with colleagues from hundreds of institutions, that is not my experience.

Ashley Thorne and I would probably agree on more than we disagree. I respect her calling for higher standards. I respect her pursuit of what she would regard as “excellence” in undergraduate education. We both want “better” students.

But, she argues, “the choices colleges make drip with condescension.” The colleges I see, in contrast, are significantly ramping up their offering of “high-impact practices,” out of both respect and concern for their students. They do not condescend; they admire the students’ courage, motivation, resilience, and drive to overcome enormous obstacles that privileged white men like me never had to encounter.

Most students attending colleges today are not those for whom American higher education was originally designed, and the first-year-experience movement has been working to adapt our colleges to the students they actually have. We believe and we see that students can and do become “better” when we provide them with “challenge and support,” to use the phrase of the 1960s-era psychologist Nevitt Sanford.

Where I think many first-year educators disagree with the National Association of Scholars is not the importance of challenge but the importance and extent of support given students whose levels of preparation provided by America’s public schools are unequal and inadequate. And, admittedly, we also disagree about what we would have our students read and think about. A college degree is needed more than ever for upward social mobility and for the opportunity to appreciate the kinds of “good” books that Thorne argues we should be providing.

Colleges are microcosms of our larger society; thus, academics represent different belief systems about what constitutes good books, good standards, and good practices. I know that if the work on increased success for all students is to have even greater impact, we need all points of view in our tent. I need to consider the views of the National Association of Scholars and how those views might help make students more successful.

I and thousands of other college-success advocates have strived to put together partnerships with colleagues from all points of view in the academy. We must all work together to address the enormous challenges of helping students “rise.” So I hope we we can join together to seek common ground instead of impugning the standards and belief systems of our colleagues.

John N. Gardner is president of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and a distinguished professor emeritus and senior fellow at the University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.