John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Gallaudet University

Institutional Profile

Foundations of Excellence® Cohort:
2006-2007 National Select
Carnegie Classification:
Master’s Colleges and Universities (medium programs)
Regional Accreditation:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Contact Information:

Catherine Andersen, Ph. D .

Associate Provost for Enrollment

Improving the First Year through Foundations of Excellence ® and Accreditation
Catherine Andersen, Ph.D.

Associate Provost for Enrollment

In August, 2006 Gallaudet University began Foundations of Excellence process with over 100 faculty, students and staff working on this year-long initiative. The project continued until May 2007, and in the fall of 2007 a report with action recommendations was developed. The FoE process began prior to Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) visit in January of 2007 when concerns related to Gallaudet’s compliance to Commission standards were announced to the community with a mandate to respond to these issues.

The findings and FoE plan of action set a standard of using evidence to make recommendations and decisions and guided and supported many aspects of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) report. Many of these recommendations are already in process as a result of the MSCHE mandates, while other recommendations, when implemented, will further strengthen the Gallaudet University undergraduate experience and have become central to strategic planning.

“The findings and FoE plan of action set a standard of using evidence to make recommendations and decisions and guided and supported many aspects of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).”

Linking FoE with Accreditation and Strategic Planning

The FoE process and subsequent evidence based recommendations were central to the response to MSCHE, particularly in regards to those standards relating to educational effectiveness: Standards 8 – Admissions and Retention, 9 Support Services,11- Educational Offerings, 12- General Education and 14 Assessment of Student Learning.

The FoE task force developed a profile of the first year by completing a current practices inventory, reviewing institutional data at all levels, collecting student, faculty, and administrator survey data, completing performance indicator reports for nine dimensions of the first-year experience at Gallaudet University. While many recommendations were made by more than one dimension team, recommendations were placed under the most relevant dimension. These common themes included in these recommendations are:

  • Be explicit in our first-year programming through intentional articulation, design and implementation of philosophy, goals, outcomes, policies and practices for all first-year initiatives.
  • Develop a campus-wide understanding of the needs of first-year students and provide structure and staffing that supports such an approach.
  • Structure faculty and staff development opportunities that reinforce best practices in teaching, learning and student engagement.
  • Identify the most engaging faculty and staff, and support and reward those who work with these students.
  • Become a data-driven, assessment-based institution that uses evidence for continuous improvement and decisions for admissions, placement and progress.
  • Instill in all members of the community that policies and procedures supporting high expectations, academic rigor, and integrity must be supported daily in all aspects of our work.

The themes resulted in specific action plans that support our strategic goal number two: “Enroll a diverse and talented student body by providing rigorous academic programs and an effective co-curriculum and services that support recruitment, retention, graduation, and life-long learning.”

The Foundations of Excellence self-study provided Gallaudet with an excellent planning process for accreditation, strategic planning and helped to lay the foundation for continuing improvement throughout the entire undergraduate experience.