John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Results of Foundations of Excellence® Participation

Independent Research Links Foundations of Excellence Process to Significant Gains in Retention as Tracked Through IPEDS

2010 Foundations of Excellence Retention Analysis – An analysis of first-year retention rates for the 132 institutions that participated in the Foundations of Excellence self-study process from 2003 through 2008.

What campuses are reporting

Project leaders from former participating universities and colleges are reporting results like these:


  • Enrollment gains
  • Retention gains
  • New data to enhance assessment efforts
  • Increased campus-wide awareness of the importance of the first year
  • Improved academic affairs/faculty/student affairs collaboration
  • More faculty buy-in to first-year efforts
  • Linkage to strategic planning, general education revision, integration with other multi-institution projects, interests of boards of trustees
  • Connection with institutional reaffirmation of accreditation
  • Creation of philosophy and mission statements for the first year
  • At last, a strategic plan for improving and executing the first year
  • Increased capacity and experience in understanding institution-wide assessment, and in using assessment results to actually make decisions

Creation of new first-year structures

  • University/first-year colleges
  • Offices for the first year
  • Realignment of academic affairs to include assessment and student success
  • Creation of permanent task forces, advisory councils, committees for oversight of the first year

Creation of new or improved first-year programs and activities

  • Improved student-to-student mentoring
  • Improved student referral processes for uses of campus resources
  • Required orientation programs
  • A new Center for Student Leadership
  • A new Center for Engaged Learning
  • A new Transfer Student Experience program
  • First-year student convocations

Based on the above experiences and outcomes, the Gardner Institute maintains that similar outcomes can be achieved by any two- or four-year institution that is willing to devote the personnel, time, energy, commitment, and resources to fully experience and engage with the Foundations of Excellence process. Towards that end, we invite your inquiries and application.

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