John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Transfer Focus – Foundational Dimensions®

(Four-Year College Version)

Foundational Dimensions statements constitute a model that provides institutions with a means to evaluate and improve the first year of college. As an evaluation tool, the model enables institutions both to confirm their strengths and to recognize the need for improvement. As an aspirational model, the Dimensions provide general guidelines for an intentional design of the first year. The Dimensions also provide a framework for evaluating and improving the experience of transfer students. The Dimensions rest on five assumptions:

  • The academic mission of an institution is preeminent;
  • The first college year is central to the achievement of an institution’s mission and lays the foundation on which undergraduate education is built;
  • For many institutions, the successful integration of transfer students is also central to mission attainment;
  • Systematic evidence provides validation of the Dimensions;
  • Collectively, the Dimensions constitute an ideal for improving not only the first college year, but also the entire undergraduate experience.

Foundations Institutions develop intentional policies and practices related to the transfer student experience based on a clear philosophy/rationale. The philosophy/rationale is explicit, clear and easily understood, consistent with the institutional mission, widely disseminated, and, as appropriate, reflects a consensus of campus constituencies. The philosophy/rationale is also the basis for transfer policies, practices, structures, leadership, department/unit philosophies, and resource allocation. This philosophy recognizes both similarities and differences in first-year and transfer transitions. (Philosophy-Transfer Focus)

Foundations Institutions create organizational structures that provide oversight and coordination of the transfer experience. A coherent transfer experience is realized and maintained through effective partnerships among academic affairs, student affairs, and other administrative units and is enhanced through appropriate budgetary allocations. Foundations Institutions also assure communication and collaboration with sending institutions at multiple levels including senior administration, academic departments, academic advising, and other administrative units. (Organization-Transfer Focus)

Foundations Institutions assure the continued development of transfer students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors consistent with the desired outcomes of higher education and the institution’s philosophy and mission. They coordinate with partner institutions (sending and receiving) to determine common course goals and learning outcomes and encourage the participation of transfer students in engaging learning experiences both in and out of the classroom. (Learning-Transfer Focus)

Foundations institutions create a culture of faculty responsibility for transfer student success by encouraging awareness of and responsiveness to the unique needs of transfer students. This culture of responsibility is nurtured by chief academic officers, deans, and department chairs and supported by the institutions’ reward systems. (Faculty-Transfer Focus)

Foundations Institutions facilitate appropriate transfer student transitions through policies and practices that are intentional and aligned with institutional mission. Beginning with transfer student recruitment and admissions and continuing through the first year of transfer, institutions and academic departments communicate clear curricular and co-curricular expectations and provide appropriate support for educational success. They are forthright about their responsibilities to students as well as students’ responsibilities to themselves and the institution. They create and maintain curricular alignments and administrative linkages with sending institutions to assure a seamless transition process. (Transitions-Transfer Focus)

Foundations Institutions serve all transfer students according to their varied needs. The process of anticipating, diagnosing, and addressing needs is ongoing and is subject to continuous assessment and adjustment. Institutions provide services with respect for the students’ abilities, prior academic experiences, current needs and interests. Institutions also ensure a campus environment in which transfer students are accepted and valued. (All Students-Transfer Focus )

Foundations Institutions ensure that all students experience diverse ideas, worldviews, and cultures as a means of enhancing their learning and preparing them to become members of pluralistic communities. Whatever their demographic composition, institutions introduce transfer students to the standards of behavior expected in a diverse, open, and civil community. (Diversity-Transfer Focus)

Foundations Institutions promote student understanding of the various roles and purposes of higher education, both for the individual and society. These roles and purposes include knowledge acquisition for personal growth, learning to prepare for future employment, learning to become engaged citizens, and learning to serve the public good. Institutions encourage transfer students to deepen and strengthen their understanding of the value of general education and to reexamine their motivation and monitor their progression toward personal educational goals. (Roles and Purposes-Transfer Focus)

Foundations Institutions conduct assessment and maintain associations with other institutions and relevant professional organizations in order to achieve ongoing improvement in the transfer experience. Assessment results are an integral part of institutional planning, resource allocation, decision-making, and ongoing improvement of programs and policies that affect transfer students. As a way to achieve ongoing improvement, institutions are familiar with current practices at other institutions as well as with research and scholarship on transfer students and the transfer process. (Improvement-Transfer Focus)

The Foundational Dimensions were adapted for the transfer transition by John N. Gardner, Betsy O. Barefoot, Betsy Q. Griffin, and Julie S. Alexander-Hamilton of the Gardner Institute in collaboration with Dennis E. Brown of El Paso Community College, Marc Cutright of the University of North Texas, Howard B. London of Bridgewater State College, Keith Pickus of Wichita State University, and Mark Allen Poisel of the University of Central Florida.


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©2010 John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education