John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

The John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, an outgrowth of the Policy Center on the First Year of College, is a national leader in efforts to improve undergraduate learning and retention at institutional, regional, and national levels.

The Policy Center began operations in October of 1999, and the Institute was incorporated in May of 2007. Since 1999, the Center and Institute have provided hundreds of colleges and universities tools and processes designed to enhance institutional approaches to the first year. Colleges and universities participating in the Institute’s various projects and activities have included public and private, two-year and four-year institutions, as well as minority-serving, tribal, and single-gender campuses. The Institute’s past projects have included the development of regional consortia to support first-year initiatives, collaboration with research universities and other organizations to create a variety of assessment tools and instruments, sponsorship of a national campaign to recognize “Institutions of Excellence” in the first college year, national surveys of first-year policies and practices, and authorship of several major books and articles on topics related to the first year and other student transitions.

As the Policy Center evolved between 1999 and 2005, it was supported almost entirely by grants from five foundations (below). In 2005, the Center received a grant from Lumina Foundation to move from a grant-funded to a self-sustaining non-profit entity through the development of what is now one of the Institute’s signature lines of work: the comprehensive, voluntary, self-study process known as Foundations of Excellence® in the First College Year. As of 2013, over 250 campuses have participated in Foundations of Excellence. The Institute is led by John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot who brought nearly fifty years of collective experience with educational policy and institutional reform through previous work at the University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, which Gardner founded in 1986.


Our Grant Funders

The Pew Charitable Trusts (1999 – 2002)
The Atlantic Philanthropies (2001 – 2004)
Lumina Foundation for Education (2003 – April 2008)
USA Funds (2005 – 2007)
Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (2006 – 2007)