John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Catherine Andersen, Institute Fellow – 828-394-2363 –

Catherine Andersen has enjoyed a 30 year career at Gallaudet University where she served as Chief Enrollment and Marketing Officer, Associate Provost, Dean of Enrollment and General Studies, Director of the First-Year Experience and Chairperson of the Communication and Developmental Studies Department. In 2007 she lead the Foundations of Excellence project at Gallaudet. Dr. Andersen has an extensive background in developing curricular and co –curricular initiatives for students, assessment and strategic planning and a long history of enhancing both academic and student support programs. Most recently, under her leadership Gallaudet has achieved its highest student retention in recent history. Also, she has developed transfer policies, procedures and articulation agreements that have lead to increase transfer student enrollment and retention. She served on the national advisory board for the National Resource Center on the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and currently serves on the national advisory board for Teagle Assessment Scholars. In 1994, she was awarded the honor of Gallaudet’s Distinguished Faculty of the Year and 1997 she was named one of the nation’s Outstanding First-Year Advocates; Andersen is thrilled to be using her experience to work with JNGI’s Foundations of Excellence colleges.

To contact Catherine, please email her at or call 828-394-2363.

Betsy O. Barefoot, Senior Scholar – 828-475-6018 –
Betsy is a native of North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Duke University and Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in Higher Education from the College of William and Mary. Currently, Dr. Barefoot serves as Senior Scholar for JNGI. JNGI, originally named the Policy Center on the First Year of College, was founded in 1999 with a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. JNGI has also received grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies, Lumina Foundation for Education, USA Funds, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. In her work at the Institute, Dr. Barefoot is directly involved in the development of instruments and strategies to evaluate and improve the first college year. In addition, she conducts seminars on the first-year experience across the United States and in other countries and assists other colleges and universities in implementing and evaluating first-year programs.

Dr. Barefoot served for 11 years as Co-Director for Research and Publications in the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina. In this position, she engaged in ongoing research on first-year programming in American higher education and co-edited a number of publications including the Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, the First-Year Experience Newsletter, and a series of single-topic monographs. While at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Barefoot also served as a clinical faculty member in the University of South Carolina’s College of Education and taught graduate courses in Principles of College Teaching, Contemporary Trends and Issues in Higher Education, a special topics seminar on The First-Year Experience, as well as the University 101 first-year seminar. She was also involved in acquiring grant funds, designing, and implementing a campus-wide program to provide training in methods of college teaching for graduate teaching assistants at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Barefoot has also authored and co-authored a number of publications including the 2005 Jossey-Bass books, Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College, and Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student: A Handbook for the First Year of College. She has also edited The First Year and Beyond: Rethinking the Challenge of Collegiate Transition, a 2008 volume of New Directions for Higher Education. Dr. Barefoot continues her interest in music as an occasional vocal performer, pianist, and church organist. She is married to another scholar of the first-year experience, John N. Gardner. The “BGs,” as they are known in their neighborhood, reside in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina.

To contact Betsy, please email her at or call 828-475-6018.

John N. Gardner, President – 828-885-6014 –

John N. Gardner

John is an educator, university professor and administrator, non-profit organization chief executive officer author, editor, public speaker, consultant, change agent, student retention specialist, first-year and transfer students’ advocate, and initiator and scholar of the American first-year and senior-year reform movements. He serves as President of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. JNGI was founded by John and his wife, Dr. Betsy O. Barefoot, in October 1999 as the Policy Center on the First Year of College. The Policy Center was launched by an initial grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, and has been subsequently funded by additional grants from Pew, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Lumina Foundation for Education, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and USA Funds. In 2007 the Policy Center underwent a legal and name change to the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and an expansion of its mission to focus more broadly on excellence in undergraduate education, as a fully autonomous 501c3 non-profit entity. Since its inception in 1999, the Institute has received approximately $7,500,000 in support from its philanthropic partners.

JNGI works with colleges and universities to strengthen their resolve and processes to undertake assessment and other improvement actions to increase student learning and retention. JNGI focuses its work on the use of a previously non-existent set of aspirational standards for improvement of the first-year and the transfer student experience. These standards are known as JNGI’s “Foundational Dimensions”® in a process called Foundations of Excellence® in the First College Year or Foundations of Excellence® – Transfer Focus.  In addition, JNGI offers several additional processes for student learning, success, retention and completion including Gateways to Completion® (G2C®) to improve student performance in high failure rate gateway courses and Retention Performance Management® (RPM®) to improve retention rates for specific cohorts such as first year, sophomores, first-generation, low-income, etc.

John is also the Senior Fellow of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. The National Resource Center, founded by Gardner in 1986, organizes the popular and influential conferences on The First-Year Experience, Students in Transition, and also disseminates information through an extensive series of scholarly publications, videos, national and international conferences, workshops, seminars, and teleconferences. Gardner “retired” in 1999 after 32 1/2 years of service to the people of South Carolina, but continues to serve them in a reduced and more focused way in his role of Senior Fellow (in addition to his full-time appointment with JNGI). He served as Executive Director of both the first-year seminar course, University 101, from 1974-1999, and the National Center from 1986-99. From 1983-96, he also served as Vice Chancellor/Associate Vice Provost for Regional Campuses and Continuing Education.

In his capacity with the National Resource Center, John provides advice, counsel, and intellectual leadership and vision as called upon by his colleagues in the Center. He is actively involved in hosting and presenting at Center conferences, seminars, workshops, and teleconferences. He also remains very involved, as always, in the Center’s scholarship and research activities as in its monograph series and other publishing activities.

Thanks to the US Air Force, Gardner was involuntarily sent to South Carolina in 1967 where he served his active duty assignment as a psychiatric social worker in the 363rd Tactical Hospital at Shaw Air Force Base. At the request of the Air Force he became a part-time adjunct instructor for the University of South Carolina while he was on active duty. After completing his military service, Gardner held a two-year temporary appointment as Instructor of History at Winthrop College from 1968-70, and then began his full-time faculty career at USC Columbia in 1970. He taught courses in American and South Carolina history, interpersonal communications for librarians, public speaking, higher education administration, and other special topics. He also regularly taught the first-year seminar, University 101, and a special topics graduate seminar course he developed for the College of Education on “The First-Year Experience.” From 1994-1998 he developed and taught University 401, Senior Capstone Experience (as a sequel to University 101, only for departing students), and this remains one of his legacies to USC about which he is most satisfied in terms of the help it offers students.

Gardner is the recipient of numerous local and national professional awards including USC’s highest award for teaching excellence, the AMOCO Award for Outstanding Teaching (1975), and the Division of Student Affairs Faculty Award “for outstanding contributions……”(1976). The University of South Carolina Alumni Association conferred upon him its highest award for a non-alum, the Honorary Life Membership “for devoted service in behalf of the University” in 1997. He was also named the 1998 recipient of the University’s Administrative Affirmative Action Award “for an outstanding job in promoting equal opportunities at the University.” In 1999, he was the recipient of a University award created and named in his honor, “The John N. Gardner Inspirational Faculty Award” to be given henceforth to a member of the University faculty “who has made substantial contributions to the learning environment in campus residence hall life.” Gardner is the recipient of eleven honorary doctoral degrees recognizing him for his contributions to American higher education (from his alma mater, Marietta College, 1985; Baldwin-Wallace College, 1990; Bridgewater State College, 1991; Millikin University, 1999; Purdue University, 2000; University of Teesside, UK, 2000; Rowan University, 2001: Thiel College, 2006; Indiana University, 2008; Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 2009 and the University of South Carolina, Columbia, 2012.

In 1986, John was selected by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) as one of 20 faculty in the U. S. who “… have made outstanding leadership contributions to their institutions and/or American higher education.” In 1996 he was recognized by the Council of Independent Colleges with its Academic Leadership Award “for exemplary contributions to American higher education.” He has served on the Board of Directors/Trustees for AAHE, the International Partnership for Service Learning, Marietta College, and the Brevard Music Center; and on advisory boards for The American Council on Education, The Association of American Colleges and Universities, The New York Times, and Lumina Foundation for Education. Gardner’s work has been favorably reviewed in The Chronicle of Higher EducationThe New York TimesThe Times of London,U.S. News and World ReportMoney magazine, and numerous other publications. In the January 1998 issue of Change, Gardner was cited in an article naming approximately 80 people as the “past, present, and future leaders of higher education.” The authors of this study drew on the results of 11,000 questionnaires to name the leaders whom The Chronicle of Higher Education dubbed “the movers and shakers.” Gardner was included in a special category of eleven so called “agenda-setters.” Also in 1998 Gardner was named as one of the “top ten professionals who have most influenced student affairs practitioners.” This was based on a random sample of practitioners throughout the country as part of a study entitled “The Professional Influence Project” sponsored by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Foundation and conducted by The University of Georgia. In 1999 Gardner was awarded by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) the Virginia N. Gordon Award for Excellence in the Field of Advising, to recognize his contributions towards the enhancement of academic advisement in American higher education. One of the nation’s two major professional organizations for student affairs officers, The American College Personnel Association, recognized him with its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2002.

Gardner is best known as the initiator (in 1982) of an international reform movement in higher education to call attention to and improve what he originally coined “The Freshman Year Experience” and then renamed “The First-Year Experience.” Moreover, since 1990 he has developed a special focus on a second critical transition during the college years to improve and champion: “The Senior Year Experience.” In 1995, he renamed the Center he directed at USC to The National Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, to signify a broader and more generic focus on the need for institutions to focus more intentionally on “students in transition.” John and his colleagues at USC are currently driving a new national discussion about another critical transition in college and have authored a recent book, published by Jossey-Bass, on the sophomore year experience.

Gardner’s special area of expertise in higher education was for almost three decades the creation of programs to enhance the learning, success, retention, and graduation of students in transition, especially first-year students, for example through first-year seminar courses. But more recently, since 2003, his efforts have been directed almost exclusively to working with institutions to look beyond this long standing “programmatic” approach to improving the first year and instead to focus the entire experience of first-year or transfer students. Gardner has also served as a workshop leader or trainer in hundreds of faculty development events and has spoken on/consulted with over 500 campuses in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, and Norway on issues related to first-year and senior students.

Gardner has authored/co-authored numerous articles and books, including: College is Only the Beginning (1985 and 1989); Step by Step to College Success (1987), Your College Experience (1992,1993,1995,1996,1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, originally with A. Jerome Jewler and in subsequent editions also with Betsy O. Barefoot, Bedford/St.Martins; The Freshman Year Experience (1989) with M. Lee Upcraft, Jossey-Bass; Ready for The Real World (1994) with William Hartel and Associates, International Thompson Publishing; The Senior Year Experience (1998), with Gretchen Van der Veer, Jossey-Bass; Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student, (2005), with M. Lee Upcraft and Betsy O. Barefoot, Jossey-Bass; Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College (2005), with Betsy O. Barefoot and Associates, Jossey-Bass; Helping Sophomores Succeed, (2010), with Mary Stuart Hunter and Barbara F. Tobolowsky and Associates, Jossey-Bass; and Developing and Sustaining Successful-First-Year Programs, (2013), with  Gerald M. Greenfield and Jennifer R. Keup, Jossey-Bass.

John is married to his professional partner of twenty-five years, Dr. Betsy O. Barefoot. They reside on their twenty-one acre mountain top property in the beautiful western North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains near Brevard.

To contact John, please email him at or call 828-885-6014.

Betsy Q. Griffin, Vice President and Resident Scholar – 828-449-8048 –

Betsy GriffinBetsy joined JNGI in July 2008 as an Associate Director. She serves as an advisor to campuses that are conducting JNGI’s Foundations of Excellence self-studies. Dr. Griffin, also, serves as the primary contact for institution assistance with the Foundations of Excellence surveys and participates in a variety of other Institute activities.

Dr. Griffin came to the Institute with over 30 years experience in higher education. After a brief time at Franklin College in Indiana, most of her tenure was at Missouri Southern State University. Her experience includes many years as a professor of psychology and numerous administrative positions. Dr. Griffin’s administrative positions include Department Head, Interim Dean, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. Several of Dr. Griffin’s roles have provided her with experience working with first-year programs and first-year students. She was the co-coordinator of Missouri Southern State University’s Foundations of Excellence self-study and helped oversee the development and implementation of the resulting action plans. Earlier as Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, she was responsible for the coordination of the learning community program, including recruiting and training the faculty and tracking the success of the program. During most of her career she maintained contact with first-year students by teaching introductory psychology courses.

Dr. Griffin was the co-coordinator of two self-studies for institutional re-accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association. The most recent self-study included a special emphasis on the first year of college using the Foundations of Excellence process. Betsy has made several presentations on self-study at the annual meetings of the Higher Learning Commission. She wrote or oversaw the writing of eight of affiliation status change requests. She also participated in an HLC Assessment Workshop and Assessment Academy Roundtable. She coordinated her campus’ faculty development efforts for over a decade. Her primary focus was on promoting pedagogies of engagement including active learning, critical thinking, and classroom assessment. Betsy received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from East Carolina University. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Social Psychology at the University of South Carolina. Her research has been primarily in the areas of gender stereotyping, attribution theory, and negotiation strategies. She is a 1997 recipient of the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Griffin received extensive training in Organizational Development through NTL. She has process consulting experience with a variety of not-for-profit organizations.

To contact Betsy, please email her at or call 828-449-8048.

Carol J. Huhn, Executive Assistant and Graphic Artist – 828-394-2363 –

Carol Huhn

Carol joined JNGI in January of 2008 and she serves as Executive Assistant and Graphic Artist.

She is responsible for an array of projects which support all JNGI  processes including Foundations of Excellence® Self Study, Gateways to Completion® and Retention Performance Management®.

Her duties also include a variety of planning and support for all annual JNGI conferences, events and exhibiting opportunities.

Carol holds an AAB in Advertising from Youngstown State University.

To contact Carol, please email her at
or call 828-394-2363.





Andrew ‘Drew’ Koch, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Leadership & Innovation Officer – 828-877-3549 –

Dr. Koch has been with JNGI since 2010. From 1998-2010, Dr. Koch held a variety of student persistence and completion-related roles at Purdue University including serving as the founding director of the nationally acclaimed Department of Student Access, Transition, and Success Programs. During his tenure at Purdue, the University increased first-to-second year retention rates by over 8 percentage points and six-year graduation rates by more than 6 percentage points. Before working at Purdue, Dr. Koch served as the Director of Freshman Advancement and Associate Dean at Hofstra University, and he also served as Assistant to the Dean of Summer College at the University of Richmond.

Dr. Koch holds a BA in history and German and an MA in European history from the University of Richmond, an MA in higher education from the University of South Carolina, and a PhD in American Studies from Purdue University. His research interests include student success, the role of colleges and universities in shaping democracy and culture in the United States, and the role of sport in U.S. culture and society.

During his twenty-year career, Koch has garnered substantive experience with undergraduate education administration, strategic planning, fund raising, reaffirmation of accreditation, and enrollment management. His work includes extensive grant writing and fund raising with support coming from sources such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca Cola, Lilly Endowment, Inc., Lumina Foundation for Education, the National Science Foundation, and Target Corporation. To date, Dr. Koch’s fund raising and grant totals exceed $11 million.

Dr. Koch is the author of an array of publications pertaining to student success, including the second, third, and fourth editions of The First-Year Experience in American Higher Education: An Annotated Bibliography, published by the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience. He has served on several boards and commissions, including the Indiana College Access and Success Network; the Directorate Board for the American College Personnel Association Commission on Admissions, Orientation, and the First-Year Experience; the Military Family Research Institute; the Higher Learning Commission’s Think Tank on Persistence and Completion; the National Advisory Board for the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition; and the editorial review board of the Journal of the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Dr. Koch lives with his wife, Dr. Sara Stein Koch, and their six children in Mills River, North Carolina. In their spare time, he and his wife enjoy hiking with their children; attending their children’s track, soccer and lacrosse events; gardening; and reading.

To contact Drew, email him at or call 828-877-3549.

Sara Stein Koch, Institute Fellow – 828-394-2363 –

Sara Stein Koch is an Institute Fellow with the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. She has spent the past two decades in administration, training, coaching, facilitation, and teaching in higher education.

Her current work with the Institute involves advising institutions on the Foundations of Excellence First-Year, Transfer, and Implement processes, coordinating the Gateways to Completion Conference, working on the development of the Gateways to Completion process, development and administration of the two year National Survey on Student Success practices, and strategic planning for  the Institute.

Prior to joining the Institute, Sara served as the Director of Undergraduate Programs for the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University.  Her role included the administration and operation of the undergraduate business school program of 2700 undergraduate students. Her oversight included the areas of curriculum administration, Academic Advising, Career Services, Recruitment and the development and operation of the Undergraduate Management Communication Center. At the heart of the Center was its outreach and curricular connections through the development of programs and coaching for undergraduate students to improve their professional development and communication skills.

Sara has also served as a Senior Consultant with Organization and Career Development in Human Resources at Purdue University. Her consulting focused on the process of talent development and retention, managing change, performance management, and strategic planning design. Through her career Sara has been certified as a SHRM  Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR); Harvard Mutual Gains Negotiator, Linkage Inc. Human Resource consultant, Blessing White™ facilitator, Zenger Miller™ facilitator, and Targeted Selection™ administrator.

Sara has also developed and taught undergraduate courses on Conference Leadership and Human Resource Issues and Critical Thinking for the School of Technology at Purdue University. In addition, she has appeared frequently to guest lecture classes on teamwork, interviewing, conflict and communication in Civil Engineering, Management, and  Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Her early career work in student affairs took her from the University of South Carolina to Hamilton College and Pratt Institute.

She earned her BS in Business Administration at Winthrop College, Master’s in Education from the University of South Carolina and a Ph.D. from Purdue University.

Sara and her husband Drew have six children, Hunter, Hudson, Grayson, Lauren, Andrejs and Max. Though she was born and raised in New York, she has lived in Florida, Tokyo, New York City, Indiana and she now resides in the Asheville area of North Carolina.

Roberta S. Matthews, Senior Fellow – 828-394-2363 –

Roberta S. MatthewsRoberta holds a doctoral degree in modern British and Irish Literature. She served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of English Brooklyn College/CUNY from 2001 though 2007, when she retired from academia. During her time at Brooklyn College, she played a key role in devising a new strategic plan, envisioning the new core curriculum and creating new undergraduate and graduate programs. She launched the Center for the Study of Brooklyn and the Magner Center for Career Services. The Center for Teaching grew in prominence and effectiveness. As Provost, Matthews oversaw the hiring of over 150 new faculty and developed a rich new faculty orientation program. In 2003, in partnership with the NYC Department of Education and the Gateway Institute, and as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiative, she established the Science, Technology and Research (STAR) Early College High School. STAR graduated its first class in June 2007, with 72 of its original 76 students receiving their degrees and continuing on to college.

Before coming to Brooklyn College, Matthews served as the founding Director of the City University of NewYork Honors College: University Scholars Program. During 1999-2000 she served as Interim President at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY. Prior to that, she was Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Marymount College in Tarrytown New York. Matthews spent many years in high-level administrative positions and as a Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College. Her higher education experience spans public and private, senior and community, small and large colleges.

Matthews has published widely and offered workshops on learning communities and active learning at colleges and universities across the country. Throughout her career, she focused on curriculum and program development, school-college collaboration, and international education, always dedicated to achieving educational excellence through intentional and proven reform efforts. She served on the national boards of the American Association for Higher Education and the Policy Center on the First Year of College. During the time she served as Provost, Brooklyn College was a Foundations of Excellence pilot institution.

Since 2005, Matthews has served as a Senior Fellow for Foundations of Excellence at the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (formerly the Policy Center of the First Year of College). She believes that FoE is transformative, and is always delighted to assist colleges and universities as they work through the FoE process.

To contact Roberta, please email her at

Kristie Pirkey, APR, Director of Marketing and Communications – 828-398-1587 –

Kristie has been with JNGI since Jan. 2015. As Director of Marketing and Communications, she is focused on building on the incredible reputation of the Institute in higher education student success, learning, retention and completion. Through excellence in strategic communications, she is responsible for expanding our collective impact of building foundations to the very best in student success practices.

A 15-year non-profit professional specializing in marketing and corporate communications, Pirkey previously served as Association Director of Public Relations and Communications for the YMCA of San Diego County. At the Y, she was responsible for senior-level strategic direction and implementation of the charitable non-profit Association’s marketing, public relations and communications program including media relations, brand leadership and awareness, partnership development and implementation, and special events.

Prior to her work with the Y and for more than seven years, she served as Director of Corporate Communications for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), an accredited, national non-profit organization dedicated to the education, training and certification of more than 45,000 fitness professionals.

A native of California, Kristie earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Menlo College in Atherton, CA and her accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America.

In her spare time, she and her husband, Tim, enjoy hiking with their dog, Harry, and exploring the endless number of outdoor adventures that North Carolina offers.

To contact Kristie, please email her at

Robert Rodier, Director of Technology and Informatics – 828-449-8050 –

Robert is a seasoned network and IT security professional. From 1998-2002 he served as the Microsoft Servers administrator for the Selee Corporation in Hendersonville, NC, and from 2003-2010 he worked for Brevard College in Brevard, NC, where he most recently served as Network Manager.

He has been a member of several technology-related professional associations ranging from InfraGard to numerous regional groups such as the Asheville Networking Professionals Group, the Western North Carolina Association of Information Technology Professionals, the Western North Carolina Linux Users Group, and the WCI Information Technology Professional group.

Robert has presented on an array of IT topics to groups as varied as the Appalachian College Association Information Technology Directors and linux user groups.

Robert holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.S. in Information Assurance from Norwich University.

To contact Rob, please email him at
or call 828-449-8050.

Angela M. Whiteside, Vice President for Finance, Human Resources and Events – 828-449-8053 –

Angela WhitesideAngela serves as Vice President of Finance, Human Resources and Events and has been with JNGI since 2001. She is directly responsible for the overall administration, coordination and evaluation of all human resources and leads the accounting operations of JNGI. In addition, her responsibilities include strategic management and execution of all JNGI special events. She holds a BS in Business Administration from Gardner Webb University and is a MBA from University of Massachusetts Amherst.

To contact Angela, please email her at or call her at 828-449-8053.