John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Student Success & Retention Retreats

A retreat would be designed either for a small group from your institution and could be done remotely, perhaps even in our region, or it could be for a large group held on your campus. The event would be attended by senior institutional leaders (faculty, academic and student affairs) as well as student success and retention stakeholders, practitioners, and students. It could focus on any period of the undergraduate experience that the institution wishes to improve: first year, sophomore year, transfer experience, and senior year. The retreat would be supplemented by a year-long consultation process. The retreat would provide the opportunity for taking stock of your current efforts, but more importantly, for creating a new plan to improve student learning and success throughout any phase in the undergraduate experience. In a retreat environment that is conducive to good thinking, planning, and relaxation, your team would be away from the normal press of institutional affairs and able to really concentrate on issues related to student success.

Advance Preparation

The Institute would request that your institution provide background information, such as student demographic and performance characteristics, results from prior assessments, and institutional policies directed to student success, in advance of the meeting in order to help the Institute’s staff to become more knowledgeable. This information is not being collected for research purposes and would not be released to any other parties.

Follow-Up Advisory Support

The Institute would provide, for one year after the retreat, off-site advisory support to assist the institution in the implementation of its new plan for student success. This support would include:

  • The assignment of an Institute senior staff member to serve as primary liaison to the campus during the one-year follow-up/implementation period
  • Written feedback and recommendations
  • Availability to participate in conference calls and/or individual telephone conversations.
  • Optional institutional visit (for an additional fee)

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should attend?
Your institution would have total discretion and freedom to determine its team. We suggest that for maximum benefit, each team include campus leaders, student success stakeholders, and practitioners. The team might include:

  • the chief executive officer
  • the chief academic officer and/or the chief undergraduate education officer
  • the associate academic officer
  • the chief student affairs officer
  • the chief financial officer
  • the chief enrollment management officer
  • the chief institutional research/assessment officer(s)
  • senior faculty governance/curricular leaders
  • student success program directors
  • other stakeholders and leaders
  • a representative of the Student Government Association or other appropriate student leader(s)
Who would lead the retreat?
Facilitators will be drawn from John N. Gardner, Betsy O. Barefoot, and the staff of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. These principals are leaders of the international reform movement to rethink and redesign the beginning college experience. Click here  to read staff bios.

Where would the retreat be held?
The retreat would be held at a location of your choice. There are many retreat locations in the Asheville environs of beautiful western North Carolina, for example, the Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock, NC. We are also open to holding this retreat at a site in your region.
What would be the retreat format and schedule?
The retreat is designed to be an intensive, small group, interactive, intellectually stimulating, provocative experience. The process would include presentation of material by the facilitators on best practices to challenge and support students and principles of change management. But the primary focus would be on your institution-specific issues as defined in pre-event communication with the Institute.

Each retreat would be custom designed to meet specific institutional needs but general topics would include:

  • Core concepts of student success and models for institutional excellence.
  • An inventory of information (on students, practices, programs, and policies), compiled by the institution with the guidance of the Institute, so that all participants would have a common basis of knowledge.
  • Guided evaluation of the institution’s challenges and opportunities, relevant data, and defined goals.
  • Recommendations for improvement. We would assist participants in distilling and synthesizing recommendations into a plan for further review, approval, and implementation back home. Institute staff would assist the institution in considering how to prioritize recommendations, develop timelines, determine resource implications, acknowledge sources of resistance and support, and determine responsibility centers.
  • Decisions about next steps. How to present the plan back home, and how the Institute can best assist the institution over the next year in implementing the plan.
Sample Schedule

Day 1: Participants would gather mid afternoon for a welcome and overview session. This would be followed by a reception and early dinner.

Day 2: Through a mix of presentation and group interaction, we would work together throughout the day, allowing some late-afternoon time for a break before a reception and dinner.

Day 3: The retreat would continue during the morning and conclude mid day.

For more information contact John Gardner at or (828) 885-6014