Betsy Barefoot

senior scholar


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, she serves as Senior Scholar for the Gardner Institute. The Institute, originally named the Policy Center on the First Year of College, was founded in 1999 with a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Gardner Institute has also received grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies, Lumina Foundation for Education, USA Funds, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Gates Foundation. In her work at the Institute, Betsy is directly involved in the development of instruments and strategies to evaluate and improve the first college year and collegiate transfer. 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.

Betsy 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 and a series of single-topic monographs. While at the University of South Carolina, she 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.

Betsy 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, and most recently (in 2016) The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most. She has also edited The First Year and Beyond: Rethinking the Challenge of Collegiate Transition, a 2008 volume of New Directions for Higher Education. She currently serves as co-editor of the New Directions for Higher Educations series. She 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.