Foundations of Excellence

Audience members

In an effort to improve the first-year student experience from recruitment to enrollment, Roosevelt University joined the Foundations of Excellence program.

After hearing about the program at a Higher Learning Commission meeting in the spring, university officials decided to apply for the program.

Foundations of Excellence formed within the Gardner Institute of Excellence in Undergraduate Education. It is open to any regionally accredited four or two-year post-secondary institution in the U.S. and similar educational institutions in other countries.

As stated on the institute’s website, the foundation is the “what’s next for many campuses that have already made significant efforts to improve the beginning college experience.”

While Roosevelt has certainly made efforts to improve the first-year student experience, university officials don’t know if those efforts are enough. Thus, they want to be evaluated on what they are doing and how they are doing.

“This year is about identifying problems the university is having, and next year is about implementing a system to try and fix those problems,” Dean of Undergraduate Studies Linda Jones said.

The first step is getting faculty, staff and students to join the program’s committees. Starting this week, faculty and staff will take their surveys. Students will take their surveys at the end of this month.

“By getting all these committees together, we should be able to get a feel of what students are saying about the university and their experiences,” Jones said.

Associate Provost in Student Affairs Tanya Woltmann said administrators are inviting students to join committees via email, through the Student Government Association and through student organizations from both campuses.

“Our goal is to have at least one student on each of the nine committees,” Woltmann said. “We feel it is very important to have student input on the initiative, as they will offer great inside on the first year experience.”

Once the committees are filled, committee members will analyze surveys to see how the university is doing in regards to first-year student satisfaction. They will then look at national surveys taken by the university’s first-year students. They will also look at assessment results from students’ classes and demographics.

Once faculty, staff and students complete the surveys, the committees will submit the results to an advisor assigned to the university by the Gardner Institute.

In the past, the university didn’t have to employ such measures to assure first-year student satisfaction. In fact, the university is historically known for its transfer and commuter student population.

“It’s only been in the past decade that we’ve had a lot of freshmen,” Jones said.

She also mentioned that the university has many freshmen living on campus in the University Center and in the Wabash Building. Therefore, university administrators want to make sure that first-year students are having a good experience.

“It’s a good time to just stop, look and see if what we do is the right stuff,” Jones said.

With the help of Foundations of Excellence, the university hopes to make a “midcourse correction.”

Jones said she believes that the university reacted prematurely to its influx of freshmen a couple years ago. And as a result of the foundation’s intervention, Jones wants to figure out what exactly is “the right mix.”

For next year, the university signed on for a year of implementation assistance from the Gardner Institute. Consequently, the university will implement the changes needed as a result of this year’s assessment.

“The assumption is that [the program] is going to be beneficial for us when it comes to accreditation and retention,” Jones said.

The university’s accreditation year is coming up in 2015. The accrediting body appreciates and acknowledges the university for recognizing its breakdowns and trying to rectify them.

The university shelled out around $60,000, paid over three years, to participate in the program.

“If we get the kind of increase in retention that they predict, which is 12 percentage points over five years, that would get us into the 70 percent range, which is an appropriate goal for comparable places we look at,” Jones said. “That’s worth every penny.”

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