Roosevelt partners with Gardner Institute to study student experience

By Samantha Reid

Along with nine other universities nationwide, Roosevelt University has partnered with the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education for their Foundations of Excellence Program for the 2013-2014 school year. The program closely studies the first year experience for both freshmen and transfer students to create a more positive experience for future incoming students, thereby increasing retention rates and building up the student body of the university.

Foundations of Excellence focuses on nine specific principles in determining the improvements to be made. The Gardner Institute works in conjunction with Roosevelt to put together committees comprised of professors, staff members from various departments as well as students. These committees are assigned a different area of study, encompassing everything from student transitions, overall learning, diversity, and educational philosophies. It is then up to the committees to study student surveys and data, coming to conclusions and making recommendations based off of the available information.

Course surveys at the conclusion of each semester greatly influence studies such as Foundations of Excellence. Without sufficient student feedback, it’s difficult for students and faculty on the Foundations committees to judge what is working for students and what needs to be changed. Students may think they don’t have much of a say in curriculum or student services, but these student surveys give them the power to influence major change.

Part of analyzing the effectiveness of the first year experience involves looking at foundational courses such as ACP 101, MATH 095, and ENG 101, to name a few.

Once the study has been completed and the committees have given their recommendations, the university will work on including these improvements in next year’s budget.

The Gardner Institute’s work doesn’t end at the end of this year when the committees have given their final reports, however. Consultants from Foundations of Excellence will be helping Roosevelt go forward in successfully implementing the new ideas on campus. While a premium is placed on improving the academics for first year students, the Gardner Institute will also help implement changes for the campus as a whole, including student life and activities.

Students seem eager to get work underway to improve certain fields, specifically the layout of the ACP courses. Freshman Shelby Steele suggests that Roosevelt alter the ACP 101 course that all freshmen are required to take by “[making] a class you only have to attend once a week, because there was not much material to cover in the time we had.”

Steele also expressed that the school should try to make the class more interesting for a wider variety of students. “[Roosevelt should] make it more topic based rather than just placing students in ACP classes with topics or books that might not even engage their interests,” Steele said.

This is a sentiment reflected across the board by many other freshmen as well.

This past semester, every new student in the course read the same book — “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. Foundations of Excellence committees could potentially have a role in changing the ACP 101 curriculum to reflect the suggestions of students like Steele.

The study also includes other aspects of the student experience, like campus life and student engagement. Junior Erin O’Malley is a transfer student from Western Illinois University who is currently a first year student at Roosevelt. Her suggestions for the committees focus mainly on student involvement and creating a greater feeling of campus community.

“I think [the university] really just needs to announce more events that are happening on campus, like sporting events or even fraternity life, which are two big things that are part of a college campus,” O’Malley suggested.

Improvements like these could go far in retaining new students, making them feel at home in the Roosevelt and Chicago communities.

Regardless of the conclusions the Foundations of Excellence committees come to, students can expect a number of changes to the student experience within the next few years. With the help of the Gardner Institute, the university intends to further enhance the experience of all students as they enter the Laker community, better enabling students to grow as leaders.


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