'Foundations' program to help shape first-year approach; meeting Sept. 2 to describe initiative, welcome participants

August 25, 2011

If first-year college students have a first-rate experience, odds are they are more likely to succeed as better, more satisfied students and, ultimately, better world citizens. That is the wisdom behind a national higher education initiative that Purdue will follow this year in an ongoing effort to ensure student success.

The Foundations of Excellence program aims to help participating institutions develop a consistent, campus-wide strategy for working with first-year students. It is sponsored by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, a nonprofit higher education research and policy center. The program offers universities best practice models they can follow to develop and refine an overall approach to educating first-year students. 

"This is a broad-based, transparent, and honest assessment of many factors that are known to create an excellent academic foundation for students," says Dale Whittaker, vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs. "We want students to be confident, competent and engaged as they move into their upper-division courses and develop their own leadership."

A task force composed of faculty, staff and students will use evidence from faculty and student surveys, the University's current regulations, and data on student success to evaluate Purdue's current systems and make specific recommendations for change or new programs. The task force is led by Whittaker; Melissa Exum, vice president for student affairs; and Beth McCuskey, associate vice president for housing and food services.

"Across Purdue, we are committed to doing what we can as a group of people to insure a strong start for all of our students," Whittaker says.

The task force will work with the Gardner Institute and its technology support and educational survey partner, Educational Benchmarking Inc., to conduct the self-study. The results will then be used to measure effectiveness in recruiting, admitting, orienting, supporting, advising and teaching new students. The outcome, combined with best practices, will help inform programmatic improvements that will increase student learning, success and persistence.

The task force will hold its first meeting from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 2 in Stewart Center, Room 214ABCD. The meeting is open to faculty, staff and students who are interested in participating on a committee.