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The Power of Partnerships: Lessons for Higher Education. John N. Gardner. The Odyssey of a Typical University Professor. Thrust into University 101 leadership University101: a vehicle for the creation of partnerships

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two decades of leadership for first year efforts

Thrust into University 101 leadership

  • University101: a vehicle for the creation of partnerships
  • Academic affairs and student affairs working together to support the academic mission
  • Collaborating to define first-year student success
Two Decades of Leadership for First-Year Efforts
this broad definition of first year student success is achievable only through partnerships
This broad definition of first-year student success is achievable only through partnerships.
  • Academic Success/GPA
  • Relationships

Career Decision Making

Health & Wellness

Faith & Spirituality

Multicultural Awareness

Civic Responsibility

Retention – the baseline

Identity Development

key assumptions

The greatest influence on new students is that of other students.

  • Learning takes place anywhere there are students, faculty and staff members interacting.
  • We are more likely to achieve student success through partnerships that integrate learning, both inside and outside the curriculum.
  • The preeminent goal of partnerships is academic success.
Key Assumptions
elements of a student success p artnership

A shared vision, jointly developed, for student success

  • Shared resources – including personnel and money
  • Joint reporting lines
  • Functional integration; curricular/

co-curricular integration

  • A willingness to ask for and

offer help

  • A willingness to share

responsibility, credit,

and blame

Elements of a Student Success Partnership
elements of partnerships

Big picture thinking

  • A capacity for organizational unselfishness
  • A willingness to come together for what’s best for students, the institution, my unit, and others we serve
  • A willingness to plant the seed and let others run with it (and even take credit)
Elements of Partnerships
official formalized components

Formal agreements based on informal


  • A plan for public dissemination and

assessment of partnership agreements

  • A connection of the agreements to the institution’s mission statement and strategic plan
Official, Formalized Components
elements of partnerships1

A willingness to give up something you started when it needs to be institutionalized somewhere else

  • Getting people to work together who ordinarily would not interact with each other
  • A decided preference for collaboration over competition
Elements of Partnerships
practical advantages of partnerships

More available resources – people and money

  • Each unit gets the benefits of talents, skills, capacity and political support it wouldn’t have on its own
  • Reduces or eliminates unnecessary duplication and waste of resources
  • Is a model of best practice for illustration and emulation
  • Teaches students by example
  • Student success more likely to be the outcome
Practical Advantages of Partnerships
partnerships to enhance student success academic student affairs leaders institute 2012

Partnerships to Enhance Student SuccessAcademic & Student Affairs Leaders’ Institute 2012

Jillian Kinzie, Associate Director

Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research and NSSE

interdependent view of undergraduate education
Interdependent View of Undergraduate Education


Undergraduate Education Experience

interdependent view propositions
Interdependent View Propositions:
  • Believe:
    • Students whole collegiate experience provides a platform for learning
    • Learning is holistic, outcomes cross the cognitive-affective domain
    • Student success is everyone’s business
  • Requires:
    • Acknowledging many ways of learning
    • Synergisticrelationships across institutional divisions
    • Undo false dichotomies

Faculty – attending to students intellectual development

Cognitive Affective Divide

Student Affairs – focusing on students’ social & emotional development

plotting a course to partnerships
Plotting A Course to Partnerships

Ways must be found to overcome the artificial, organizational bifurcation of our educational delivery systems– P. Terenzini

partnership lessons from educationally effective and improving institutions
Partnership Lessons from Educationally Effective and Improving Institutions
  • Project DEEP – studied 20 high-performing institutions to document educational effectiveness
      • Project DEEP 5 year follow-up – what sustains educational effectiveness?
  • Learning to Improve – identify factors fostering institutional improvement

Project DEEP:A study of 20 High-Performing InstitutionsWhat do educationally effective institutions do to foster student engagement and success?

six shared conditions of educationally effective institutions
Six Shared Conditions of Educationally Effective Institutions
  • “Living” Mission and “Lived” Educational Philosophy
  • Unshakeable Focus on Student Learning
  • Environments Adapted for Educational Enrichment
  • Clearly Marked Pathways to Student Success
  • Improvement-Oriented Ethos
  • Shared Responsibility for Educational Quality
shared responsibility for educational quality
Shared Responsibility for Educational Quality
  • Students, all staff, and faculty are partners in educating students
  • Faculty & student affairs educators fuel the collaborative spirit
  • Caring, supportive community
ssic follow up educational effectiveness guaranteed to last
SSiC Follow Up: Educational Effectiveness - Guaranteed to Last?

Checked back with DEEP schools 5 years later…

  • NSSE results about the same – a few slips, a few gains
  • Graduation rates comparable, or better - 7 schools increased by 6%, & 3 by 10%
  • Six shared conditions still hold

Keys to Sustaining the Student Success Agenda

  • Student success is an institutional priority when everyone--especially campus leaders--make it so.
  • Stay “positively restless” – pay attention to data that matters for student success
  • Enhanced partnerships between student and academic affairs

Studying Quality Improvement

  • 1,500 baccalaureate institutions in NSSE 2000-2011
  • 600 institutions administered NSSE 4+ times
  • OPPORTUNITY:What can we learn about institutional improvement and change?
are institutions improving
Are Institutions Improving?


University of Texas-San Antonio

conditions that fostered improvement
Conditions that Fostered Improvement
  • Grants, Pilots, External Initiatives
  • Stability & Trust in Leadership
  • Physical space/creation of new learning spaces
  • Comprehensive & Targeted strategic planning
  • Data Informed & Culture of continuous improvement
  • Strong role of faculty – impact of generational change
  • Intentional partnerships in administrative areas – Student and Academic Affairs
partnerships first year focus
Partnerships: First-Year Focus

“We have always done a lot to help students stay in college and think about how we move students out successfully.” -- Lynchburg College faculty member

  • Low persistence rate in 2005 captured everyone’s attention… formed Student Success Team
  • Sent dozens faculty & staff to FYE conference
robust partnerships between student academic affairs
Robust Partnerships Between Student & Academic Affairs
  • Change facilitated by a robust partnership between academic & student affairs
perplexing question
Perplexing Question:

If partnerships are so essential to educational effectiveness and improved conditions for learning and success, then why are they so difficult to achieve? Why are partnerships the exception rather than the rule?

context 1992 university of missouri
Major Triggering Events
  • Declining enrollment…huge drop in freshman class (-29%) & residence hall occupancy down 34% (6200 to 4100).
  • Three large residence halls closed…debt rating in jeopardy
  • Course availability / scheduling a challenge
  • Poor legislative relationships…skepticism / anger
  • CBHE establishes new retention (R) / graduation (G) rate standards … R=85% vs. 78%; G= 65% vs. 59%
  • Finding opportunity in adversity !
Context: 1992 University of Missouri
compelling aim
New Chancellor establishes a compelling aim:
  • “Recapture the public’s trust by rededicating the University to high quality undergraduate education”
Compelling Aim
goals and objectives
Restore enrollment and residence hall occupancy.
  • Improve course scheduling through more effective curriculum management for first-year students.
  • Elevate the intellectual climate of the campus by enhancing first-year student engagement.
  • Achieve the new CBHE retention / graduation rate standards by 1998
  • And, by the way, do all of this with limited funding!!!!
Goals and objectives
primary strategy create a residential learning community program

Three institutional leaders : VPSA; Associate Dean A&S; Chair Biology Dept.

  • Cross-functional core team: residence life; registrar; English department; admissions & campus writing program
  • Developed 12 FIGS (Freshman Interest Groups) … three common courses & common assignment to floors.
  • Initial assessment led to creation of three residential colleges, 87 FIGs and 46 sponsored learning communities by 1999 (“70 by 99”).
Primary strategy: Create a residential learning community program
program outcomes

Achieved CBHE performance standards (G=68%; R=85%)

  • Increased enrollment & filled the residence halls
  • Much higher NSSE scores on all five benchmarks
  • 70% (4200) of all first-year students now in learning communities
  • LC`s the “signature program” of MU-- 7%+ to graduation
  • Graduation rates of “at-risk students” (family income <48,000 and HSGPA < 2.75) FIG vs. non-FIG

45.6% vs. 34.2 % + 11.4%

Program Outcomes
lessons learned

Triggering events and “self-interests” can be catalysts … focus on issues of consequence!

  • A shared vision and shared resources are critical
  • Understanding and acceptance of differences are key (i.e. using and integrating the strengths of partners)
  • Communicate, coordinate, collaborate constantly!
  • Leadership is critical: Think big…plan long term
  • Be flexible…adapt as necessary and take risks
  • Examine prevailing mental models and embrace the notion “To create the future, challenge the past”
Lessons learned