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Effective student success initiatives begin long before that first day of classes and often continue beyond graduation. The colleges and universities highlighted in the third round of UB’s national Models of Excellence awards program demonstrate a commitment to that holistic experience.

Given the amount of innovation transpiring daily on the American college campus, it’s not surprising that higher ed institutions have become destinations for the broader community. Outside groups host conferences, retreats, weddings and other social events at campus facilities, while travelers can sometimes find a room for the night.

Behind the scenes at the University of Vermont, chefs work with dining  program administrators to deliver student-requested items in a cost-effective manner. This can involve partnering with local food providers.

Colleges and universities that provide fresh, high-quality food do more than please students—offering good food is also good business. Here are several ways dining program leaders can increase satisfaction and meal plan participation while keeping operating costs stable.

Students, faculty and staff at the University of Vermont can eat foods prepared in the certified kosher kitchen, which is operated by Vermont Kosher LLC. In addition, a line of kosher grocery items is available for purchase.

What do you see as the biggest trend in meal plan design?

One way to encourage bicycle use on campus is to make it easy for riders to meet up. At Westminster College, mechanics are on hand to assist with repairs and maintenance in a do-it-yourself bike shop, part of a student-run bicycle collective.

In the last few years, new parking technology has allowed colleges and universities to upgrade systems and infrastructure. Yet higher ed officials are still mapping out the connections between parking operations, campus fleets and overall sustainability.

The Duke University Research Drive Garage earned LEED-certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2010.

Educational institutions lead the way in sustainable development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says Paul Wessel, executive director of the Green Parking Council.

And even though the U.S. Green Building Council stopped LEED-certifying parking structures in 2011, the Green Parking Council is out to prove that garages can still be environmentally friendly.

A leadership academy developed for students who are doing well academically at Thomas College helps ensure they also feel connected socially. This focus on low-risk students has resulted in greater retention rates over a three-year period.

For decades, colleges and universities have used big data to track high-risk students and intervene as needed. Now a growing number of institutions are using data tools to track and analyze another group: successful students.

Fulfilling a connection need: Troy University’s Trojan Cafe (left) has had more than 19,000 users in the past year, and Northern Virginia Community College’s virtual student union (right), still in expansion mode, has had about 500 users so far.

For all the advantages of online learning—flexibility, personalization and affordability among them—there can be downsides for some students. Online students may feel isolated and disconnected from their peers and from their college or university—and risk losing the engagement so crucial to student success.

Community colleges have achieved the goal of providing broader and cheaper access to higher education. Now, experts and administrators say, the focus must turn more aggressively toward student success and completion.

In an era when prospective students and their parents can learn about hundreds of schools from the comfort of their homes, the in-person campus tour offers a golden opportunity to tip the scales in your favor. But too often, these tours follow the same staid formulas.

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