Introducing Models of Excellence

A national recognition program honoring student success

The defining characteristic of institutional excellence in higher education has become student success.

Not long ago, student success was considered to be the student’s responsibility. To the degree it was measured at all, student success was discussed in terms of graduation rate and gainful employment, but even those statistics were rarely reported.

Today, student success is seen by higher ed leaders across the country as the key to their institution’s success. Now, higher ed leadership is being held accountable for student success—by students, parents, publications that rank colleges and, perhaps soon, the federal government.

So college and university leaders are recognizing that striving for institutional excellence requires taking a fresh look at student success. They are seeking better ways to define student success, to assess it and to improve it. And they’re looking to their peers for ideas, solutions and models.

This is why University Business magazine, in partnership with Higher One, has introduced Models of Excellence. This national recognition program honors colleges and universities that have implemented innovative, effective and inter-departmental initiatives that are bolstering student success.

Improving academic outcomes is just one category that our judges will look at in Models of Excellence. We’ll also recognize programs that consider other aspects of student success, including:

  • Expanding college access
  • Improving retention
  • Financial literacy/responsibility
  • Adjustment to college life
  • Engagement with campus life
  • Boosting graduation rates
  • Career preparation and guidance
  • Life skills attainment

If you have implemented a student success initiative that’s getting results—especially one that involves two or more departments—tell us about it by applying for a Models of Excellence award. Three times a year (in April, August, and December) we’ll honor the best of these initiatives in University Business magazine, giving valuable recognition to leading schools and helping to spread the word about what excellence in higher education really means.

Application deadline for the Winter round is September 1, 2016.

Apply Now

2016 Spring Honorees

Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes

Louisiana State University

That an NCAA Division I school provides its student-athletes with academic support services is hardly news. What differentiates Louisiana State University’s efforts is that its support encompasses more than just academics.

LSU’s Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes comprises both an academic affairs division and a student affairs division. The goal is to support student-athletes in their studies as well as in financial literacy, health and wellness, dealing with the media, and other areas.

Bridge Scholars Program

Colorado College

Emily Chan, a social psychologist who studies how prejudice affects academic achievement, brings a research-based approach to supporting the students from underrepresented backgrounds who participate in Colorado College’s Bridge Scholars Program.

Chan, an associate dean for academic programs and strategic initiatives at the Colorado Springs institution, cites 15 years of studies that illustrate the importance of integrating such students into the full collegiate environment.

Operation Degree Completion

University of Central Oklahoma

They called every number they had. They sent email and snail mail. They reached out on Facebook and LinkedIn.

In short, University of Central Oklahoma’s Operation Degree Completion staff used every means of communication at their disposal to track down tens of thousands of former students.

They were searching for two groups: those who had left Central just shy of their bachelor’s degrees, whom they would assist in finally graduating; and those with credits that could be used to complete associate’s degree requirements at community colleges they had attended.

Comfort Dog Program

Concordia University Wisconsin

One of the most popular public figures on the Concordia University Wisconsin campus isn’t a student or long-time faculty member, but rather a celebrity of the canine variety. 

Zoey, a golden retriever, stars in Concordia’s two-year-old Comfort Dog Program, which offers stress reduction, emotional relief and improved well-being to students, faculty and staff. “Zoey provides what amounts to a canine version of a deep breath,” says Dave Enters, director of counseling services and head of the program.

Tulane Success Coaching

Tulane University

Typically, when students hear they have been recommended for an academic support program it is viewed as punitive. Their attitude toward participating is shaped by the sense that they have done something wrong.

For that reason, previous efforts at Tulane University to assist students with academic challenges “proved to be difficult and ineffective,” says Michele Oelking, director of the Academic Success Center. Still, the need for a program to aid students in achieving academic, personal and career goals—particularly students with ADHD—was evident.

Veteran Student Academic Intervention Program

National University

With as many as 24 percent of National University’s students having served in the military, officials saw a need to support the transition to civilian life and college.

So the San Diego-based institution created the Veteran Student Academic Intervention Program in 2012 to help members of the military earn their degree.

Academic support was the greatest need reported by the university’s military students. Approximately 300 veterans per term find themselves on academic probation (GPA below 2.0) or at risk of being placed on probation (GPA between 2.0 and 2.25).

Personalized Achievement Contract Program

Mercy College

Because so many of the students at Mercy College are the first in their family to reach higher education, they aren’t likely to have a home-based support system to help them navigate some of the basics of attending college.

“They can’t go to mom or dad or Uncle Bill and say, ‘How did you pick a major?’ or ‘How did you decide what you wanted to go into as a career?’ ” says Catherine Cioffi, director of public relations at the Hispanic-serving institution, located in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Peak Performance Mathematics Bridge Program

Northern Arizona University

The introduction in 2010 of a math placement test for incoming Northern Arizona University students revealed that many of them needed remedial courses. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of students enrolled in developmental math programs nearly doubled, from 300 to 650.

Like most universities, Northern Arizona had previously relied on SAT and ACT test scores for math placement. However, new research increasingly indicates the SAT is not as indicative of math readiness as previously thought, says Mary Fulé, coordinator of mathematics and statistics.

The University Business Models of Excellence recognition program is made possible by generous sponsorship from CASHNet. Learn more about CASHNet