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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.

How important is it for college administrators to study successful student characteristics?

“Focusing primarily on identifying at-risk students, without also identifying the profiles of successful students, is much like a doctor diagnosing a patient with an illness or disease, yet failing to offer a treatment plan or cure. When administrators understand the characteristics of successful students, they can invest in policies, programs and services designed to maximize students’ chances of success.”

Michael Kistner, CEO, Zogotech

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.

Models of Excellence honorees from five colleges and universities were recognized at the program’s inaugural awards ceremony during NACUBO. Pictured (left to right) are Mandy Eppley, Eastern Kentucky University; Daniel Kinnaman, UB; Andy Clark, Valdosta State University; Anna Jensen, Indiana University; Bill Thrisk, Marist College; Shane Burgess, The University of Arizona; Jeff Ratje, The University of Arizona; and Andrew Crawford, Higher One. (Photo: Erika Chambers Photography)

Recognizing colleges and universities that make student success a priority through innovative initiatives is the purpose of UB’s new Models of Excellence award program.

To honor recipient schools from the first two rounds of the program, a celebratory dinner was hosted by the program’s sponsor, Higher One, during NACUBO’s annual meeting in Nashville in July. The event was held at the Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, where the conference was located.

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