Report on the self study of excellence in the first year at CCRI
FOUNDATIONS OF EXCELLENCE
Background
 The Foundations of Excellence is a self-study process
developed by the Gardner Institute for Excellence in
Undergraduate Education.
 John Gardner pioneered the First Year Experience
movement during his time at the University of South
Carolina.
 For nearly 30 years, Gardner has been at the forefront of
translating research on first-year students into effective
programs and practices
Process
 The Foundations of Excellence process is centered around
nine aspirational Dimensions of the first-year experience.
 It is a self-study, not an accreditation. We determine what
is the appropriate aspirational level for CCRI and how well
we meet our own expectations.
 It is data driven and requires evidence for any
recommendations. The Gardner Institute reviews all
reports to ensure that all recommendations have a firm
basis in the evidence.
 114 faculty, staff and students have spent the last eleven
months working on this process.
Key Data
 Students (1263 respondents) are generally satisfied with
their first year at CCRI across all campuses and all
demographics. They are least satisfied with
opportunities for exposure to diversity, their ability to
make connections here and the match between their
courses and their perceived abilities.
 Faculty and staff (41% responded) have never
differentiated between new and returning students and
do not believe that the institution has organized itself to
address the specific needs of first-year students.
Recommendations
Philosophy
 Develop an institutional philosophy statement for the
First Year Student that is clear and specific about the
institution’s goals for students in their first two
semesters and that identifies student retention as the
responsibility of all members of the college community

Without clear learning goals and objectives, we cannot adequately
communicate expectations, accurately advise students, align
resources with goals, or demonstrate and prove effectiveness.
Faculty and staff rated this area poorly on the institutional survey
Recommendations
Curricular Intentionality
 Reform the General Studies Program by identifying
“tracks” more consistent with student intentions and to
allow for more self-identification with the institution.
Also, appoint a Coordinator/Program Director to oversee
the program, evaluate data, work with discipline specific
Department Chairs to refine the curriculum to better
align with student intentions.
 Over 50% of our students are placed into General Studies. The
program is large, poorly defined and provides no supportive
mechanisms for students. Astin has demonstrated for decades
that affiliation within the institution is a top predictor of
persistence. The student survey indicates students do not feel a
connection. This group needs more attention and more direction
to be successful. A review of requirements should be conducted
to ensure relevancy and effectiveness.
Recommendations
Curricular Intentionality
 Refine Developmental Education by instituting
mandatory placement for students placing into
remedial courses, strengthening pre-requisites for
college level courses, and appointing a
Coordinator/Program Director to oversee the program
and evaluate data.
 74% of new students place into developmental education
courses. Half of our top ten feeder schools do not meet the
state average on the NECAP. These students need dedicated
staff and more prescriptive curricula to gain the skills necessary
to succeed in college.
Recommendations
Curricular Intentionality
 Promote consistency of faculty services by addressing
issues surrounding office hours, orientation and
professional development of adjunct faculty including
identifying a prototype /“universal” syllabus template.
 Adjunct faculty are most heavily concentrated in our first-year
courses. They receive less training and supervision then full
time faculty members. This cohort cannot be overlooked or
excused from efforts to improve the first-year experience.
Similarly, students report out-of-class connection to faculty as
an area for improvement as well as consistent communication
of expectations and behaviors.
Recommendations
Curricular Intentionality
 Establish an intentional approach to the First Year
Experience Courses by clearly identifying target
populations, eliminating duplication and establishing
advising criteria. Require a FYE course for General
Studies students. Link an FYE course to
developmental courses.
 National and Institutional data have proven the effectiveness
of FYE courses. Currently, the array of FYE courses at CCRI are
unfocused, isolated and unaffiliated. Registration is left to
chance.
Recommendations
Curricular Intentionality
 Clearly map and then demonstrate the relationship
between courses taken and institutional learning
outcomes by mapping the Curriculum as it relates to
the Educated Person, mapping the Gen Ed core to the
Educated person, reducing the number of Gen Ed core
courses to clarify pathways for new students. Establish
learning goals for all new students and learning
outcomes for all courses and programs
 As demonstrated through the student survey, most CCRI
students have difficulty understanding the relevance between
required courses, learning outcomes, and personal goals. The
overall appearance to students is random and mechanical.
Recommendations
Proactive Student Services
 Redesign New Student Orientation to reach all new
students, to be more interactive, to allow for more
personal interaction, and to clearly communicate
philosophies, expectations, rationales, and
requirements. Explore opportunities of greater
collaboration within the college.
 The student survey clearly indicates that new students do not
feel connected to the institution and, in comparison to similar
institution in the survey, report statistically significant lower
means on multiple areas of satisfaction.
Recommendations
Proactive Student Services
 Examine advising models and processes for
opportunities for more intrusive and prescriptive advising
of new students. This may include faculty and/or peer
advising models. Generate career pathways for General
Studies students similar to transfer plans.
 While the student survey indicates that students feel that
advisors do a good job, the comparative data suggests that too
many of our students do not benefit from these relationships.
The presence of a clear career goal is a top predictor of student
retention, nationally.
Recommendations
Proactive Student Services
 Revamp communication policies and processes for new
students including MyCCRI, website, print media, and
telecommunications.
 The student survey clearly demonstrates that students lack
information about multiple programs and offices necessary for
college success. Communication strategies need to be more
active and effective for how students communicate.
Recommendations
Proactive Student Services
 Create a faculty-driven Early Warning System that
provides direct feedback to students while automating
notification of necessary student support services for an
aggressive intervention early in each semester.
 Students report less awareness of available academic support
services and fewer of them feel that CCRI helped them succeed
than similar institutions at statistically significant levels.
Recommendations
Proactive Student Services
 Evaluate all Student Service operations for opportunities
to reach out and engage first-year students at
developmentally and chronologically appropriate times.
This requires examination of schedules, staffing patterns,
communication methods, and offered services.
 The student survey overwhelming indicates that new students
feel disconnected and uninformed and that they seek
opportunities to experience new things, new ideas, and new
people, but they lack the knowledge or skills to do so. Engaged
students are more likely to persist and become active alumni.
Recommendations
Professional Development
 Create an strategic initiative that links pedagogy to
student engagement and retention.
 Increase professional development opportunities for full time
and adjunct faculty. Support the CITLA as a vehicle for faculty
exploration of varying teaching methods and their
effectiveness.
 Facilitate strategic re-thinking of services and
programs as they relate to best practices in first-year
student services.
 Provide ongoing and regular professional development for
staff to better understand the needs of first-year students.
Recommendations
Ongoing Assessment and Implementation.
 Formalize a First-Year Committee that focuses on
issues facing first-year students across the
institution and charged with implementing the
approved recommendations.
 Data from the Gardner Institute shows that institutions who
actively and consistently engage in implementing Foundations of
Excellence recommendations experience higher gains (8.2%) in
first to second year retention rates than those who do not
actively engage their recommendations.
Closing
 This process puts students at the center of the
decision-making process. Their success is our
success.
 Change is necessary to achieve our goals. We
cannot keep doing as we have always done and
expect a difference.
 This is a collective responsibility for the entire
institution. No one department, area, or person
can effect the changes necessary. It will take
everyone’s commitment and effort.
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Foundations of Excellence