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Foundations of Excellence® in the First College Year

Overview of Key Elements

The Process

  • The Foundations of Excellence process enables each campus to take a sustained, focused look at the first year to determine what elements are appropriate and working well and what needs to be changed.

  • The process is not mandatory for any institution.

  • The engine of the Foundations of Excellence process is the Foundations of Excellence task force – a group that has broad representation from across campus.

  • The process is enhanced by an advanced technological system (FoEtec®).

  • The work of the task force begins with a campus audit of the first year (the “Current Practices Inventory”), continues with a 9 – 12 month process of evaluation using the Foundations of Excellence model and related performance indicators, and culminates in the development of an “Action Plan” for campus improvement.

  • Campus task forces use both qualitative and quantitative evidence to support their judgments of campus achievement.

    • One form of quantitative evidence will be the results of the Foundations of Excellence first-year student survey and faculty/staff survey administered by Educational Benchmarking, Inc.
The Model


  • Foundations of Excellence model is the intellectual framework for the process

  • Model is comprised of nine standards of excellence, termed “Foundational Dimensions®.”

  • Foundational Dimensions are aspirational, rather than minimum, standards.

  • Six Dimensions constituted the original model developed in February of 2003 by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and research partners at Penn State University and Campus Compact. In the spring of 2003, 219 four-year public and private colleges and universities reviewed and vetted the model and expanded it to the current version comprised of nine Dimensions. In the spring of 2005, 81 two-year colleges reacted to the nine Dimensions and collectively developed a version that is appropriate and relevant to two-year higher education.

  • In 2003-2004, the model was pilot tested by 24 four-year colleges and universities as a method of assessing and improving the first year. A pilot test with 10 two-year campuses began in the summer of 2005.
The Foundations of Excellence initiative focuses on the institution and its policies, practices and programs rather than on student-level input characteristics or learning outcomes. Learning outcomes data can be used as evidence to support achievement of the Dimensions.

The Foundations of Excellence initiative expands the conversation on student retention and focuses directly on the quality of the first year. Retention is considered a probable outcome of institutional excellence.

Colleges and universities accredited by the Higher Learning Commission are able to link the Foundations of Excellence initiative with reaffirmation of accreditation in a customized self-study focused on the first year.

This project was developed and piloted with the support of The Atlantic Philanthropies and Lumina Foundation for Education.
 
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Foundations of Excellence®
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