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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition


Throughout its history, the National Resource Center has been fortunate to collaborate with many individuals and organizations in its work to support the learning, development, and success of students in their transition into and through higher education.

Starting with the National Resource Center’s founding director, John N. Gardner, a small cohort of dedicated affiliates and advocates for the mission, core commitments, and ongoing work of the Center have been honored with the distinction and title of Center Fellow. The Center is pleased to maintain partnerships with these colleagues as contributors to the Center’s history of success, current champions of its work, and a foundation of support for its future endeavors.

John N. Gardner

John N. Gardner

John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

John N. Gardner is the founder of and a senior fellow with the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition; founding executive director of the University 101 Programs; and distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina (USC). He was executive director of the first-year seminar course, University 101 (U101), from 1974 to 1999; and also, the National Resource Center from 1986 to 1999. And he served as Vice chancellor/associate provost for academic affairs for regional campuses from 1983-96.  Currently he serves as chief executive officer, co-founder and board chair of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, a non-profit national organization he co-founded with his wife, Betsy O. Barefoot, in 1999. As a senior fellow, Gardner provides advice, counsel, and intellectual leadership and vision when called upon. He is involved in presenting at National Resource Center conferences and continuing education events. He also remains engaged in its scholarship and research agenda and its publishing activities. He serves USC in other capacities as requested.

Biographical Sketch

Gardner is an educator, university professor and administrator, author, editor, public speaker, consultant, change agent, student retention specialist, first-year student advocate, and initiator and scholar of the American first-year and senior-year reform movements. He is best known for initiating an international reform movement in higher education in 1982 to bring awareness to and improve what he originally called "the freshman year experience" and later renamed "the first-year experience."

Beginning in 1990, Gardner expanded his focus to improving and championing the senior-year experience, another critical transition during the college years. He changed the National Resource Center’s name to the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, signifying a broader focus on the need for institutions to better support students in transition.

Gardner retired from the University in 1999 after more than 32 years of service to the people of South Carolina, but he continues to serve in a reduced and more focused way as a Senior Fellow. He immediately went on to co-found another national organization to extend and complement but not duplicate in any way the work of the National Resource Center.

The U.S. Air Force brought Gardner to South Carolina in 1967, where he served as a psychiatric social worker in the 363rd Tactical Hospital at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter. Following a direct order from his squadron commander, Gardner became a part-time adjunct instructor at the University of South Carolina. After completing his military service in 1968, Gardner held a two-year temporary appointment at Winthrop College as an instructor of history. He returned to the University in 1970 where he taught courses in American and South Carolina history, interpersonal communications for librarians, public speaking, higher education administration, and other topics. He also regularly taught U101, the first-year seminar, and The First-Year Experience, a graduate seminar course he developed for the College of Education. From 1994 to 1998 Gardner developed and taught University 401, Senior Capstone Experience, as a sequel to U101 but for departing students only.

Gardner founded the Policy Center on the First Year of College in October 1999 with Dr. Betsy O. Barefoot, his wife and former co-director for Research and Publications at the National Resource Center.  It was reorganized as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity in 2007 and renamed the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. With its new name, the Gardner Institute expanded its mission to the pursuit of excellence in the broader undergraduate education experience by working with colleges and universities to improve student learning and retention.

Since its inception, the Institute has been supported by more than 400 participating institutions, including these philanthropic partners: the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Kresge Foundation, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, United Student Aid Funds (now the Strada Education Network), the ECMC Foundation, the Ascendium Educational Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and the California Futures Foundation..

Gardner’s area of expertise in higher education was, for almost three decades, the creation of programs to enhance the learning, success, retention, and graduation of students in transition, particularly first-year students, through first-year seminar courses. Beginning in 2003, his efforts have been directed almost exclusively to working with institutions to look beyond a “programmatic” approach to improving the first year and instead to focus the entire experience of entering students. Throughout his career, he has hosted workshops, led training, and spoken on issues related to first- and senior-year experiences at more than 500 campuses in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, and Norway.

He is a prolific author, developing highly successful first-year seminar textbooks and building the literature base on the first-year experience and students in transition. Some of his key contributions to the field include The Freshman Year Experience (1989) with M. Lee Upcraft, Jossey-Bass; The Senior Year Experience (1998), with Gretchen Van der Veer, Jossey-Bass; Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student (2005), with M. Lee Upcraft and Betsy O. Barefoot, Jossey-Bass; Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College (2005), with Betsy O. Barefoot and Associates, Jossey-Bass; Helping Sophomores Succeed (2010), with Mary Stuart Hunter and Barbara F. Tobolowsky and Associates, Jossey-Bass; Developing and Sustaining Successful-First-Year Programs (2013), with Gerald M. Greenfield and Jennifer R. Keup, Jossey-Bass; The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most (2016), with Peter Felten, Leo Lambert, Charles Schroder, and Betsy Barefoot; The Transfer Experience A Handbook for Creating a More Equitable and Successful Postsecondary Educational System (2021), with Michael J. Rosenberg and Andrew K. Koch, Stylus Publishing.


Gardner is the recipient of numerous local and national professional awards including USC's highest award for teaching excellence, the AMOCO Award for Outstanding Teaching (1975), and the Division of Student Affairs Faculty Award "for outstanding contributions" (1976). The USC Alumni Association in 1997 conferred upon him its highest award for a non-alum, the Honorary Life Membership, "for devoted service in behalf of the university." He was the 1998 recipient of the USC's Administrative Affirmative Action Award "for an outstanding job in promoting equal opportunities at the university." In 1999, USC presented Gardner with an award created and named in his honor, the John N. Gardner Inspirational Faculty Award, to be given thereafter to a faculty member "who has made substantial contributions to the learning environment in campus residence hall life." Gardner is the recipient of 12 honorary doctoral degrees recognizing him for his contributions to American higher education from Marietta College, his alma mater, 1985; Baldwin-Wallace College, 1990; Bridgewater State College, 1991; Millikin University, 1999; Purdue University, 2000; University of Teesside, UK, 2000; Rowan University, 2001; Thiel College, 2006; Indiana University, 2008; Clarion University of Pennsylvania, 2009; University of South Carolina, 2012; and Northwest Missouri State University, 2013.

Gardner was selected by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) in 1986 as one of 20 faculty in the United States who "have made outstanding leadership contributions to their institutions and/or American higher education." He was recognized in 1996 by the Council of Independent Colleges with its Academic Leadership Award "for exemplary contributions to American higher education." He has served on the board of directors/trustees for AAHE, the International Partnership for Service Learning, Marietta College, and the Brevard Music Center; and on advisory boards for the American Council on Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, The New York Times, and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

In 1998, Gardner was named one of the "top 10 professionals who have most influenced student affairs practitioners." This was based on a random sample of practitioners throughout the country as part of a study titled The Professional Influence Project, sponsored by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Foundation, and conducted by the University of Georgia. Gardner received the National Academic Advising Association’s Virginia N. Gordon Award for Excellence in the Field of Advising in 1999, in recognition of his contributions toward the enhancement of academic advisement in American higher education. In 2002, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American College Personnel Association, one of the nation's two major professional organizations for student affairs officers. Gardner and wife, Dr. Barefoot, received the Ernest L. Boyer Award, conferred by the New American Colleges and Universities, in 2012.

In the January 1998 issue of Change, Gardner was among approximately 80 people named as the "past, present, and future leaders of higher education." The article’s authors drew on the results of 11,000 questionnaires to name the leaders, whom the Chronicle of Higher Education dubbed "the movers and shakers." Gardner was included in a special category of 11 so-called "agenda-setters." 

Personal Life

Gardner has a son, Jonathan David Gardner, a graduate of Elon University; and a stepson, Wynn Corley, a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He is married to Betsy O. Barefoot, another distinguished scholar and leader of the first-year experience reform movement. Dr. Barefoot is a Fellow with the National Resource Center and a Senior Scholar with the Gardner Institute. She is also the Co-Founder and Senior Scholar of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. Together they live near Brevard in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. 

Mary Stuart Hunter

Mary Stuart Hunter

National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina (retired)

Length of Time: Since 1984  

Curriculum Vitae [pdf]

Mary Stuart Hunter is a senior fellow for University 101 Programs and the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina. Prior to her retirement in July 2015, she was associate vice president and executive director, where she led an academic department with campus wide impact and national/international leadership influence.

During her 40-year career in higher education, Hunter taught first-year students, upper-level undergraduates, and graduate students, while the primary focus of her administrative work was in faculty and staff development designed to help educators improve student learning and program development. Her scholarship centers on various student transition points, academic advising, and faculty development. Her publications include co-editing Helping Sophomores Succeed: Understanding and Improving the Second-Year Experience (2010) and The Senior Year: Culminating Experiences and Transitions (2012) and co-authoring The First-Year Seminar: Instructor Training and Development (2012). She was honored in May 2010 with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Queens University of Charlotte. 

Honors and Awards  
  • John N. Gardner Inspirational Faculty Award, 2015
  • University 101 Excellence in Teaching Award renamed M. Stuart Hunter Excellence in Teaching University 101, 2015
  • Division of Student Affairs and Academic Support Exemplary Service to the Carolina Community Award, 2015
  • Outstanding Alumna of the Year, Queens University of Charlotte, 2014
  • Nominated for University 101 Excellence in Teaching Award, fall 2011 and 2012
  • Recognized as an “Outstanding Professor,” fall 2011 by Delta Zeta at the University of South Carolina
  • Recognized as a “Pillar of Our Profession” in theJournal of College Orientation and Transition, Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring 2011
  • 2011 NASPA Excellence Award – Grand Silver recognition for nomination authored on the faculty development initiative for University of South Carolina’s University 101 Program
  • Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Queens University of Charlotte, 2010
  • Outstanding Leadership in the Field Award, Division of Student Affairs and Academic Support at the University of South Carolina, 2010
  • Distinguished Member, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, University of South Carolina, 2008
  • Chi Sigma Alpha, honor society for excellence, research, and service to the profession of student affairs, University of South Carolina, 2006
  • Outstanding Alumnae, Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs, University of South Carolina, 2001
  • Omicron Delta Kappa, University of South Carolina, 1999
  • Sigma Upsilon, creative writing honor society, Queens College, 1974

Clarke, K. C., & Hunter, M. S. (2013). Induction. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Supporting student diversity in higher education: A practical guide. Routledge.

Hunter, M. S., Keup, J. R., Kinzie, J., & Maietta, H. (Eds.). (2012). The senior year: Culminating experiences and transitions. University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. 

Hunter, M. S., & Clarke, K. C. (2012). Induction. In M. Morgan (Ed.), Improving the student experience: A practical guide for universities and colleges. Routledge.

Groccia, J. E., & Hunter, M. S. (2012). The first-year seminar: Designing, Implementing and assessing courses to support student learning and success: Vol. II. Instructor training and development. University of South Carolina, The National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Hunter, M. S., Tobolowsky, B., Gardner, J. N., & Associates (Eds.). (2010). Helping sophomores succeed: Understanding and improving the second year experience. Jossey-Bass.

Calderon, D., Nutt, D., Botha, L., Clark, W., Donovan, K., Fisher-Stitt, N., ... van Schalkwyk, S. (2010). Overview of countries. In D. Nutt & D. Calderon (Eds.), International perspectives on the first-year experience (Monograph No. 52). (pp. 9-26). University of South Carolina, The National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

Hunter, M. S., Crome, B., Elliott, J., Ouakrime, M., Nyati-Ramahobo, L., & Stafford, C. (2009). New student programmes/student orientation. In R. B. Ludeman, K. J. Osfield, E. I. Hidalgo, D. Oste, & H. S. Wang, Student affairs and services in higher education: Global foundations, issues, and best practices. UNESCO. 

Hunter, M. S., & Moody, B. L. (2009). Civic engagement in the first college year. In B. Jacoby (Ed.), Civic engagement in higher education: Concepts and practices. (pp. 69-84). Jossey Bass.

Gahagan, J., & Hunter, M. S. (2008). Engaging sophomores: Attending to the needs of second year students. AACRAO’s College and University Journal, 83(3), 45-49.

Hunter, M. S., & Kendall, L. (2008). Moving into college. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 142-156). Jossey-Bass.

Hunter, M. S., Wriggins, B. M., & White, E. R. (2007). Academic advising: New insights for teaching and learning in the first college year (Monograph No. 46). University of South Carolina, The National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

Hunter, M. S., & Murray, K. (2007). New frontiers for student affairs professionals: Teaching and the first-year experience. In E. L. Moore (Ed.), Student affairs staff as teachers. New Directions for Student Services, 117, 25-34.

Hunter, M. S. (2007). Forward. In J. B. Cuseo, V. S. Fecas, & A. Thompson, Thriving in college and beyond: Research-based strategies for academic success and personal development (pp. xi-xii). Kendall/Hunt.

Hunter, M. S., & Ogle, J. (2007, April). For campus activities professionals: Advocating for the value of our work through reading, writing, and publishing. Campus Activities Programming, 39(8), 38-40.

Gahagan, J., & Hunter, M. S. (2006, July/August). The second-year experience: Turning attention to the academy’s middle children. About Campus, 11(3), 17-22. 

Hunter, M. S. (2006). Lessons learned: Achieving institutional change in support of students in transitionIn F. S. Laanan (Ed.), Understanding students in transition: Trends and issues. New Directions for Student Services, 114, 7-15.

Hunter, M. S. (2006, Summer). Fostering student learning and success through first-year programs. Peer Review, 8(3), 4-7.

Hunter, M. S., & Linder, C. W. (2005). First-year seminars. In M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, & B. O. Barefoot (Eds.), Challenging and supporting the first-year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college (pp. 275-291). Jossey-Bass.

Hunter, M. S. (2005, Spring). Publishing as a way to make prevention a campus-wide imperative. Catalyst: A publication of the higher education center for alcohol and other drug abuse and violence prevention (Funded by the U.S. Department of Education). 7(1), 9-10.

Hunter, M. S., & White, E. R. (2004, March/April). Could fixing academic advising fix higher education? About Campus, 9(1), 20-25.

Hunter, M. S., & Gahagan, J. S. (2003, September/October). It takes a year. About Campus, 8(4), 31-32.

Jennifer R. Keup Headshot

Jennifer R. Jeup

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Length of Time: Since 2008

Jennifer Keup, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) and Vice President of Urban Initiatives at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), where she provides leadership for all the organization’s operational, programmatic, strategic, and scholarly activities. Prior to coming to USU and APLU, Dr. Keup served as the Executive Director of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina for over 15 years. In that role, she built upon the National Resource Center’s history of excellence as the founder and leader of the first-year experience movement to develop and pursue the organization’s efforts to serve a worldwide network of educators dedicated to students’ transition, development, learning, and success, particularly at critical junctures in the educational pipeline. During her tenure as Executive Director of the Center, she spearheaded the National Resource Center’s national and international collaboration and partnerships, thought leadership, advancement of publication and professional development outlets, grant acquisition, service development and delivery, and expansion of channels for resource sharing and communication, including online and social media. Jennifer has also held positions as the Director of the Student Affairs Information and Research Office at UCLA and the Director of Follow-up Surveys for the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at the Higher Education Research Institute.

Keup’s research interests focus on two complementary areas of scholarship: (a) the first-year experience and students in transition and (b) high-impact practices and institutional interventions. Under the umbrella of this agenda, she has engaged in scholarly work, leadership, teaching, and service on many topics, including college student characteristics; the impact of college on students; student access, development, learning, and success; curriculum and student services; peer leadership; community colleges and transfer; student performance, adjustment, and attainment; and institutional effectiveness and assessment. Keup is a co-author of the book Developing and Sustaining Successful First-Year Programs: A Guide for Practitioners and of the CAS Cross-Functional Framework for First-Year Experiences. She also has published several pieces on first-year seminars/experiences and other high-impact practices in scholarly outlets, such as the Journal of College Student Development; Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice; Journal of College Orientation and Transition; Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice; Journal of Higher Education; and the New Directions series by Wiley.

Keup serves as a principal investigator for the National Resource Center’s involvement in a Bill and Melinda Gates-funded Solution Network focused on identifying, building, and scaling effective and equitable advising solutions across the field of higher education. In addition, she is a research affiliate with the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, a member of the advisory board for the NASPA Center for First-generation Student Success; a former directorate board chair for the ACPA Commission for Admissions, Orientation, and First-Year Experience; and on several editorial boards for higher education journals in the United States and internationally. She currently serves as both an Affiliate Scholar and Senior Fellow with the National Resource Center.

Keup is a proud three-time alum of UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master's and Ph.D. in higher education and organizational change.

Betsy Barefoot

Betsy Barefoot

John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Betsy Barefoot, Ed.D. , is a senior scholar for the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education in Brevard, North Carolina. In her work at the institute, Dr. Barefoot has been directly involved in the development of instruments and strategies to evaluate and improve the first college year and transfer experience. She has conducted seminars on the first-year experience across the United States and worldwide and has assisted other colleges and universities in implementing and evaluating first-year and transfer programs. She has authored and co-authored numerous other publications, including the 2005 Jossey-Bass books, Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of CollegeChallenging and Supporting the First-Year Student: A Handbook for improving the First Year of College, and the 2016 book The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most.

Prior to joining the Gardner Institute, Barefoot served for 11 years as co-director for research and publications at the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina (USC). In this position, she engaged in ongoing research and publishing on first-year programming in American higher education. While at USC, she also served as a clinical faculty member at USC's College of Education and taught graduate courses in principles of college teaching, contemporary trends and issues in higher education, a special topics seminar on the first-year experience, and the University 101 first-year seminar. Barefoot is married to another scholar of the first-year experience, John N. Gardner.

Dr. Barefoot is a native of North Carolina. She holds a bachelor's in music education from Duke University and a master's and doctorate in higher education from the College of William and Mary.

Dorothy S. Fidler

National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina (retired) 

As a Center fellow, Jean Henscheid consults with institutions and government agencies on educational innovations with a primary focus on improving connections between secondary and postsecondary sectors. Her most recent activities have been with the University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research, the Idaho State Board of Education, and the Idaho State Department of Education. From 2011 to 2017, Dr. Henscheid held visiting faculty positions in educational leadership and policy at Portland State University and in adult organizational learning and leadership at the University of Idaho. Prior to her visiting appointments, Henscheid was director of general education at the University of Idaho. Her professional experience also includes leading learning community programs and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership and research methods at Washington State University and serving as associate director for research and publications for the National Resource Center.

Henscheid conducts and collaborates on large-scale research projects on student transitions and is co-author of two books on conducting social science research. She has authored and edited numerous monographs, book chapters, and articles and facilitates workshops across the United States and abroad with a primary focus on student transitions, curriculum design, learning theory, program evaluation, general education, and learning assessment. From 2007 to July 2011, she served as editor of the Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition. For nearly a decade, until January 2014, she also served as managing and then executive editor of the award-winning higher education periodical About Campus.

Richard Mullendore

Richard Mullendore

University of Georgia (retired)

Richard Mullendore is a Professor Emeritus of college student affairs administration at the University of Georgia. Prior to moving to the faculty, Mullendore served as the chief student affairs officer at the University of Mississippi and the University of Georgia. A former president of NODA, the Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention, Mullendore is a frequent conference presenter, speaker, and consultant on orientation, parent programs, and transfer students and has authored more than 50 publications. Most recently, he co-authored The Role of Parents in Emerging Adulthood (in Emerging Adulthood and Higher Education, 2019). He was co-author of the 2014 publication Navigating the First College Year: A Guide for Parents and Families. He was co-editor of the 2005 NASPA book Partnering With the Parents of Today's College Students, co-author of Helping Your First-Year College Student Succeed: A Guide for Parents (2000), and Empowering the Parents of First-Year College Students: A Guide for Success (2007). Mullendore edited the 1998 and 1995 editions of the Orientation Planning Manual and was co-editor of the first volume of Designing Successful Transitions: A Guide for Orienting Students to College, released in 1993. He has received several awards, including the Bob Leach Award for Outstanding Service to Students (NASPA, Region III), the Pillar of the Profession Award (NASPA), the Outstanding Contributions to the Orientation Profession Award (NODA), the Outstanding Professional Contribution Award (North Carolina College Personnel Association), and the President's Award (NODA). 

Randy L. Swing

Randy L. Swing

Association for Institutional Research (AIR) retired

Randy L. Swing, Ph.D., focuses on postsecondary student success, data-informed decision making, and national policy. His career appointments include executive director of the Association for Institutional Research, a nonprofit membership association serving more than 4,200 members and 1,500 postsecondary institutions (2007-2016); co-director and senior scholar at the Policy Center on the First Year of College (1999-2007), and academic advising, first-year seminar, and outcomes assessment at Appalachian State University (1980-1999). Dr. Swing is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and an author of books and articles on assessment, institutional research, and student success, especially the first-year experience.

As an independent consultant, Swing worked with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (Re-imagining the First-Year Initiative, and the Millennium Leadership Initiative for aspiring college presidents), and the Strada Education Network's MSI College Value project. His work received over $50 million in grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, Lumina Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others.

Dr. Swing earned his doctorate (PhD) from the University of Georgia.

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