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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 has led an international movement to enhance the first and senior years on campuses across the country and around the world. He is founder and Senior Fellow of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina (USC). From 1974 to 1999, Gardner served as executive director of the National Resource Center and of the nationally acclaimed University 101 program at USC. He is currently co-founder, chair, and Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, based in Brevard, North Carolina.

Job Responsibilities

In his role as the founding director and Senior Fellow with the National Resource Center, John N. Gardner engages in a range of activities and initiatives with the Center; its department partner, University 101 Programs; the University of South Carolina Columbia; and the USC system, including:

  • Supporting and assisting the staff of the National Resource Center as they offer programs and resources in support of the mission and vision of the Center, develop new initiatives, and evaluate these efforts.

  • Promotion, participation in, and presentations at professional development events sponsored by the National Resource Center, including the Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience and the National Conference on Students in Transition.

  • Developing new topics for publication; recruit authors for the National Resource Center's scholarly practice books, research reports, and guides; contribute to writing to those publications as appropriate; and actively promote the Center's catalog of print resources.

  • Serving as a national and international advocate for the National Resource Center, University 101 Programs, and the University of South Carolina.

  • Facilitating existing collaborations as well as introducing new partners and strategic alliances to the National Resource Center.

  • Serving as the historic memory for the National Resource Center and University 101 Programs.

  • Advising, consulting with, and supporting the academic efforts of University 101 Programs upon request.

  • Serving as a member of the Advisory Committee for the USC Connect initiative at the University of South Carolina.

  • Providing other forms of service as may be requested by the National Resource Center, University 101 Programs, and other university and USC system units.

Biographical Sketch

John N. Gardner is an educator, university professor and administrator, author, editor, public speaker, consultant, change agent, student retention specialist, first-year students' advocate, and initiator and scholar of the American first-year and senior-year reform movements.

He serves in two capacities, first as the President of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education; and secondly, as Senior Fellow and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina.

The Institute, based in Brevard, North Carolina, was founded by Gardner and his wife, Betsy O. Barefoot, in October 1999, originally as the Policy Center on the First Year of College. In 2007, it was reconstituted as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity and renamed the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. The Policy Center was launched by an initial grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts and has been subsequently funded by additional grants from Pew, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and USA Funds. In 2007 the mission of the Center was expanded to the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education to focus on the pursuit of excellence in the broader undergraduate education experience. The Institute works with colleges and universities to strengthen their resolve and processes to undertake assessment to improve student learning and retention. Currently, the Institute's work focuses on three distinct lines of service: (a) Foundations of Excellence, a self-study and planning process to improve the beginning college experience for new and transfer students; (b) Gateways to Completion, a process to increase student success in high enrollment/high failure rate courses; and (c) Retention Performance Management, an evidence collection, planning, and action process to improve student retention at multiple points throughout the undergraduate experience. Since its inception, the Center has received approximately $7.5 million in support from its philanthropic partners.

Gardner is also the Senior Fellow of the National Resource Center and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. The National Resource Center, founded by Gardner in 1986, organizes the popular and influential conferences on the first-year experience and students in transition, and also disseminates information through an extensive series of scholarly publications, videos, national and international conferences, workshops, seminars, and teleconferences.

Gardner "retired" in 1999 after 32½ years of service to the people of South Carolina, but he continues to serve them in a reduced and more focused way in his role of Senior Fellow (in addition to his full-time appointment in the Institute). He served as Executive Director of both the first-year seminar course, University 101, from 1974-1999, and of the National Resource Center from 1986-99. From 1983-96, he also served as Vice Chancellor/Associate Vice Provost for Regional Campuses and Continuing Education. In his capacity with the Center, Gardner provides advice, counsel, and intellectual leadership and vision when called upon by his colleagues. He is actively involved in hosting and presenting at Center conferences, seminars, workshops, and teleconferences. He also remains very involved, as always, in the Center's scholarship and research activities as in its monograph series and other publishing activities. He serves the university in other capacities as requested.

Thanks to the U.S. Air Force, Gardner was involuntarily sent to South Carolina in 1967, where he served his active duty assignment as a psychiatric social worker in the 363rd Tactical Hospital at Shaw Air Force Base. At the request of the Air Force, he became a part-time adjunct instructor for the University of South Carolina while he was on active duty. After completing his military service, Gardner held a two-year temporary appointment as Instructor of History at Winthrop College from 1968-70, then began his full-time faculty career at USC Columbia in 1970. He taught courses in American and South Carolina history, interpersonal communications for librarians, public speaking, higher education administration, and other special topics. He also regularly taught the first-year seminar, University 101, and a special topics graduate seminar course he developed for the College of Education on "The First-Year Experience." From 1994-1998 he developed and taught University 401, Senior Capstone Experience (as a sequel to University 101, only for departing students). This remains one of his legacies to USC about which he is most satisfied in terms of the help it offers students.

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 University of South Carolina Alumni Association conferred upon him its highest award for a non-alum, the Honorary Life Membership, "for devoted service in behalf of the university" in 1997. He was also named the 1998 recipient of the university's Administrative Affirmative Action Award "for an outstanding job in promoting equal opportunities at the university." In 1999, he was the recipient of a university award created and named in his honor, the John N. Gardner Inspirational Faculty Award, to be given henceforth to a member of the faculty "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 his alma mater, Marietta College, 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; USC Columbia, 2012; and Northwest Missouri State University, 2013.

In 1986, Gardner was selected by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) as one of 20 faculty in the United States who "... have made outstanding leadership contributions to their institutions and/or American higher education." In 1996 he was recognized 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. Gardner's work has been favorably reviewed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, The Times of London, U.S. News and World Report, Money magazine, and numerous other publications. In the January 1998 issue of Change, Gardner was cited in an article naming approximately 80 people as the "past, present, and future leaders of higher education." The authors of this study 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." Also in 1998, Gardner was named as 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 (NASPA) Foundation and conducted by the University of Georgia. In 1999, Gardner was awarded by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) the Virginia N. Gordon Award for Excellence in the Field of Advising, to recognize his contributions toward the enhancement of academic advisement in American higher education. One of the nation's two major professional organizations for student affairs officers, the American College Personnel Association, recognized him with its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2002. In 2012 he and his wife, Betsy Barefoot, were the recipients of the Ernest L. Boyer Award conferred by the New American Colleges and Universities.

Gardner is best known as the initiator (in 1982) of an international reform movement in higher education to call attention to and improve what he originally coined "the freshman year experience" and then renamed "the first-year experience." Moreover, since 1990 he has developed a special focus on a second critical transition during the college years to improve and champion: the senior year experience. In 1995, he renamed the Center he directed at USC the National Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, to signify a broader and more generic focus on the need for institutions to focus more intentionally on students in transition. Gardner has served as a workshop leader or trainer in hundreds of faculty development events and has spoken on/consulted with more than 500 campuses in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Norway, and Qatar, on issues related to first-year and senior students.

Gardner has authored/co-authored numerous articles and books, including the college textbooks for first-year seminar courses: College is Only the Beginning; Step by Step to College Success, Your College Experience, with A. Jerome Jewler and Betsy O. Barefoot. He has co-authored, with M. Lee Upcraft, The Freshman Year Experience, Jossey-Bass (1989); Ready for the Real World, Wadsworth Publishing (1994), with William Hartel and Associates; The Senior Year Experience, Jossey-Bass (1997), with Gretchen Van der Veer; with M. Lee Upcraft and Betsy O. Barefoot, Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student, Jossey-Bass (2005); with Betsy O. Barefoot and Associates, Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College, Jossey-Bass (2005); with Mary Stuart Hunter and Barbara F. Tobolowsky, Helping Sophomores Succeed, Jossey-Bass (2010); with Gerald M. Greenfield and Jennifer R. Keup, Developing and Sustaining Successful First-Year Programs, Jossey-Bass (2013); and The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most, Jossey-Bass (2016), with Peter Felten, Leo Lambert, Charles Schroeder, and Betsy Barefoot.

In his life outside his work, Gardner has one son, Jonathan David Gardner, a graduate of Elon University; and one stepson, Wynn Corley, a graduate of the University of South Carolina; both live in Lexington, South Carolina. John Gardner is married to another distinguished scholar and leader of the first-year experience reform movement, Betsy O. Barefoot. Betsy is the former Co-director for Research and Publications at USC's National Resource Center and currently is Senior Scholar of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. Together they reside on a mountaintop in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, about 40 miles from Asheville. They have found this to be an inspiring and conducive location from which to base their work to improve undergraduate education.

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]

Stuart Hunter serves as 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 served as Associate Vice President and Executive Director, where she led an academic department with campuswide impact and national/international leadership influence.

During her 40-year career in higher education, she 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 most recent 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 the Journal 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. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Hunter, M. S., Keup, J. R., Kinzie, J., & Maietta, H. (Eds.). (2012). The senior year: Culminating experiences and transitions. Columbia, SC: 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. Abingdon, UK: 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. Columbia, SC: 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. San Francisco, CA: 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). Columbia, SC: 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. Paris, France: 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). San Francisco, CA: 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). San Francisco, CA: 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). Columbia, SC: 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).Dubuque, IA: 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). San Francisco, CA: 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.

Betsy Barefoot

Betsy Barefoot

John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Betsy Barefoot is a native of North Carolina. She holds a bachelor's degree in music education from Duke University and master's and doctoral degrees in higher education from the College of William and Mary. She serves as Senior Scholar for the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education in Brevard, North Carolina. In her work at the institute, Barefoot has been directly involved in the development of instruments and strategies to evaluate and improve the first college year and has conducted seminars on the first-year experience across the United States and worldwide, as well as assisting other colleges and universities in implementing and evaluating first-year programs. She serves as co-editor for the Jossey-Bass periodical New Directions for Higher Education and edited its 2008 volume, The First Year and Beyond: Rethinking the Challenge of Collegiate Transition. Further, 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 College and Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student: A Handbook for improving the First Year of College.

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. The BGs, as they are known in their neighborhood, reside in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina.

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, she 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 and 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. Mullendore, a former president of NODA - The Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention, 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 served as 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)

Randy L. Swing focuses on postsecondary student success, data-informed decision making, and national policy. He serves as an independent consultant to several national projects, including the American Association of State Colleges and Universities' Re-imagining the First Year initiative, working with a cohort of aspiring college presidents (the Millennium Leadership Initiative), and coaching grantees in Strada Education Network's MSI College Value project. Prior 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). 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. He holds a PhD from the University of Georgia.

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