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


See the current and past recipients of the John N. Gardner Institutional Excellence for Students in Transition Award.

2020 Award Recipients

Purdue University

Summer Start is a direct-admit program created in 2015 to expand access to Purdue education, especially among lower-income, first-generation, and minority students who fell just short in the regular admission process. This holistic, four-year program supports students through various transitional issues as they progress toward degree completion.

University of Illinois, Chicago

The Flames Leadership Network (FLN) aims to support students beginning the summer before their first term, all the way through to graduation. This allows students to maintain contact with their coach and foster a positive working relationship. Students participating in the program receive holistic and targeted services tailored to each stage of their college career. Students are identified through a predictive analytic model to support those who are in most need of intensive, proactive coaching.


Past Recipients

George Mason University
ADVANCE is a next-generation partnership between George Mason University (Mason) and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) that is redefining the transfer experience for students seeking a bachelor’s degree by creating seamless pathways that set them on a path toward success. Launched in the fall of 2018, the program has not only seen tremendous success, but has radically transformed the internal practices at Mason and the way they collaborate with colleagues at NOVA.

Valencia College
DirectConnect to UCF is a regional partnership in central Florida to ensure local community college completion of a bachelor’s degree through a shared system involving six community/state colleges and the University of Central Florida. It guarantees admission to students who complete their associate degree and includes streamlined admissions processes, advising, and curriculum alignment to ensure bachelor’s degree completion. Since 2006, 62,000 DirectConnect transfer students have enrolled and 46,137 bachelor’s degrees have been awarded—a 74.4% graduation rate. 

University of Central Florida
In 2014, the University of Central Florida launched Foundations of Excellence (FoE), a multi-year, multi-phase process with the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. The goal of this transfer initiative was to raise awareness of transfer student issues, shape the university culture to better accommodate our transfer students, and focus on transfer students’ transition points. To date, FoE, now reestablished as Transfer Alliance, has redesigned transfer orientation and the first-year transition process, created a campuswide Transfer Philosophy Statement, increased faculty and staff engagement in transfer success initiatives, and developed new concepts around the transfer credit evaluation process.

Kent State University
Summer Advantage is a program is designed to assist students who are first in their families to go to college and/or from underrepresented and limited-income backgrounds to graduate in four years. The program prioritizes first-year students transitioning into their second year and juniors transitioning into their senior year focusing on degree completion. Summer Advantage assists Kent State students to envision a path for the future by building a support network of peers and professionals.

San Jose State University
The SJSU Braven Accelerator experience targets sophomores or first-semester transfer students, with a particular focus on those who are first in their family to attend college, are Pell grant-eligible, or who identify as an underrepresented minority (URM; Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, or Native American).

Ohio State University
A partnership between the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Student Life, the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) was created as an extension of Ohio State's commitment to the student experience and provides an opportunity for education beyond the classroom. STEP is focused on helping students find ways to have transformational experiences during their second year in college.

Clark University
The LEEP Center Advising Model targets seniors’ transition from college to the world of work, as this group historically has had difficulty connecting their academics to their first professional placement. Through surveys and focus groups, Clark found that students’ lack of knowledge about industries, employers, and career trajectories; understanding of and ability to network; and ability to identify and prepare for relevant paraprofessional experience to be significant obstacles that seniors experience in their transition to post-graduate life. The LEEP Center Advising Model helps students discover a path, explore ways to gain experience that make sense for that path, and plan and prepare for their lives after Clark.

Goodwin College
Goodwin College’s Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP), Men of Vision in Education (MOVE), and Women Invested in Securing an Education (WISE) provide specialized supports to at-risk and underserved populations from the greater Hartford, Connecticut, area. EOP identifies and recruits recent high school graduates who face barriers to accessing post-secondary education. Through a combination of remediation, summer bridge programming, and financial supports, EOP seeks to successfully transition these students from high school into a collegiate setting.

Kent State University
In 2012, Kent State University’s University College implemented the Exploration Plan, designed to enrich the first-year experience for undecided students and expedite a shift into a degree-granting program within the first three semesters. The Exploration Plan has six components. Students become engaged in the plan at the point of admission as Exploratory, when they are required to select one of 13 university-wide concentration areas to explore first. Linked courses based on that concentration, in addition to a career exploration focus in the First Year Experience Course, the use of the Career Maturity Inventory, and a newly developed career navigation course series, are all components of the Plan. Multiple required advising sessions add to the Plan's intrusive, high-touch nature.

Arizona State University
The Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) program targets Arizona community college students who aspire to transfer to and complete a bachelor's degree at Arizona State University (ASU). ASU has signed agreements with every public community college in Arizona to create a "culture of transfer." Over the course of five years, the program has led to significant process improvements, developed innovative tools, and improved communication to students, parents, advisors, faculty, and others who support students wishing to transfer.

Governors State University
The Dual Degree Program (DDP) supports the college completion agenda through partnerships between Governors State University and 17 Chicagoland community colleges. Collaborating with community college partners, GSU provides full-time community college students with an excellent pathway to earn quality and affordable bachelor's degrees. The DDP philosophy supports completion through the provision of proactive advising, peer mentors, policies that promote completion, and financial incentives to encourage success and completion.

University of North Carolina Wilmington
The University College (UC) Students in Transition (SiT) program provides academic advising, courses, and programs that support students at various points of transition into majors. These include incoming transfer students who have not yet met certain prerequisites, current students changing majors, and transfer and military students as they transition into UNCW. The SiT program provides structured, proactive, and dedicated support to transfer students during their transition to UNCW and to students into their majors.



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