Student Success in College – Creating Conditions That Matter
by Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt and Associates  (Jossey-Bass  2005)

Why Were the 20 Institutions Selected as Models of Institutions Where Students Succeed?

The 20 colleges and universities discussed in the book were selected because they had higher than expected NSSE results and graduation rates than would be expected based on their characteristics. The authors gleaned six features in common among the 20 institutions (referred to in the book as “DEEP” institutions) and have a chapter devoted to each feature that provides selected examples. The authors also provide examples for the DEEP schools categorized along the five NSSE cluster areas to help explain their success.  These five cluster areas are academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment.  The attached document from the NSSE website explains the five clusters (http://www.indiana.edu/~nsse/).

Listed below are some factors that stood out for me as to why students were successful at the DEEP institutions covered in the book. They are not listed in any particular order.

1.  Their actions, behaviors and philosophy of higher education were all focused on what their students need and how the institutions could help them be successful. The campus culture was one of student success.  Their missions and visions guide their day-to-day activities and minor and major decision-making. For example, at CSUMB, faculty are asked: –“What will teaching and advising look like if we are carrying out our vision?” (p 119)  They seem to be very thoughtful in what they do to help students – looking at programs as a whole rather than as individual, independent pieces.

2.  A strong focus on learning rather than teaching.  Education is viewed broadly to include experiences in and out of the classroom.

3.  They set high standards for their students and they provide support to help them achieve at high levels. Such support includes writing centers (only one of the 20 did not have one), advising (including “intrusive” advising such as mid-semester required reviews and “early warning systems” to catch students before they get into serious academic trouble), FYE programs, and tutoring.

“Deep colleges are thick with expectations about college life. They recognize that people rarely exceed their own expectations without being challenged.” (p 111)

“In different ways, DEEP colleges induce student to assume responsibility for their own learning.” (p 167)

DEEP schools “provide resources to those who need them when they need them and create the conditions that encourage students to take advantage of these resources.” (p 241)

4.  They tend to recognize that students come in with lots of skills and knowledge and the work of the institution is to help each student build from there.  Several of the institutions also have many opportunities for students to evaluate each other.

5.  They recognize that they must meet the students where they are rather than hope that that they were all better students.  One professor at Fayetteville State University noted “You must teach the students you have, not the ones you wish you had.” (p 78)

6.  They tend to have many user-friendly gathering places for students, often close to where faculty are.

7.  They have first year experience (FYE) programs for frosh. 

8.  They have summer reading programs that are used to help students build community, to “signal” to the students that “the campus is serious about academic achievement,” (p 179) and to help new students get ready for the expected level of discourse and thinking expected of them as university students.

9.  They tried to create a sense of belonging through campus traditions, history and values. For example, at Wofford, students soon learn about the “Wofford Way.” During student orientation at Winston-Salem State, students participate in a pinning ceremony to help them see themselves as successful students. (p 120)

10. “Another key aspect of the shared models of leadership enacted at DEEP schools is that they carefully choose newcomers, bringing into the community people whose values and aspirations are compatible with the institution’s mission, philosophy, and educational purposes.” (p 158)