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2017 Summer Meeting

CHAS logo

2017 Summer Representatives Meeting
Brown University
June 22 & 23, 2017  

“Doing the Work in Uncertain Times: Navigating Current Challenges and Opportunities to Transform Institutional Culture and Support Students”

 Brown Pic

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”  Words written by poet and activist Audre Lorde 20 years ago have never been more important for us to recall and act upon.  We find ourselves in uncertain times in higher education.  It is not the first time, of course, but for many of us it does feel particularly intense.  Our work is taking place on a shifting landscape shaped by national and world events.  Student activism has pushed institutions to re/examine institutional structures and the capacities of the people who work within them.  To be sure, our work has never been more complex and important.  

How are we being not just reactive, but also proactive in supporting students in such uncertain and unpredictable times?  How are we helping to create and care for supportive spaces as well as brave spaces on our campuses?  How are we creating more equitable and inclusive community inside and outside the classroom?  How are we both embracing student activists and their call to transform our institutions and challenging students to be open-minded and accountable?  Join CHAS at Brown University for a national consortium to engage with these and other timely questions.  Together we will have the opportunity to take up current challenges and opportunities we face today on our campuses as well as re/connect and build community with colleagues.  

2016-2017 Faculty Grants

Request for Proposals

The Consortium for High Achievement and Success, CHAS, offers grants for faculty to develop and implement initiatives that meet the institutional need for teaching innnovation. Faculty of CHAS member institutions are invited to compete for funds that will allow them to undertake a project which promotes the high academic achievement among all students with a focus on promoting success and satisfaction among underrepresented students. Faculty members, teaching in all disciplines, may submit proposals that focus on pedagogy and enhancing the faculty’s role in promoting student success and engagement. Both individuals and groups may submit proposals. Projects should be directed at how we teach, or how we engage our colleagues in thinking about how we teach, rather than what we teach. They may involve pedagogical improvements to courses, creating workshops for faculty on mentoring, or other efforts to enhance the faculty’s role in promoting student success and high achievement. CHAS also views these grants as important in supporting the recruitment, retention, and scholarship of underrepresented faculty on our campuses. Proposals addressing campus life are not eligible for consideration. The selection committee will make up to four awards.

The Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS) convened in 2000 to promote high achievement, leadership and personal satisfaction of students, particularly underrepresented students, on member campuses. Consisting of 31 private, selective liberal arts colleges and small universities, CHAS shares campus climate data, holds collaborative conferences, and develops programs to support the whole student, academically, socially and culturally.

Eligibility: All faculty members at CHAS member institutions are eligible.

Deadline: The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2016.

Award: A maximum award of $6,500 will be provided, of which up to $3,000 may be taken as stipend based on the budget submitted with the proposal.

Instructions: Each submission, which should be no more than 3-4 pages, should include the following information:

  1. A brief description of your project and its potential to effect institutional change and promote student engagement and achievement.
  2. A budget, budget justification, and timeline for completion of the project.
  3. A brief summary of your background in promoting student success and engagement in the classroom, and how this project relates to other efforts to promote high achievement among all students on your campus, with special emphasis on underrepresented students.
  4. Your commitment to share the project and outcomes with the larger CHAS community, including a mandatory presentation at a meeting to be scheduled by CHAS upon completion of your project.
  5. Append an endorsement letter from the Chief Academic Officer.

All Materials should be submitted by email to CHAS Director, Jennifer Baszile

Applications will be reviewed by a designated CHAS committee.
Follow this link to see past awards


“Using Qualitative Evidence to Support A Holistic Model of Student Advising”

Pomona College

Using Qualitative Evidence to Support A Holistic Model of Student Advising

Submitted by:
Dr. Cecelia Conrad, Dean of the College
Dr. Miriam Feldblum, Dean of Students and Professor of Politics

October 28, 2009

Previous research has found evidence that high quality advising is positively related to student success.  (Tinto 2004, Metzner 1989, NSSE 2005, Kuh et al, 2006). NSSE data (2005) show that students who rate their advising as good or excellent are more satisfied with their overall college experience, and gain more from college in most areas. Yet, seniors in the classes of 2006 and 2008 at Pomona College and its peer group report that they were less than satisfied with their pre-major advising experience and, at Pomona (for which we have data), black students report greater dissatisfaction than do others.   For example, on a scale of 1= very dissatisfied and 4=very satisfied, Pomona respondents rated “academic advising before declaring major” 2.70 and “ academic advising in your major” 3.27.  Black Pomona respondents rated “academic advising before declaring major” 2.55 and “academic advising in your major” 2.96.

Given the level of dissatisfaction among black students and the less than stellar ratings given to pre-major advising by all students, we have begun to look for ways to improve our advising model.   An example of advising that appears to work well on our campus is the mentoring that happens through the POSSE program. Unlike traditional academic advising, POSSE mentoring pays attention to personal and social issues that often influence a student’s academic performance. We tracked the GPA trajectories of POSSE students compared to “control” groups of Questbridge, Latino, Black and lower income students and found that POSSE students showed greater resilience.  This evidence, coupled with the data from the focus groups of POSSE students and interviews with mentors, suggested a positive impact of holistic mentoring on the academic success of nontraditional students. This finding is corroborated in published research.  In a study of nineteen high-achieving black students at a predominantly white, medium sized research university in the Northeast, Douglas Guiffrida (2005) found that students described faculty as “student-centered” if they provided comprehensive advising – “student-centered faculty took a much more holistic approach to their career advising that went beyond simply giving students advice regarding course selections. Instead, they invested time patiently listening to students to understand their professional fears, dreams, and goals.”

We introduced the concept of holistic advising to all first-year faculty advisors at the Fall 2009 workshop.  The ensuing discussion revealed faculty discomfort because of a perceived crossing of boundaries and because they felt ill-prepared to respond to what they might hear.  Nevertheless, in a fall survey of first year students, 46% reported that their advisor asked questions about their lives outside of the classroom. We lack baseline comparison data, but suspect that is an increase as compared to earlier years.

As we ask faculty to inquire about the personal and social life of the student at the college, we need to provide them with more information about the student experience, particularly the experiences of students who may be marginalized at the college – first-generation, low income students and students of color.  We need to develop a sustained and effective method for communicating to faculty the experiences of these students at the college.

For many years, Pomona College has conducted student surveys that included open-ended questions on student satisfaction and the experience of diversity on campus. However, this qualitative evidence has not been systematically analyzed and organized to communicate to faculty.  Quantitative data, like the overall satisfaction index, is regularly posted on the college web page, but numerical data cannot reveal the depth and complexity of experiences in a way that would help faculty engage students more holistically in the advising process.

This research project will mine the open-ended questions on three surveys conducted over the last five years to create communications to faculty regarding student experiences with respect to diversity over this time period and to develop additional holistic advising guides for faculty utilizing this information.  The effectiveness of these communications and resources, their impact on faculty advising, and their (indirect) impact on student satisfaction with advising will then be assessed.

We hypothesize that the provision of qualitative evidence and additional training will encourage faculty to adopt a holistic advising framework.  A faculty member who has some knowledge of the prior experiences of historically marginalized students and the tools to guide his/her inquiry will feel more comfortable asking questions and providing advice on personal and social issues.  We also hypothesize that the adoption of a more holistic advising framework will lead to greater satisfaction with advising, especially among black students.

The first step will be an analysis of qualitative data, answers to open-ended questions, from two surveys of Pomona students:  a Senior Exit Survey in 2005 that included open-ended questions about campus climate and a survey conducted by the student government in Spring 2009. Because these surveys were not designed in concert and asked different questions, we will need to develop specific questions about student experience before we begin this analysis   Step two will be to translate this data into specific findings and narratives to be communicated to academic advisors.  We plan to complete this phase by late Spring 2010.   Also, in Spring 2010, we will collect additional baseline data through separate focus groups with first and second year students and faculty advisors.  In August 2010,  we will hold a training workshop for first year advisors to communicate this information and to discuss its relationship to the holistic advising framework.  The survey of first year students distributed this fall will be repeated in Fall 2010 for both first and second year students. In addition, we will conduct a second round of focus groups. An assessment of the impact on student satisfaction will await the Senior Exit surveys of 2013 and 2014.

The results of this research will affect the future design of pre-major advising training and will allow us to assess our ability to scale up the Posse model to a larger group of students.

BUDGET with justification – $6500

Personnel – $5000

Graduate student  ($4000) and undergraduate research assistants ($1000) will assist one-person Institutional Research office with analysis of open-ended survey questions and to prepare report, a labor intensive process.

Other Costs –  $1500

We will need to provide incentives to attract student participants in the proposed focus groups. ($1000) and there will be costs associated with production of materials for faculty workshop to disseminate results.  ($500)

Background of Investigators

The principal investigators are Cecilia Conrad, Dean of the College and Stedman Sumner Professor of Economics and Miriam Feldblum, Dean of Students and Professor of Politics.  The research team includes Jennifer Rachford, Director of Institutional Research; Marcelle Holmes, Associate Dean of Students and Assistant Professor of Psychology; and Lynn Thomas, Professor of Anthropology. Professor Conrad’s research focuses on the effects of race and gender on economic status.  She is the former Director of the American Economic Association’s Pipeline program and in that capacity designed a mentorship and networking program for minority graduate students in economics. She has active research on the climate for African American women faculty and delivered presentations on this topic at Ohio State University and University of California-Irvine.   Dean Feldblum has written on ethnic politics in France.  Before coming to Pomona, Dean Feldblum was the senior director for academic planning and support at Caltech. At Cal-tech, she was the PI on a grant from the The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, “Achieving Diversity in Science and Engineering.” Jennifer Rachford has conducted studied Black and Latino student performance in gateway courses and of interactional diversity at Pomona.  Marcelle Holmes is a psychologist who specializes in student and African American mental health. Lynn Thomas’ fields of expertise in anthropology include meaning in language and cross-cultural communication. He also teaches a course in methods.

Pomona College is committed to sharing the outcomes of this project with the larger CHAS community.




Guiffrida, Douglas, 2004. “Othermothering as a Framework for Understanding African American Students’ Definitions of Student-Centered Faculty,” The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 76, No. 6 (Nov. – Dec., 2005), pp. 701-723.

Kuh, George D., Jillian Kinzie, Jennifer A. Buckley, Brian K. Bridges, and John Hayek, 2006.  “What Matters to Student Success: A Review of the Literature”, Commissioned Report for the National Symposium on Postsecondary Student Success: Spearheading a Dialog on Student Success, National Postsecondary Education Cooperative, July 2006.

Metzner, Barbara, 1989.  “Perceived Quality of Academic Advising: The Effect on Freshman Attrition,” American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 26, #3 (Autumn 1989), pp 422-442.

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). (2005). Student Engagement: Exploring Different Dimensions of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research.

Tinto, Vincent, 2004. “Student Retention and Graduation: Facing the Truth, Living with the Consequences.” Occasional Paper #1, The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, July 2004.

“SPEC and Lab Buddies: Creating a Community of Learners in Chemistry”

Wheaton College:

“S P E C & Lab Buddies:  Creating a Community of Learners in Chemistry”

Submitted by
Dr.Laura Muller, Professor of Chemistry
Dr. Janina Benoit, Associate Professor of Chemistry
Dr. Elita Pastra-Landis, Professor of Chemistry

1. A brief description of your project and its potential to effect institutional change and to promote student engagement and achievement.

The Chemistry Department at Wheaton College is embarking on a two-pronged approach that will help to create a community of learners in chemistry in the early stages of the major. At the CHAS Faculty Forum in May of 2009, some speakers and presentations suggested that there were strong indicators that underrepresented students benefit more than majority students from programs that build a supportive student community within a department. The information implied that underrepresented students, specifically students of color, feel more comfortable in a welcoming learning environment and therefore perform better. In our experience, part of developing comfort in the sciences comes from the realization that science is grounded in collaborative work, and we intend to introduce students to this concept through our Skills Practice and Enhancement in Chemistry (SPEC) and Lab Buddies programs, which together help students improve their chemistry skills, both laboratory and study skills, and help them develop a sense of “belonging” within the department.

Several speakers at the CHAS Faculty Forum in May commented on the higher level of success by students who built community and connection within a department. In fact, we know anecdotally that junior and senior Chemistry majors at Wheaton see their peers as important contributors to their learning experience. They can often be found working together on problem sets or discussing concepts from class.  For this reason, we wish to help students form a cohort earlier in their science careers.

We intend to make chemistry more inviting to new Wheaton students by involving senior Chemistry students in a mentoring relationship with students in Introductory Chemistry. The overall goal of our programs is to enhance recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented students in Chemistry.  Therefore, our specific objectives are to: 1) improve student skills and performance at the introductory level, and 2) foster a sense of belonging within the department and discipline.

We have had “lab buddies”, in a limited role, working in laboratory sections of introductory chemistry courses for the past two years. Lab Buddies are upper level students who serve as assistants to the instructor by answering questions, observing laboratory technique, and helping students who may work somewhat more slowly or need further clarification. We have found that the students also ask “lab buddies” about a myriad of issues which can be characterized as science-specific academic advising issues. These include course selection, tips on working with professors, academic challenges pertaining to the course and specific questions about the department. With that in mind, we have decided to restructure the Lab Buddies job description to include more formal “peer academic advisor” duties. At Wheaton, peer academic advisors are called Preceptors and they are assigned to every first year seminar. Similarly, Lab Buddies will be assigned to a first or second year chemistry lab sections. In their expanded role the Lab Buddies will serve as an additional layer of department-specific advising that will help inform and guide newer science students as they progress throughout the first and second year. Students will have an opportunity to visit with the lab buddy with whom they have developed the most chemistry (pun intended) and comfort. Interaction with Lab Buddies will also provide first- and second-year students access to some of our most enthusiastic upper-level students. Students just beginning their academic careers will be immersed in a community of scholars.

Responsibilities for Lab Buddies:

  1. Participate in “student-leadership” training session developed by the Advising Office
  1. Participate in Lab Safety Training through the Chemistry Department
  2. Assist lab instructor in one pre-assigned lab section of Chemistry 153 per week
  3. Meet weekly with the instructor to discuss the week’s planned laboratory exercise
  4. Coordinate a “lab buddy group” that:

i)       holds announced office hours during advising week to answer particular questions about chemistry courses and the major

ii)      has a study break for students before each exam for the course

The second prong of our program is Skills Practice and Enhancement in Chemistry (SPEC). In our observation of chemistry students, we have learned that members of our entry level chemistry course (Chemistry 153) would benefit from more time to work on the concepts and problem solving techniques introduced in class. Some students suffer because they do not have appropriate study skills. In response to these observations, we have decided to transform our once “optional” study sessions into “mandatory to do well” sessions and will offer extra credit to students who attend. We have selected student leaders for the sections who we believe will help the CH153 students gain skill and confidence in working toward learning introductory chemistry. The SPEC sessions emphasize student-to-student learning. This collaboration occurs at two levels: between the peer leaders and the students and among the students as they work together in groups. Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) has been used effectively to enhance student learning for some time. In most cases, however PLTL is used as a pedagogical method for the class, not for an accompanying problem session. Presentations at the CHAS conference by colleagues at Mt. Holyoke and Trinity have convinced us that this approach will also be successful for these problem sessions.

Responsibilities for SPEC Peer Leaders:

1)      Participate in SPEC training session on “Techniques for Teaching Student Problem-Solving Groups” prior to the beginning of the semester

2)      Participate in “student-leadership” training session (given by the Advising Office)

3)      Attend Chemistry 153 classes (M,W,F 9:30-10:20)

4)      Hold one 1.5-hr problem-solving session per week at assigned time (TBD)

a)      Take attendance

b)      Introduce problems

c)      Aid groups in working through the problems

5)      Meet weekly with course instructors to review problem sets and discuss student progress.

These programs will benefit all students in Chemistry 153, though information presented at the CHAS conference suggests that programs like these benefit underrepresented students even more because they help students feel more comfortable in the learning environment. In addition, we believe that working in small groups (which will rotate each week) will allow students to find other students with the same learning style and will form study groups outside of the SPEC sessions.

Evaluation & Assessment – Evaluation of the program will take several forms.  First, we will assemble and analyze baseline data on grades from previous years of CH 153 classes.  In addition we will perform surveys on students and SPEC leaders to identify perceived successes and limitations of the program.  We will analyze within- and between-class data for evidence of the impacts of SPEC attendance on student performance.  Finally, we will follow a cohort of underrepresented students from years 1 and 2 of the programs through their academic careers to assess retention and academic success in Chemistry or another natural science.

2. Budget, budget justification, and timeline for completion of the project.

The total cost of the program is $6000 for the year which includes compensation for the SPEC leaders. We can cover the funding for Lab Buddies from the existing budget as we have in the past. We estimate a commitment of 6 hours per week per student leader. We plan to hire 3 students as SPEC leaders for 10 weeks at an hourly wage of $9 an hour; adding the time needed for training, the total per semester becomes $1700 ($3400/academic year).  Additionally, we expect to spend $300 per semester on supplies such as textbooks and ancillaries that will help the peer leaders develop problems on their own, coffee/tea and snacks for SPEC study sessions, as well as the study breaks.  We also request $2000 for two faculty members to travel to a conference or some other appropriate venue to disseminate results of this project and further enhance our understanding of student learning through projects of this type.  The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) may provide the right venue at the upcoming meeting on Faculty Roles in High Impact Practices.

Student stipends               $1700/sem          x             2             =            $3400

Ancillary materials            $300/sem            x             2            =             $600

Conference costs             $2000                                                 =             $2000

Total                                                                                                              $6,000

3. Brief summary of your background in promoting student success and engagement in the classroom, and how this project relates to other efforts to promote high achievement among all students on your campus, with special emphasis on students of color.

In January of 2007 Wheaton funded a pilot program of student immersion in the study of chemistry, called the Villars January Scholars Program. Ten students and one peer tutor were funded to participate in almost three weeks of intensive chemistry study.  The group met daily from 9 am to 6 pm. The participants were either from groups under-represented in the sciences or students who were committed to teaching so as to improve the participation of under-represented groups in the STEM fields. All the students had taken Chemistry 153 in the fall and would take Chemistry 154 in the spring semester. This program was held in January, between those two semesters, so as to better prepare students for Chemistry 154.
Student work over 17 days consisted of reading the textbook individually, solving problems as a group, sharing understanding and questions, carrying out daily laboratory exercises and data analysis and taking part in field trips to an area museum and commercial or hospital research laboratories. The program was designed and coordinated by Wheaton College chemistry professor, Elita Pastra-Landis, as a short version of the model used by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  The program involved every member of the chemistry department for the study, laboratory and student presentation sessions. Students repeated a new version of the final examination for Chemistry 153 and improved their score by as much as two letter grades.  Increased confidence was evident in their spring semester studies.  We have continued to advise and mentor these students and, to our delight, nine out of the ten students remain at the college and eight of the ten students have continued successfully in the sciences at Wheaton.

Additionally, programs are housed in our Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning, which help support the needs of underrepresented groups in the classroom.  Of particular note is the development of a Science Cohort, and the coordination of on and off campus opportunities that support the needs of students of color in the sciences.  Members of the Science Cohort are able to participate in both Harvard’s and MIT’s STEM and Medical School conferences, which provide our students with external, field-specific mentoring and internship opportunities.  The majority of the students who have participated in the science cohort are members of underrepresented group on campus, primarily students of color.

Outside of the sciences, Wheaton offers sections of English 060 for students who require enhanced English language learning.  We also provide students an opportunity to take Eng 060 twice, for credit, if the student and English dept feel that the course is necessary for the student’s success at the college.  This helps students take the necessary course to succeed without falling behind in overall credits.  This course is open to all students, but certainly serves more international students and those whose families have emigrated to the U.S. from non English speaking countries.

The SPEC/Lab Buddies program springs from the work of the January Villars program as well as the Science Cohort in that it serves underrepresented students and aims to increase their success in the sciences by building community, as well as providing a positive learning environment.  Success in these programs, we anticipate, will result in higher achievement in the core science courses in the major and help increase the number of students of color and other underrepresented groups in the sciences.

4. Your commitment to share the project outcomes with the larger CHAS community, including a presentation at a meeting to be scheduled by CHAS.

We are certainly interested in sharing findings and specific results from the SPEC and Lab Buddies programs at Wheaton College, including a presentation at future CHAS meetings.

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