Project Leadership


In coordination with the Unified Student Experience project, the Office of Undergraduate Education is partnering with the Divisions of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management to embark on the Foundations of Excellence (FoE) initiative, a campus-wide effort to evaluate the first-year undergraduate experience. FoE is a process, provided and guided by the Gardner Institute, for engaging universities in an assessment, improvement planning, and change implementation process focused on the entirety of the first-year college experience.  

Desired outcomes

The FoE initiative has provided a stimulating, institution-wide experience that brought together multiple staff, faculty and student viewpoints in a collaborative effort with the goal of removing institutional barriers to student progress and contributing to improved student outcomes.


Fall 2017 focused on gathering information on current policies, programs and committees that impact or address the first-year experience. Spring 2018 focused on producing individual committee reports and integrating those into a single document with a set of recommendations that were reviewed by the provost. 

Phase two, "Buffs First Forward", will be underway during AY 18/19. The FoE recommendations will be aligned with other key campus initiatives, particularly Academic Futures and Accreditation. Implementation committees will be formed after recommendations from those other initiatives have been identified.


The assessment portion of the process has been completed by nine committees with over 100 faculty, staff and students from across campus. These committees and the areas they covered include:

  1. Philosophy – Is there an institutional philosophy for the first-year student experience?  Is it consistent across campus? If not, should there be a campus philosophy, and what should it be?
  2. Organization – Does campus have organizational structures and policies that provide a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated approach to the first year?  If not, what should the campus structure look like?
  3. Learning – How do we deliver intentional curricular and co-curricular learning experiences that engage students and develop knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors consistent with our institutional mission and desired outcomes for students?
  4. Faculty – How do we make the first college year a high priority for faculty?  How do we develop a culture of faculty responsibility for the first year that includes high-quality instruction and engagement between faculty and students?
  5. Transitions – How do we facilitate appropriate student transitions through policies and practices that are intentional and aligned with institutional mission?
  6. All Students – How do we serve all first-year students according to their varied needs, including their abilities, backgrounds, interests, experiences? 
  7. Diversity – How do we ensure that all first-year students experience diverse ideas, worldviews, and cultures as a means of enhancing their learning and preparing them to become members of pluralistic societies?
  8. Roles and Purposes – How do we promote student understanding of the various roles and purposes of higher education, both for the individual and society?  How do we foster the value of general education as well as the value of more focused study of a field of knowledge?
  9. Improvement – How do we conduct continuous and systematic assessment of key first-year programs?  How do we use the results to promote ongoing first-year improvement.


Coordination Committee:

For questions or to provide feedback email Elizabeth Garfield.

Read the latest CUBT article on FoE here.