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Foundations of Excellence

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Spokane Falls Community College has been named as one of 10 two-year "Founding Institutions" selected to participate in a national project known as the "Foundations of Excellence® in the First College Year."

The project, sponsored by the Policy Center on the First Year of College and endorsed by the American Association of Community Colleges and the League for Innovation in the Community College, will develop and test a model of excellence for the new student experience. This model can be used to develop and refine the overall approach to the education of new students. Funding for this project is provided by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Since February 2005, the Foundations of Excellence® project has involved over 80 two-year institutions across the nation in identifying the standards, Foundational Dimensions, which constitute a model first year. Of the 87 institutions that participated, ten were selected through a competitive application process to continue work with the Policy Center and its research partner, Educational Benchmarking, Inc. Criteria for selection included a strong campus commitment to students and readiness to engage in evaluation and improvement.

SFCC joined representatives of other Founding Institutions in Asheville, N.C., on August 4 and 5, to begin work on this phase of the project. SFCC will now be involved in a year long self-study of the new student experience. The colleges will refine and pilot use of the Dimensions. This process will include using performance indicators, reviewing current practices and developing an action plan that documents effective practices and recommends improvements. Specifically, the colleges will measure their effectiveness in recruiting, admitting, orienting, supporting, consulting and teaching new students. They will then be able to make programmatic improvements that will increase student learning, success and persistence. The resulting blueprint will represent the first nationally integrated examination of the many elements that get students off to the right start.

In describing the importance of the project, John N. Gardner, executive director of the Policy Center on the First Year of College, located in Brevard, N.C. said, "While much is known about how a campus can improve new student learning and retention, this information has never been synthesized or translated into aspirational standards that are reflective of best practice. The absence of clear standards has powerful educational and financial consequences. This project brings together a number of highly credible researchers, reformers, and practioners, who are creating the blueprint that for too long has been missing."

In addition to Spokane Falls Community College, other two-year colleges selected to participate were: Kennebec Valley Community College (Maine), Longview Community College (Missouri), Middlesex Community College (Connecticut), Montgomery County Community College (Pennsylvania), Oakton Community College (Illinois), Pellissippi State Technical Community College (Tennessee), San Jacinto College South (Texas), University of Wisconsin Colleges and Virginia Highlands Community College.

Additional Information about the Policy Center and this project can be found at www.fyfoundations.org.

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