Student Experience Project

The Student Experience Project works with partner organizations to identify, design, and scale evidence-based practices that increase degree attainment by transforming the college student experience and creating equitable learning environments. Funded by the Raikes Foundation, USU is working with SEP partner universities and the broader network to build leadership, support campus change, and drive the adoption of evidence-based practices that create equitable learning environments and increase degree completion in higher education. The initiative is led by USU Director of SEP Partnerships, Dr. Jennifer Danek, Assistant Director, Samantha Levine, and Graduate Fellow, Ethan Foley.

Over a decade of research demonstrates that experiencing belonging, receiving academic support, and perceiving others to believe in your potential can increase a student’s likelihood of persisting through academic challenges toward graduation. These affirming experiences are vital for students with food or housing insecurity, students of color, and first-generation college students, who are more likely to experience college’s social and academic challenges, reinforcing the perception that they do not “belong” in higher education. The SEP draws on this research to develop practical approaches that campuses can use to bolster student engagement, increase equity in academic outcomes, and support student success.

The six participating universities in this grant initiative are:

Colorado State University
Portland State University
University of New Mexico
University of Colorado Denver
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
University of Toledo

Initially focused on STEM gateway courses, SEP institutions have expanded their efforts to include a wide array of colleges and departments. Over 200 instructors introduce evidence-based practices surveying their students to learn how they are experiencing the learning environment. Data are disaggregated by students' self-reported gender identity, racial/ethnic background, and financial/basic needs security, allowing campuses to identify disparities in the student experience. Outside the classroom, campuses have translated SEP approaches and tools to transform early alerts messaging, university websites and student portals, physical campus spaces, and training for academic advisors.

The program also engages a Peer Learning Network of institutions implementing a more targeted set of interventions. Participating institutions include:

Florida International University
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Morgan State University
North Carolina A&T State University
Rutgers University – Newark
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of North Texas
University of Texas at San Antonio
West Virginia State University

100+

SEP Instructors

26,7006

student responses during the fall 2020 term

20%

gain for identity and safety among underrepresented students

SEP Website

Returning to Campus: Four Resources for Supporting Student Belonging and Growth in Fall 2021

Fall 2020 Bright Spots