Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Reunion of Sorts

This is my inaugural blog posting. We all remember our first time for many things in life. This weekend I am going to have a reunion of sorts with a mentor of mine.

My wife, Betsy Barefoot, and I will be attending a special symposium this weekend to mark the tenth anniversary of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), one of the creators of which is Russell Edgerton, past President of the American Association for Higher Education and Director of the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning. When Russ was serving in the late 90’s as the senior program officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts he sat me down and asked me a question, a part of which I am still trying to answer: “John, if you and Betsy had one to five million dollars and one to five years to do anything you wanted to do to improve the beginning college experience, what would you do?”

The Trusts subsequently awarded us three grants to launch and build the Policy Center on the First Year of College. In 2007, Betsy and our Center colleagues persuaded me to morph the center into a new 501c3 non-profit, immodestly named for me ( We are still trying to answer Russ’s original question: what would/could we do to improve the beginning college experience?

I hope my readers will become a blog community of practice and share their answers to the same fundamental question, hopefully, more broadly applied to all of undergraduate education.

John N. Gardner

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