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Portland State University
Shari Garmise, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President,
USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives

Christel Perkins, Ed.D.
Deputy Executive Director, Coalition of Urban Serving Universities

Andréa Rodriguez
Director, Coalition of Urban Serving Universities

Samantha Levine
Learning Collaborative Manager

Matt Renn
Data Analyst


Jennifer Danek, M.D.
Senior Director
USU Health Initiatives

Student Experience Project

Key Highlights

  • Working 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 environment
  • Developing clear, targeted steps that faculty and administrators can take to support all students, creating replicable models to build community and foster a sense of belonging for students of all backgrounds and across all disciplines
  • Broadly sharing lessons from the work as it progresses.

APLU and USU are engaged in the Student Experience Project (SEP), a collaborative of university leaders, faculty, researchers, and national education and improvement organizations committed to innovative, evidence-based practices that increase degree attainment by transforming the college student experience and creating equitable learning environments. The SEP is utilizing more than a decade of social psychology research demonstrating positive experiences of community, belonging, and support on campus and in the classroom can increase a student’s likelihood of persevering through academic challenges toward graduation.

The six participating public research universities have completed a one-year research phase, which included collecting historical data, administering surveys, and conducting focus groups with faculty, staff, and students. The research results identify friction points affecting student experience, including students’ sense of belonging, institutional trust, or growth mindset of faculty. These results are being used to design practices that improve student outcomes.

Over the coming two years, the SEP will engage faculty and administrators to make improvements to introductory STEM gateway courses. Campuses will use a continuous improvement approach to introduce changes that foster student experience and result in greater engagement and achievement within rigorous learning environments. This includes improvements to the classroom experience, design of academic and social supports, the virtual and physical environment, and broader practices and policies supporting equity.

The cohort is dedicated to developing and elevating new tools, resources, and practices that enable colleges to create opportunities for every student to fully engage and succeed in college and contribute to the future of their academic fields.

The participating universities are:

  • Colorado State University;
  • Portland State University;
  • The University of New Mexico;
  • University of Colorado Denver;
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte;
  • University of Toledo.

The SEP is also working with other institutions of higher education as part of the peer-learning network. The network is improving the messages and signals students receive on the first day of class to foster belonging, growth mindset and purpose. Supported by the Raikes Foundation, the SEP is a partnership of APLU, USU, the College Transition Collaborative, Education Counsel, the Project for Education Research That Scales, Shift Results, and the six public research universities.

For more information on the Student Experience Project, visit the project’s website at


Meetings & Events Events

All Day
This will be a virtual multi-day meeting.

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