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University of Wisconsin Madison
Powered by Publics

Julia Michaels
Executive Director
Center for Public
University Transformation
(202) 478-6071
jmichaels@aplu.org

Media Contact:
Mike Brost
Associate Director
of Public Affairs

(202) 478-6038
mbrost@aplu.org

Cluster Work

Through Powered by Publics, each cluster is focused on solving different pieces of the student success puzzle as public universities work together to tear down long-standing barriers, eliminate the achievement gap, prepare students to thrive in the 21st century workforce, and collectively increase the number of degrees they award. Below is a high-level overview of what each cluster is working on, falling within the three overarching thematic areas of affordability, holistic student supports, and teaching and learning. You can view the institutions in each cluster here. Read a recap of the Powered by Publics Virtual Convening that kicked off 2021. 


Cluster 1: Western Coalition
Focus Area: The First Two Years: Access, Entry, and Support into the University

The Western Coalition is focusing on supporting student success in the first two years, from initial student recruitment through completion of introductory courses. The cluster is exploring three strands of work: faculty development to support student success and equity, reforming administrative processes that are barriers to student success, and strengthening communications with students.

Read the learning memo outlining the Western Coalition's work on process mapping to identify barriers to student succes. Read a learning memo on the Western Coalition's work to build a faculty learning community. For more information, contact Julia Michaels.


Cluster 2: Western Land-grant Cluster
Focus Area: Teaching and Learning for Student Success

The Western Land-grant Cluster is focusing on improving student success through teaching excellence and academic program improvement. The cluster has taken a deep dive into topics such as general education reform, institutional learning outcomes, digital learning, adaptive courseware, and degree mapping (using Curricular Analytics). In addition, the cluster has begun to explore strategies for enhancing rural student success with a specific focus on indigenous and low-income students from rural areas.

Read the learning memo outlining some of the Western Land-grant Cluster's work. View a video of the Western Land-grant Cluster's work using Curricular Analytics tool to analyze degree programs for factors that delay student progression and completion. For more information, contact Julia Michaels.


Cluster 3: Southern Central Cluster
Focus Area: Meeting Student Financial Need

The Southern Central Cluster is focusing on meeting student financial needs by developing strategic communication. The group is working toward developing strategies to increase understanding of the value of, and investment in, college. Additionally, the cluster is working on bolstering student and family financial literacy resources, including increased awareness and engagement by faculty and staff. For more information, contact Gregory Thornton


Cluster 4: Southern Cluster
Focus Area: Achievement Gaps

The Southern Cluster is focusing on specific student populations to close the achievement gap. The group has formed three subcommittees centered on the categories of affordability, student belonging, and academic support, which are working to develop best practices and success measures for specific subpopulations in these areas.  For more information, contact Alcioné Frederick.


Cluster 5: South Eastern Cluster
Focus Area: The Transfer Student Experience

The Southern Central Cluster is focused on improving the transfer student experience, reducing the time to degree, and increasing student success. The cluster is working to identify and address the factors that can slow or even prevent degree completion. For more information, contact Gregory Thornton.


Cluster 6: Urban Cluster
Focus Area: Financial Aid Solutions and Reducing Time to Degree

The Urban Cluster is aiming to collaboratively spur innovation at institutions by identifying and implementing practices that promote equity of student outcomes and experiences, specifically identifying men of color as a target student population to focus collaborative efforts. The cluster investigated campus data, identified barriers and loss points, and inventoried current campus efforts to improve outcomes for the targeted population. The cluster is now working to develop and test a toolkit of resources to address student sense of belonging and create a culture of support for men of color on campus. 

Read the learning memo outlining some of the Urban Cluster's work. For more information, contact Julia Michaels.


Cluster 7: Metropolitan Cluster 
Focus Area: Achieving Equitable Student Outcomes through Evidence Improvement: Proactive Advising and Student Employment Practices

The Metropolitan Cluster is aiming to achieve equitable student outcomes in cluster institutions by improving the evidence base around proactive advising and student employment practices. The cluster is working to finalize a theory of implementing proactive advising at metropolitan universities, benchmark current proactive advising practices, discuss financial aid in academic advising, and launch proactive advising initiatives focused on low-income students. The cluster is also planning and launching specific initiatives geared toward creating meaningful student employment experiences for students from low-income and under-represented minority backgrounds. Watch a video explaining how a subset of the Metropolitan Cluster institutions are implementing proactive advising to boost student success among Pell Grant-eligible students.

Read the learning memo outlining some of the Metropolitan Cluster's work. The Metropolitan Cluster also hosted a Powered by Publics learning event and developed a host of resources for helping build financial confidence through coaching-based advising.  For more information, contact Julia Chadwick.


Cluster 8: Big Ten Academic Alliance Cluster
Focus Area: Retention and Persistence; Achievement Gap 
 
The Big Ten Academic Alliance Cluster is examining course and curricular data and the practices and policies affecting success rates in entry-level courses with an emphasis on closing achievement gaps for student populations. In early 2021, the cluster wrapped up a data analysis project comparing "DFW” or “DF Drop” rate for different student groups in high-enrollment courses, while also analyzing retention and graduation outcomes for students with these grade markers. The cluster is now looking at curricular complexity using Curricular Analytics to understand how the curriculum can cause barriers for students. The group is also examining institutional policies and practices that have potential impact on student success. Read the learning memo outlining the Big Ten Academic Alliance Cluster's work. The Big Ten Academic Alliance also hosted a Powered by Publics-wide webinar exploring the cluster's work on DFW rates. For more information, contact Tia Freelove-Kirk.


Cluster 9: Eastern Cluster 
Focus Areas: First-Generation Achievement Gap and the Male Achievement Gap 

The Eastern Cluster is focusing on examining the barriers to student success for both first-generation students and male students. The group is also developing strategies to improve interventions and initiatives to support the success of these students. For more information, contact Gregory Thornton or Jim Woodell.


Cluster 10: Evidence Improvement Cluster
Focus Area: Evidence Improvement: The Entry Year

The Evidence Improvement Cluster is convening over 30 campus leaders and subject-matter experts at seven high-enrollment institutions across the country with the collective goal of increasing student success in the entry year. Using improvement science to guide efforts, the cluster is developing a framework for assessing, testing, and implementing evidence-based practices in advising and first-year experiences. 

Read the learning memo outlining some of the Evidence Improvement Cluster's work. For more information, please contact Tia Freelove-Kirk.


Cluster 11: High Pell Cluster
Focus Area: Developing data-informed approaches to increasing achievement and success of under-resourced students.

The High Pell Cluster is focusing on student financial wellness and affordable learning materials through communication and collaboration. The cluster is assessing campus programs and services in these areas, identifying successful programs and policies, and promoting the implementation of best practices strengthening institutions’ ability to serve under-resourced students. Read the learning memo on the High Pell Cluster's work on programming supporting student financial wellness. For information, please contact Lynn Brabender.


Cluster 12: Tech Cluster
Focus Area: Holistic Advising 

The Tech Cluster is focusing on holistic advising methods and how institutions can incorporate them into current advising models. The group is working to address the needs of the changing student population through varied strategies to help students feel welcomed at the institution, provide resources in order to improve their performance if needed, and address any personal issues that may be hindering academic progress. 

 For more information, contact Alcioné Frederick.


Cluster 13: Data Integration Cluster 
Focus Area: Data Integration for Student Success

The Data Integration Cluster is focused on leveraging data to support student success initiatives. The cluster shares a desire to enhance existing data processes and platforms to improve the use of data in decision-making and data literacy at their institutions. They have developed a data maturity index (DMI) to help institutions better understand and improve their data infrastructure on campus. Having recently received a Powered by Publics seed grant, the cluster is currently implementing the DMI for a small set of institutions to determine its overall efficacy.

Read the learning memo outlining some of the Data Integration Cluster's work. For more information, please contact Denise Nadasen.


Cluster 14: Northern Cluster 
Focus Area: Affordability and Financial Aid Audits

The Northern Cluster is focusing on addressing affordability through both the student and campus perspective. The group has identified three factors influencing affordability on their campuses and formed three working groups around them. The cluster has also developed a document to guide considerations of affordability during strategic planning efforts among campus leadership.  For information, please contact Lynn Brabender.

Project Highlights

  • Nearly 125 change-ready universities and state systems
  • 16 transformation clusters
  • 3 million undergraduates

Project Goals

  • Produce hundreds of thousands more graduates by 2025 with an emphasis on underrepresented minority, low-income, and first-generation students.
     
  • Cut in half the achievement gap by 2025 for underrepresented minority, low-income, and first-generation students while increasing access.
     
  • Share key data, learning, and effective practices to drive innovation and transformation across the higher education sector.

Strategy

Four strategic priorities guide Powered by Publics work. They are:

  1. Taking explicit action to pursue educational equity for low-income, first-generation, and students of color.
     
  2. Committing to transparency by sharing data and monitoring progress toward equity goals.
     
  3. Developing common opportunities for cross-cluster learning, sharing, and collective action in the thematic areas of Affordability, Holistic Student Supports, and Teaching & Learning.
     
  4. APLU and its partners committing to invest in institutional capacity through grants and technical assistance.