Foundational Dimensions

The John N. Gardner Institute Foundations of Excellence program emphasizes key aspirational principles of excellence, known as Foundational Dimensions. Subcommittees are charged with addressing these principles as they evaluate institutional behaviors, policies and practices.


Foundations Institutions approach the first year/transfer year in ways that are intentional and based on a philosophy/rationale of the first year/transfer year that informs relevant institutional policies and practices. This philosophy/rationale is explicit, clear and easily understood, consistent with the institutional mission, widely disseminated, and, as appropriate, reflects a consensus of campus constituencies. The philosophy/rationale is also the basis for first-year/transfer organizational policies, practices, structures, leadership, department/unit philosophies, and resource allocation.


Foundations Institutions create organizational structures and policies that provide a comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated approach to the first/transfer year. These structures and policies provide oversight and alignment of all first-year/transfer efforts. A coherent first-year/transfer experience is realized and maintained through effective partnerships among academic, student affairs, and other administrative units and is enhanced by ongoing faculty and staff development activities and appropriate budgetary arrangements. For the transfer year experience, Foundations Institutions also assure communication and collaborations with sending institutions at multiple levels including senior administration, academic departments, academic advising, and other administrative units.

  Foundations Institutions deliver intentional curricular and co-curricular learning experiences that engage students in order to develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors consistent with the desired outcomes of high education and the institutions philosophy and mission. Whether in or out of the classroom, learning also promotes increased competence in critical thinking, ethical development, and the lifelong pursuit of knowledge. They coordinate with transfer (sending) institutions to determine common course goals and learning outcomes.
  Faculty and Campus Culture

Foundations Institutions make the first-year/transfer year a high priority for the faculty and create a culture of faculty responsibility for student success by encouraging awareness and responsiveness to the unique needs of first-year/transfer students. This culture is realized by high-quality instruction and substantial interaction between faculty and students both inside and outside the classroom. This culture of responsibility is nurtured by chief academic officers, deans, and department chairs and supported by the institutions’ reward systems.


Foundations Institutions facilitate appropriate student transitions through policies and practices that are intentional and aligned with institutional mission. Beginning with recruitment and admissions and continuing through the first year for first-year and transfer students, institutions communicate clear curricular and co-curricular expectations and provide appropriate support for educational success. They are forthright about their responsibilities to students as well as students’ responsibilities to themselves and the institution. They create and maintain curricular alignments with sending institutions, families etc. to assure a seamless transition process.

  All Students

Foundations Institutions serve all transfer students according to their varied needs. The process of anticipating, diagnosing, and addressing needs in ongoing and subject to assessment and adjustment throughout the first year. Institutions provide services with respect for the students; abilities, backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Institutions also ensure a campus environment that is inclusive and safe for all students. Institutions also ensure a campus environment in which transfer students are accepted and valued.


Foundations Institutions ensure that all new students experience diverse ideas, worldviews, and cultures as a means of enhancing their learning and preparing them to become members of pluralistic communities. Whatever their demographics composition, institutions structure experiences in which students interact in an open and civil community with people from backgrounds and cultures different from their own, reflect on ideas and values different from those they currently hold, and explore their own cultures and the culture of others. Institutions introduce new students to the standards of behavior expected in a diverse, open, and civil community.

  Roles and Purposes

Foundations Institutions promote student understanding of the various roles and purposes of higher education, both for the individual and society. These roles and purposes include knowledge acquisition for personal growth, learning to prepare for future employment, learning to become engaged citizens, and learning to serve the public good. Institutions encourage firs-year students to examine systematically their motivation and goals with regard to higher education in general and to their own college/university. Students are exposed to the value of general education as well as to the value of more focused, in-depth study of a field or fields of knowledge. Institutions encourage transfer students to deepen and strengthen their understanding of the value of general education and to reexamine their motivation and monitor their progression toward personal educational goals.


Foundations Institutions conduct assessment and maintain associations with other institutions and relevant professional organizations in order to achieve ongoing improvement for first-year and transfer students. This assessment is specific to the new first-year and transfer students as a unit of analysis – a distinct time period and set of experiences, academic and otherwise, in the lives of students. It is also linked systemically to the institutions’ overall assessment. Assessment results are an integral part of institutional planning, resource allocation, decision-making, and ongoing improvement of programs and policies as they affect first-year and transfer students. As part of the enhancement process and as a way to achieve ongoing improvement, institutions are familiar with current practices at other institutions as well as with research and scholarship on the first college year.


  • Provost

    Phone: 281-283-3000
    Fax: 281-283-3009

    Bayou Building 2525
    2700 Bay Area Blvd
    Houston, TX 77058-1002