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Transitions Programs Plus Council: 2014-2017


As Northwestern expanded its recruitment and enrollment of low-socioeconomic status (SES), first generation college, and international students, to offer greater educational opportunities to a broader range of students, the Provost in 2014 created the Transition Programs Plus Council. The Council was a working group that focused on developing a coordinated strategy to support these incoming first-year students’ transition into college and ongoing success.

The Council’s ultimate goal was for each and every Northwestern student to thrive by having equal access to a common set of available experiences, opportunities, and possible outcomes.

The Council was co-led by the Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education and the Vice President of Student Affairs.  The membership included program managers of pre-and post-enrollment programs, academic leaders from each undergraduate school, STEM faculty, and staff from Student Affairs, the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching, Financial Aid, Undergraduate Admissions, Information and Analytics, Athletics, the International Office, and the Academic Advising Center.

In 2017, leadership in the Provost’s Office and Student Affairs, along with Council members, identified a broader set of student needs that extended beyond the first‐year transition. They recommended an expanded focus encompassing the entire undergraduate lifecycle, which prompted the initiation of the Undergraduate Student Lifecycle project.

Council Priorities

  • Coordinate: Coordinate pre-and post-enrollment transition programs and other student transition initiatives.
  • Support: Support program enhancements by making recommendations on changes or expansion, and coordinate plans for attendant resource requests.
  • Assess: Develop a shared assessment framework to gauge effectiveness of pre-and post-enrollment programs. Utilize longitudinal data to identify strengths and gaps in supporting student academic and social integration.
  • Respond: Address both curricular and co-curricular needs.
  • Provide: Share data and provide continued education about trends, research, and theory related to underrepresented or other students who may be facing academic challenges.

Council Highlights

The Council has acted on its priorities across the following dimensions which directly impact the Northwestern student experience and/or enable the Council to identify future priorities:

  • Financial Aid:  Financial Aid has expanded significantly to address financial barriers in a coordinated manner so that all students can have a complete curricular and cocurricular undergraduate experience. Learn more: Undergraduate Financial Aid and SES "Common Application."
  • Communication and Outreach: Program managers improved communications and outreach to prospective students in collaboration with Undergraduate Admissions. Learn more: Pre-Enrollment Programs
  • Pre-Enrollment Programs:  The Council has supported enhancements to the pre-enrollment programs, which address the transition needs of first-year students: SAW, BRIDGE, BioEXCEL, EXCEL and a student-athlete program. Participants develop a sense of belonging at the institution, increase academic preparedness, create bonds with peers, faculty and staff, and connect with campus resources. Learn more: Arch Scholars and Summer Academic Workshop.
  • Assessment:  Northwestern IT and Council members are developing an assessment framework to ensure effectiveness of pre-and post-enrollment programs, ensure a consistent undergraduate experience, and identify strengths and gaps in supporting student academic and social integration.
  • Student Enrichment Services: The Office, in operation since November 2014, assists first generation and low-income students in facilitating the transition to the academy. The office works to increase student success and satisfaction with their Northwestern experience. Learn more: Student Enrichment Services.
  • Post-Enrollment Programs: More than 11 post-enrollment programs provide academic support in the form of peer mentoring, tutoring, and workshops. Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching launched an Academic Resource Portal, a comprehensive web list of academic support and free tutoring resources. Searle works with academic departments to coordinate peer tutoring programs. Learn more: Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching.
  • Scholarly Foundation: The Council shares data and provides continued education about trends, research, and theory related to underrepresented students.  This includes research by Northwestern scholars. Learn more: Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap (Stephens, Hamedani, and Destin, 2014); Middle Class and Marginal? Socioeconomic Status, Stigma, and Self-Regulation at an Elite University (Richeson & Finkel, 2011)

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