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Reviewed by:
  • Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College
  • Matthew Wawrzynski
Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College Betsy O. Barefoot, John N. Gardner, Marc Cutright, Libby V. Morris, Charles C. Schroeder, Stephen W. Schwartz, Michael J. Siegel, and Randy L. Swing San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005, 480 pages, $45 (hardcover)

Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College is the result of a sponsored project by the Policy Center on the First Year of College to recognize colleges and universities as Institutions of Excellence in the First Year of College. This is the long awaited sequel to The Freshman Year Experience (Upcraft & Gardner, 1989) and also will prove to be another useful resource for anyone interested in improving the first year of college. The authors of this book set out to provide new insights and ideas about how the first year of college can challenge and support students and establish a solid foundation for the undergraduate experience. Similar to the approach taken in Involving Colleges (Kuh, Schuh, Whitt & Associates, 1991), a study of the late 1980s that illustrated core principles of excellence on individual campuses, Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College details the excellence by college campuses to improve the first year of college.

Divided into 16 chapters, chapter 1 provides the study background, the five criteria used to select institutions, key programmatic initiatives in place at the institutions, and snapshots of the 13 institutions chosen for inclusion as Institutions of Excellence in the First College Year. From site visits and nomination portfolios the authors compiled and provide a list of 20 programmatic initiatives that contribute to excellence in the first year of college. Chapter 2 presents the multiple case study methods employed by the researchers during a 15-month period. The case studies are categorized by size and/or type of institution and then clustered into six institutional groupings: two-year institutions; four-year institutions with fewer than 2,000 students; four-year institutions with 2,000 to 5,000 students; four-year institutions with 5,000 to 10,000 students; four-year institutions with 10,000 to 20,000 students; and four-year institutions with more than 20,000 students. [End Page 363]

The 13 case studies, one for each institution identified as part of the Institutions of Excellence in the First Year of College, presented in chapters 3 through 15 will prove to be the most beneficial for those interested in learning about what made these selected institutions exemplary first year college campuses. The authors highlighted and revealed how some of the most common and important first-year initiatives were implemented on the various campuses. Additionally, campus history, culture, leadership, curricular and co-curricular initiatives, and the means of assessment provide the strategies for creating a road map into where educators can begin to improve the first year of college by using these 13 institutions as models.

The last chapter is divided between the presentation of findings and recommendations and conclusions from the analyses of the 13 case studies. The authors elaborated on each of 12 findings to developing and sustaining an exemplary first year of college student experience. Taken together with the 12 findings, the authors presented very practical suggestions to stimulate intellectual conversation surrounding the first year experience on any college campus.

As the authors concluded, this book provides both an opportunity to learn what other institutions are doing to improve the first year of college, but also to confirm existing practices that are in place on many campuses. Overall, the authors set out to make a significant contribution to the research literature base on the first year of college, and they were successful in doing so.

Matthew Wawrzynski
Michigan State University


Kuh, G. D., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., & Associates. (1991). Involving colleges: Successful approaches to fostering student learning and development outside the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Upcraft, M. L., Gardner, J. N., & Associates. (1989). The freshman year experience: Helping students survive and succeed in college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. [End Page 364]


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