Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

03-23-09

Contacts:

Doug Gruenewald, Student Affairs, (515) 294-5165, dgrenwld@iastate.edu

Steve Mickelson, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, (515) 294-2402, estaben@iastate.edu

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu

Iowa State's learning communities program earns national honor

AMES, Iowa -- The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) honored Iowa State University's learning communities program with the Promising Practices Award for 2009. The award recognizes colleges and universities for their outstanding partnerships between student affairs professionals and academic affairs. It was presented during NASPA's annual conference, March 7-11.

University academic and student affairs divisions historically work independently of one another to address students' academic and non-academic lives, according to Doug Gruenewald, who co-directs the Iowa State program with Steve Mickelson.

"When we started the learning community program at Iowa State in 1995, the idea was to improve undergraduate education by collaborating across traditional boundaries to help students," Gruenewald said.

"By integrating the program across organizational structures, we've been able to place the student in the center of the learning experience. For the student, the learning community should be seamless," he added.

As a result, Iowa State's learning community program has served as a model for other schools. The highly regarded program has been rated in the "top 25" by U.S. News and World Report since 2002.

In 1995, 407 Iowa State students joined 12 campus learning communities. In fall 2008, more than 3,500 students participated in one of 70 learning communities. About 65 percent of first-year students join a learning community.

Data from a 2008 university report shows that learning communities help retention and graduation rates at Iowa State. One-year retention and four-and six-year graduation rates for learning community students exceed those of their fellow first-year students who don't join a learning community--sometimes by double digits. (See data online at www.ir.iastate.edu/FB09/PDF/FB09-057.pdf)

Hundreds of faculty and staff work collaboratively on learning communities, along with more than 250 undergraduate peer mentors who assist.

"The NASPA award is for them. Many people go well beyond their job descriptions to coordinate and support learning communities -- they're an incredibly dedicated group," Gruenewald said.

"We're also very fortunate to have strong administrative support that has allowed us to grow and develop one of the largest learning community programs in the country," he said.

In addition to Gruenewald and Mickelson, Iowa State's learning community program is jointly administered with Todd Holcomb, associate vice president for student affairs, and Dave Holger, associate provost for academic programs and dean of the Graduate College.

NASPA has more than 11,000 members at 1,400 campuses in 29 countries. It is the foremost professional association for student affairs administrators, faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students.

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Quick look

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) honored Iowa State's learning communities program with the Promising Practices Award for 2009. The award recognizes colleges and universities for their outstanding partnerships between student affairs professionals and academic affairs. Iowa State's learning community program has served as a model for other schools.

Quote

"By integrating the program across organizational structures, we've been able to place the student in the center of the learning experience. For the student, the learning community should be seamless."

Doug Gruenewald