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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 28, 2004

Institute Examines Ways To Engage College Students, Bolster Graduation

Why are some colleges and universities better at engaging students than others? And what policies and practices might be adopted to bolster graduation rates?

These are just some of the questions that will be explored by researchers of higher education during a national conference on the University of Iowa campus this week.

The theme for the UI's 2004 Institute for Student Affairs Administration (SAAR) is "DEEP Implications: Adapting Research on Effective Educational Practices to Student Affairs Work." The event runs Thursday, Sept. 30, through Saturday, Oct. 2, in the Iowa Memorial Union.

The DEEP mentioned in the conference's title refers to Project DEEP (Documenting Effective Educational Practices), a national study of 20 four-year colleges and universities documenting strong performance in student engagement and graduation rates.

"The purpose of the SAAR Institute is to focus attention on implications for student affairs administration of the Project DEEP results," said Elizabeth J. Whitt, professor and program coordinator for Graduate Programs in Student Affairs Administration in the UI College of Education. "How, for example, can student affairs professionals focus more effectively on engaging students in both in-class and out-of-class learning opportunities?"

Led by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), with support from the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College, Project DEEP examines the everyday workings of a variety of educationally effective colleges and universities to learn what they do to promote student success. Schools selected for the study have higher-than-predicted graduation rates and higher than-predicted scores on the five NSSE national benchmarks: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student interaction with faculty members, enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment.

The study is among a series of activities undertaken by the NSSE Institute for Effective Educational Practice to respond to national concerns about improving the quality of undergraduate education.

Results from the Project Deep study, which was conducted between fall 2002 and spring 2004, will be discussed during this week's conference at the UI, at other conferences in the 2005-2006 academic year, and in a book forthcoming from Jossey-Bass Inc. in spring 2005.

Speakers this week will include George D. Kuh, Chancellor's Professor and director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, whose keynote address, "Digging DEEP for Lessons About Undergraduate Student Engagement and Success," will open the institute; Ernest T. Pascarella, Mary Louise Peterson Professor of Higher Education at the UI; and Patrick T. Terenzini, Professor of Higher Education in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at The Pennsylvania State University. Pascarella and Terenzini will update their seminal work, "How College Affects Students," with an overview of research from 1989-2003 and a preview of their new book, "How College Affects Students-Revisited," which will be published by Jossey-Bass, Inc. early next year.

The 2004 SAAR Institute is sponsored by the UI College of Education, the college's Graduate Programs in Student Affairs and the college's Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation, and Student Development. The institute is made possible, in part, by a generous grant from the Educational Leadership Foundation of the American College Personnel Association.

More information about the conference, the SAAR Institute and Project DEEP can be found online at or by calling 319-335-5275.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,