Wednesday, December 19th, 2018


2017 Pre-Conference Workshop


Helping Students Help Students: Effectively Incorporating Peer Mentors and Coaches into Your First-Year Programs and Courses

Dr. Kristin Woods, Director of Student Success and Retention, University of Northern Iowa


kristinwoodsDr. Woods coordinates retention and student success initiatives, including peer mentoring, the MAP-Works early intervention program, and success coaching for first-year students. She collaborates with faculty members on the implementation of First-Year Only (FYO) course communities, provides individual assistance to at-risk students, and co-chairs at the university’s Transfer Council. Kristin also works with campus partners to facilitate the Jump Start extended orientation program, Transfer Welcome events, and Family Weekend.

More information on UNI’s recent successes with retention can be found here.


Deirdre Heistad, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Associate Professor of French, University of Northern Iowa

Deirdre Heistad has made a strong impact on first-year students through her leadership in developing innovative and highly ef­fective programs and her work to change the culture of our university in support of student success. She led the way in creating a “cornerstone experience” for first-year students in the form of a year-long integrated communication course featuring student success outcomes, close collaboration with Student Affairs, and the integration of a course-embedded peer mentor. In her role as director of Undergraduate Studies, she led an effort to create “first-year only” {FYO) sections of Liberal Arts Core course throughout the distributed categories. In a year of a particularly high number of incoming student who were academically under­prepared, Heistad’s proactively created a Success Coaching program and later worked with the director of Student Success and Retention in Student Affairs to create a new Summer Bridge program.  Deirdre Heistad serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Northern Iowa, a unit that relies on cross-divisional collaboration and assessment to elevate high impact educational practices and advance new initiatives. She was selected as a 2017 recipient of the Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates award, presented by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina.


Guest Host & Pre-Symposium Speaker

Dr. John N. Gardner


john-gardnerJohn is an educator, university professor and administrator, non-profit organization chief executive officer author, editor, public speaker, consultant, change agent, student retention specialist, first-year and transfer students’ advocate, and initiator and scholar of the American first-year and senior-year reform movements. He serves as President of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. JNGI was founded by John and his wife, Dr. Betsy O. Barefoot, in October 1999 as the Policy Center on the First Year of College. The Policy Center was launched by an initial grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts, and has been subsequently funded by additional grants from Pew, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Lumina Foundation for Education, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and USA Funds. In 2007 the Policy Center underwent a legal and name change to the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and an expansion of its mission to focus more broadly on excellence in undergraduate education, as a fully autonomous 501c3 non-profit entity. Since its inception in 1999, the Institute has received approximately $7,500,000 in support from its philanthropic partners.

JNGI works with colleges and universities to strengthen their resolve and processes to undertake assessment and other improvement actions to increase student learning and retention. JNGI focuses its work on the use of a previously non-existent set of aspirational standards for improvement of the first-year and the transfer student experience. These standards are known as JNGI’s “Foundational Dimensions”® in a process called Foundations of Excellence® in the First College Year or Foundations of Excellence® – Transfer Focus.  In addition, JNGI offers several additional processes for student learning, success, retention and completion including Gateways to Completion® (G2C®) to improve student performance in high failure rate gateway courses and Retention Performance Management® (RPM®) to improve retention rates for specific cohorts such as first year, sophomores, first-generation, low-income, etc.

John is also the Senior Fellow of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. The National Resource Center, founded by Gardner in 1986, organizes the popular and influential conferences on The First-Year Experience, Students in Transition, and also disseminates information through an extensive series of scholarly publications, videos, national and international conferences, workshops, seminars, and teleconferences. Gardner “retired” in 1999 after 32 1/2 years of service to the people of South Carolina, but continues to serve them in a reduced and more focused way in his role of Senior Fellow (in addition to his full-time appointment with JNGI). He served as Executive Director of both the first-year seminar course, University 101, from 1974-1999, and the National Center from 1986-99. From 1983-96, he also served as Vice Chancellor/Associate Vice Provost for Regional Campuses and Continuing Education.


Keynote Speaker

Gateway Courses: Bridges or Barriers to Equity and Completion?

Dr. Drew Koch, Chief Operating Officer

John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education


Dr. Koch has been with JNGI since 2010. From 1998-2010, Dr. Koch held a variety of student persistence and completion-related roles at Purdue University including serving as the founding director of the nationally acclaimed Department of Student Access, Transition, and Success Programs. During his tenure at Purdue, the University increased first-to-second year retention rates by over 8 percentage points and six-year graduation rates by more than 6 percentage points. Before working at Purdue, Dr. Koch served as the Director of Freshman Advancement and Associate Dean at Hofstra University, and he also served as Assistant to the Dean of Summer College at the University of Richmond.

Dr. Koch holds a BA in history and German and an MA in European history from the University of Richmond, an MA in higher education from the University of South Carolina, and a PhD in American Studies from Purdue University. His research interests include student success, the role of colleges and universities in shaping democracy and culture in the United States, and the role of sport in U.S. culture and society.

During his twenty-year career, Koch has garnered substantive experience with undergraduate education administration, strategic planning, fund raising, reaffirmation of accreditation, and enrollment management. His work includes extensive grant writing and fund raising with support coming from sources such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coca Cola, Lilly Endowment, Inc., Lumina Foundation for Education, the National Science Foundation, and Target Corporation. To date, Dr. Koch’s fund raising and grant totals exceed $11 million.

Dr. Koch is the author of an array of publications pertaining to student success, including the second, third, and fourth editions of The First-Year Experience in American Higher Education: An Annotated Bibliography, published by the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience. He has served on several boards and commissions, including the Indiana College Access and Success Network; the Directorate Board for the American College Personnel Association Commission on Admissions, Orientation, and the First-Year Experience; the Military Family Research Institute; the Higher Learning Commission’s Think Tank on Persistence and Completion; the National Advisory Board for the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition; and the editorial review board of the Journal of the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.


Symposium Guest Speakers

Dr. Maria Markham, ADHE Director


maria3_1Director Markham began her service with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in August 2016, but her history with higher education in Arkansas spans over a decade. She has worked in almost every facet of higher education at both a community college and a university; from a work study student, grant director, full-time faculty, adjunct, division chair, chief academic officer, and now, an agency leader.

Dr. Markham is a double alumnae of Henderson State University where she received a BBA in Marketing and an MBA. She later received her Ph.D. in Business with a specialization in Organizational Leadership from North Central University.


Mike Leach, ACC Director of the Center for Student Success


Mike Leach is the Director of the Center for Student Success at Arkansas Community Colleges, the association for the state’s 22 community colleges. The Center supports Arkansas’ community colleges in adopting institutional change aimed at improving student success, and works to establish a state policy environment supportive of student success.

Mike has developed and managed a variety of projects in partnership with Arkansas’ community colleges, including Accelerating Opportunity, Math Pathways to Completion, Working Student Success Network, Arkansas Guided Pathways Initiative, College Count$, and others. Mike played an integral role in developing the nationally recognized Arkansas Career Pathways initiative. Mike also has been an adjunct instructor at Pulaski Technical College since 2003.

Mike’s background in public policy development and advocacy includes directing government relations at Southern Bancorp, community organizing with the Industrial Areas Foundation, and working as a Legislative Aide for United States Senator Harris Wofford.

Mike has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Maryland at College Park, and a M.A. in Educational Administration, Policy and Planning from the University of Texas at Austin.

 2017 Concurrent Session Speakers


Building a Collaborative Passion for Student Success

Dr. Charlie Nutt


charlie-nutt-1-use-this-one-1Charlie Nutt, a NACADA member since 1991, joined Kansas State University and the NACADA Executive Office in 2002 as Associate Director and Assistant Professor in the College of Education and was made Executive Director in 2007. Charlie served in various leadership roles in the Association before coming to work full-time for Executive Office. He has served on the faculty of the NACADA Summer Institute, Academic Advising Administrators’ Institute, and Assessment of Advising Institute. As Executive Director of NACADA, Charlie is responsible for coordinating the work of the Executive Office staff as well as working with the various NACADA units on professional development issues, external relations for the Association, and our International initiatives.


C.O.N.N.E.C.T.E.D.:  Driving Student Success Through Bridging Education to Application

Tanya White-Earnest


Tanya is Director of the Center for Career Planning & Workforce Strategies, and a part-time faculty member at Trident University International. She joined Trident in 2013 to create and launch the career center and from the beginning has worked to integrate career services across the institution to enhance enrollment, retention, student success, and graduation rates. Tanya blends over 25 years’ experience in organizational development, human resources, performance improvement, consulting and coaching with solid career development theory and practice to serve a diverse student and alumni population.  Tanya holds an M.S. in Education.


Improving Student Achievement: Some Principles from Cognitive Science

Dr. John Dunlosky



John Dunlosky is Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences and the Director of the Science of Learning and Education Center at Kent State University.  His major area of interest is the study of metacognition as it pertains to improving education across the lifespan.  He is a founder of the International Association of Metacognition, co-authored the textbook Metacognition, and has co-edited several books on metacognition and education.



Bridging the Gap for At-Risk First-Year Students

Chris Hein


Chris HeinCareer ServicesChris Hein is an Academic Counselor in the First-Year & Transition Programs Office at Georgia State University. He has a passion for working with at-risk and underrepresented student populations and has spent the last two-and-a-half years at GSU overseeing and developing the Panther Excellence Program for at-risk first-year students. He has an M.S.Ed. with an emphasis in Student Affairs.