The ACE Fellows Program – Focusing On Facilities in Student Attainment

As Doug Brown noted in a post on this blog earlier this summer, student facilities play a major role in higher education advancement and student success and degree completion.  The American Council on Education (ACE) Fellows Program has had the opportunity to work with Capstone On-Campus and Ball State University (IN) on this key issue. ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations.    The ACE Fellows Program, a year-long higher education leadership development program, focuses on many leadership issues relating to student attainment—from planning and governance to finances and diversity, just to name a few. The Fellows Program’s visit earlier this year to Ball State, like a similar visit last year to Harper College (IL), grew out of a recent, but very powerful, addition to the program’s curriculum focusing on facilities and student attainment. In both cases, the goal was to learn how these outstanding institutions have shaped their campuses into spaces that support learning—from innovative classroom design to cutting edge residence hall and student life areas to small alcoves where small groups of students can gather and learn together.  Despite the growth of online learning, most students still learn on a physical campus, so it is crucial for college and university leaders to consider the impact of facilities just as they do the impact of faculty, staff, library collections and student support activities. Our annual campus visit day allows ACE Fellows to learn from institutions that have proved exemplary in facilities planning but also challenges Fellows to then go beyond the best practices they are seeing. For these campus visits, Fellows are each assigned a persona—such as a first generation college student, parent or transfer student—and asked to assess the campus through that set of eyes. Fellows are senior faculty and administrators of colleges and universities. While they have been on campuses for decades, they may have lost their ability to see a campus through the eyes of students and parents. As higher education institutions continue to press to improve student attainment, the area of facilities—from the classroom to the residence halls—is an important tool that savvy leaders will use to provide optimal support for student learning and success. With the help of leading institutions and student facilities experts, ACE Fellows are among those examining campus facilities with fresh eyes.   Sharon A. McDade is the director of ACE’s Fellows Program, the nation’s premier higher education leadership development program.  Read her full bio HERE