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Improving the Student Experience


Dian Graves Owen Foundation

Due to the generous support of the Dian Graves Owen Foundation, McMurry University has partnered with the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education for their Foundations of Excellence Program beginning this academic year. 

The Dian Graves Owen Foundation continues to be a major benefactor to McMurry including significant support of the successful Shaping the Future Campaign.

“The three-year Foundations of Excellence program closely studies the first year experience for both freshmen and transfer students to create a more positive experience for future incoming students, thereby increasing retention rates and building up the student body of the University,” said Dean of Students, Vanessa Roberts Bryan, who is spearheading the effort.

“McMurry University President Dr. Sandra Harper participated in the first Foundations of Excellence program while she was at Texas A&M Corpus Christi,” said Roberts Bryan.

Research has long indicated that the successful integration of new students into college greatly increases the likelihood of their academic success. As a result, institutions of higher education place particular emphasis on creating a first-year experience that establishes a solid foundation of success in college and beyond. 

The Gardner Institute works in conjunction with McMurry to put together committees comprised of professors and staff members from various departments as well as students. These committees are assigned a different area of study, encompassing everything from student transitions, overall learning, diversity, and educational philosophies. It is then up to the committees to study student surveys and data, to arrive at conclusions and to make recommendations based on the available information.

The Gardner Institute’s work doesn’t end when the committees have given their final reports. Consultants from Foundations of Excellence will be helping McMurry move forward in successfully implementing the new ideas on campus. While a premium is placed on improving the academics for first year students, the Gardner Institute will also help implement changes for the campus as a whole, including student life and activities.

The study also includes other aspects of the student experience, like campus life and student engagement. Improvements like these could greatly enhance the retention of new students, making them feel at home in the McMurry and Abilene communities.

Regardless of the conclusions the Foundations of Excellence committees come to, students can expect a number of changes to the student experience within the next few years, said Roberts Bryan. “With the help of the Gardner Institute, the University intends to further enhance the experience of all students as they enter the McMurry community, better enabling students to grow as leaders.”