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Elon hosts conference on college access & success

Representatives from many of North Carolina’s private colleges and universities visited Elon University this week for a conference believed to be the first of its kind for independent colleges on the creation and expansion of college access and success programs for first-generation, low-income or minority students.

From left: John N. Gardner, Elon University President Leo M. Lambert, and Betsy O. Barefoot

Sponsored by the nonprofit North Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities, and hosted by Elon, the Sept. 22-23 conference featured speakers from the worlds of business, education and politics.

NCICU is the association responsible for the new Independent College Access Network. That network was created to assist the independent colleges and universities in developing or expanding their programs to ultimately increase the number of students attending and graduating from college.

John Gardner P'98, founder of the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Higher Education and known in the field as the “Father of the First Year Experience,” gave the keynote address on Wednesday following a welcome luncheon for conference participants. His focus was on creating communities for freshmen as a way to help them stay connected – and better excel – in their first year at college.

“Advising is a form of creating community, and people want to stay in communities where they feel encouraged and supported,” Gardner said. He also cited the importance of common readings, and required courses for freshmen, as ways to build communities. “I believe the more things you do in common, the more you connect with the community.”

The conference provided professional development on research-based practices and assistance for campus administrators in designing, developing, enhancing and implementing strategies to impact advising or first-year experience programs. It also presented holistic approaches and strategies as a means to lower attrition, increase persistence and improve successful completion among low-income students attending independent colleges and universities in North Carolina.

“Advising is a form of creating community, and people want to stay in communities where they feel encouraged and supported,” said higher education expert John N. Gardner.

Notable speakers at the conference include Gardner and his wife, Betsy O. Barefoot, who serves as senior scholar and vice president of the Institute; Hope Williams, president of the NCICU; June Atkinson, superintendent of public instruction; Rep. Joe Tolson in the North Carolina House of Representatives; Cynthia Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina; and Leo M. Lambert, president of Elon University.

"There is not an agenda closer to my heart than college access," Lambert told the conference participants in his opening remarks.

Additionally, the conference will highlight some of the campuses that received funding from NCICU for the past academic year. Campus representatives will share descriptions of their programs, lessons learned, outcomes and results.

Eric Townsend,
9/23/2010 2:14 PM