Photo of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania city with yellow bridge over river
October 9, 2024 - October 11, 2024
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Pittsburgh, PA

Symposium on Transforming the Foundational Postsecondary Experience

Innovation And Design So Every Student Can Graduate

October 9-11, 2024

Omni William Penn Hotel  Pittsburgh, PA

Gain New Knowledge to Apply to your Work! 

The symposium is in-person experience focused on gaining new knowledge that you can apply to your work immediately. Participants will join plenaries, concurrent sessions and have the option to select one of six deeper learning tracks, led by experts from the Gardner Institute.

Select one of 6 deeper learning tracks:

  • Gateway Course Experience™
  • First Year
  • Second Year
  • Advising
  • Transfer 
  • Curricular Analytics

Transforming the Academic Advising Experience

Academic advising is a comprehensive and intentional approach to guiding and teaching students about their curricular and co-curricular choices and what it takes to succeed in college. As such, advising goes far beyond simple course selection. The advising experience purposefully addresses the holistic development of learners, helping students navigate the complexities of the college experience, make informed academic and life decisions, and ultimately thrive. Drawing on Gardner Institute scholarship and work, including the Conditions of Excellence in Academic Advising co-created with NACADA, this session will help participants create plans for action associated with improving advising in the first and second years of college.

Transforming Curricular Structures

Far too often, the curriculum is unintentionally designed in ways that prevent many students – often first-generation and low-income students – from ever progressing in their discipline and even college. During this 6-hour workshop, participants will engage with colleagues to examine systems, curricular complexity, policies, and practices related to programs of study and design a plan for improved outcomes based on evidence. Particular emphasis will be places on course and curricular structures that students experience during the first two years (60 semester credits) of college.

Transforming the Gateway Course Experience: Redesigning for Improved Teaching and Learning in the Gateway Course Experience

This track is designed to support faculty and staff who teach or will be teaching gateway courses, which comprise a significant portion of the foundational postsecondary experience for students. Gateway courses, once termed barrier courses, are, by definition, often foundational (lower-division or developmental courses that serve as a pathway to credit-bearing courses); high risk (courses that yield higher rates of D, F, W, or Incomplete grades); and have high enrollments within, as well as across, sections (as defined by the institution) (Koch, 2017). Participants will be guided to apply what they learn in the track, as well as in the related concurrent sessions, to create a personal plan for course (re)design.

Transforming the Second College Year: Designing for Student Success 

The second year of college is often overlooked as a pivotal period in the college success and completion journey. Many educators erroneously believe that once students succeed in the first-year, they have it “all figured out.”  Gardner Institute research shows that this is far from the truth. Drawing on scholarship such as Helping Sophomores Succeed (Jossey-Bass 2010), this track will provide information on assessment strategies, policies, and practices that institutions can intentionally connect the second-year experience with their first-year efforts so students can maintain momentum and thrive during the second year of college and, ultimately, beyond. 

Transforming the First College Year: Designing a First Year for the Students You Serve

This workshop will ask you to examine critically the experiences you are currently offering first-year students. How well is your first year working, for which students, and why? That is the foundation of your current institutional story. Facilitators will invite you to grapple with key questions and assist you in developing concrete ideas to improve the various components of your institution’s first year.

You will be asked to do some advance preparation in writing before this workshop by examining certain questions the facilitators will pose. This will enable you to take maximum advantage of what will transpire in the workshop. You will be provided information and inspiration from the facilitators and other participants. Pedagogies used will be both didactic and discussion based.

This workshop is designed to be meaningful for different types of educators—faculty, administrators, student affairs, and student success practitioners—who come from all levels of prior experience.

Transforming the Transfer Experience
Drawing on scholarship from the Gardner Institute’s recently published book, The Transfer Experience A Handbook for Creating a More Equitable and Successful Postsecondary System and other national sources, track participants will deepen their understanding of ways to create and sustain transfer-sending or transfer-receptive cultures at their own institutions. Positive transfer cultures at institutions are essential to persistence and completion of transfer students. The participants will be guided to apply what they learn during the track to create a set of plans for one or more innovative transfer transformation actions that they will pursue at their own institutions following the event.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. on October 10 and ends by 5 p.m. on October 11th. 

Conference Registration Fees –

Early Bird (Ends July 15, 2024) – $715

After Early Bird- $775

Undergraduate and Full-time Graduate Students- $485

Hotel Room Rates – $229 a night – Click here to reserve your room 

Refund Policy: There will be no refunds given after August 15, 2024. All refunds will be subject to a 5% processing fee. Registration can be transferred to another participant before September 31st, no transfers will be allowed after that. Participants can switch tracks before August 15th pending availability, requests must be made in writing to

For more information contact

Call for Proposals is now open

We invite proposals from innovative educators who are working to redesign postsecondary education, so that race, gender, ethnicity, and family income are not longer the greatest indicators of who earns a postsecondary degree.

Sessions will be 45 minutes including discussion and Question and Answers.
Delivery should be engaging, use sound pedagogy, and apply to one of the six tracks: Academic Advising, Teaching and Learning in Gateway Courses, The First College Year, The Second College Year, The Transfer Experience, or Curricular Analytics.

Submission deadline is April 15, 2024.

Call for Proposals is now open

Submit by April 15, 2024.

Draft Agenda:

Download draft agenda

  • Organizer Name: Gardner Institute
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