October 10, 2024 - October 11, 2024
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Pittsburgh, PA

Symposium on Transforming the 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

Transforming the Academic Advising Experience will introduce the idea of purpose-driven academic advising while leaning into demands to meet the current career and employability needs of students. Participants will explore current trends in student motivation to attend college and learn about exemplary practices in approaches to academic advising from 2- year and 4- year institutions. In addition, participants will consider academic advising as an integrated activity and utilize this perspective to review their own curricular and co-curricular advising connections. Drawing on Gardner Institute scholarship and work, 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 placed 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.

Pre- Conference Workshops

October 9, 1-5 p.m.

The Roles of Deans and Department Chairs in Student Success

This half-day workshop for current and newly appointed deans and department chairs will focus on the latest research; best practices, and practical strategies for identifying and implementing lasting student success initiatives.

Workshop Facilitators:

Pre- Conference Workshops

October 9, 1-5 p.m.

The Roles of Deans and Department Chairs in Student Success

This half-day workshop for current and newly appointed deans and department chairs will focus on the latest research; best practices, and practical strategies for identifying and implementing lasting student success initiatives.

Workshop Facilitators:

Student-Centered Teaching Approaches

Participants will leave this workshop with strategies for incorporating student-centered practices to meet today’s teaching challenges. Specifically, this workshop addresses how teaching in ways that foreground the diverse experiences and needs of our contemporary students can help to humanize our response to the challenge of incorporating artificial intelligence and AI literacy into our teaching. Faculty will explore how to craft student-centered policies and guidance around the use of AI as well as how to design assignments that intentionally use generative AI as part of the learning process.

Workshop Facilitators:

Toward Disability Inclusion: Identifying Intersections and Taking Action Toward Improved Access

Attendees will learn about the national landscape of disability in higher education, understand best practices for access, identify intersections and barriers in their work, and develop a preliminary Disability Action Plan for their institution.

Workshop Facilitators:

Transformation Community of Practice

Participants will be invited to engage in pre-reading, investigation of methodology, and work collaboratively to enhance their Transformation plans. This opportunity is designed to prime new and existing schools to treat any transformation work as an opportunity to improve systems and conduct rapid tests of their respective theories of change. Institutions will also share lessons learned and have time to engage in generative innovation focusing on their most immediate needs related to advancing transformation plans.

This session is for Transforming the Foundational Postsecondary Experience™ Institutions Only:

  • Bridgewater State University
  • California State University- San Bernardino
  • Capital University
  • CUNY Queensborough Community College
  • Columbia College of Chicago
  • Emmanuel College
  • Louisiana State University- Shreveport 
  • Mary Baldwin University
  • Mississippi State University
  • Normandale Community College
  • Purdue University Global
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Alaska Southeast
  • University of New Orleans


The Pre-Conference workshops are on October 9 from 1 – 5 pm.

The conference sessions are October 10 and 11.  Sessions will be held 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on the 10th, and 8:30 am to 4 pm on the 11th.

Participants are invited to attend a 25th Anniversary Celebration reception on October 10 at 5:15 pm.

Conference Registration Fees –

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

After Early Bird- $775

Undergraduate and Full-time Graduate Students- $485

Registration includes: A reception on the 10th, Breakfast and Lunch on both days 

Pre- Conference-

Student-Centered Teaching Approaches Workshop- $190 per person

Deans and Department Chairs Workshop- $190 per person

Toward Disability Inclusion Workshop- $190 per person

Transformation Workshop- $120

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

  • Self-parking rate at the hotel- $20 per night
  • Valet- $45

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

Draft Agenda:

Download draft agenda

Symposium Presenters:

The Gardner Institute invites you to participate in the 2024 Symposium on Transforming the Postsecondary Experience at the Omni William Penn in Pittsburgh, PA. This event offers many opportunities for exhibitors and sponsors to connect with faculty and senior administrators while demonstrating support for higher education’s efforts to improve student success. 


Exhibitors receive the following: an exhibit table with two registrations; company/organization name, logo, contact information listed in the digital program, and one electronic attendee list without email addresses. Representatives will have full access to the breakfasts, luncheons, reception, breaks, and all concurrent sessions. Exhibits will be open from 8 am – 5 pm on October 10 and 8 am – 2 pm on October 11.

Exhibitor Rates 

Exhibit Booth – $2,000 ($1,200 non-profit) Each Additional Representative – $500 per person.

Exhibitors may also add an ad in the conference app, or may sponsor a break or meal.

Concurrent Session

Highlight your organization by presenting a Sponsor Session

An additional $1,500 ($800 non-profit)

  • Organizer Name: Gardner Institute
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