Partnering for Progress: Empowering Institutions to Achieve Transformative Change

Institutional Transformation occurs when demographics such as race/ethnicity, family income, and zip codes are no longer the best predictors of a student’s success and degree completion.

From the start, the Gardner Institute has been a partner that works with colleges and universities, not on them. We don’t just give you a step-by-step guidebook and move on. We guide you through a transformative experience that is tailored to your specific needs and most pressing challenges. Working together with your institution’s leaders, faculty, and staff, we create a unique roadmap and support you through the journey.

Who Should Participate

  • Institutions committed to sustained change.
  • 2- year and 4- year, public and private institutions
  • Institutions with a minimum of  25% Pell and/or Students of Color

How You’ll Benefit

  • Transform Curriculum – Integrate cutting edge survey tools and new approaches to teaching and learning to reinvent and transform the entire learning experience.
  • Build Leadership Skills – Develop skills in data usage, evidence-based decision making for  institutional leaders  that are required to succeed in the changing postsecondary education environment.
  • Enhance Faculty Engagement – Through capacity building, pedagogical development and course redesign, engage faculty more deeply in their work to ensure they are a key part of your transformation. 
  • Improve Student Success, Retention, Engagement, and Completion-  Using the Gardner Institute’s proven processes and academies, you will create a more engaged and satisfied student body, fostering a positive and vibrant campus community.
  • Enhance your strategic plan or your reaccreditation process.  Bundling Gardner Institute processes and academies will only save you money,  ensuring that institutional transformation remains a key priority so that all students can graduate!

No one needs to convince you that education changes lives. You’re already there, committed to making higher education more equitable and accessible. Start your journey here.

Ensure your institution’s foundational postsecondary experience is leading to student success and retention with transformative system redesign.

Transforming the Foundational Postsecondary Experience ™ focuses on closing performance gaps and improving student success outcomes in ways that move toward eliminating factors such as demographics and zip code as the best predictors of who gets to graduate.

The Foundational Postsecondary Experience refers to the critical first two years of college education and typically involves the accumulation of sixty semester credits toward a degree. Through a process of system redesign, institutions participating in the effort will develop and implement plans over a five-year period to close inequitable performance gaps, enhance teaching and learning practices, and promote student success, completion, and retention.

Join the Second Cohort

Key Features

Your journey will begin with the discovery phase. A key component of that phase is the Institutional Transformation Assessment which is a process to help postsecondary institutions reflect on existing student success efforts and the organizational structures that support them. Your institution will learn more about its areas of strength and improvement, which are a critical input to prioritizing and planning further action to enhance equitable student success.

The Institutional Transformation Assessment is driven by a Sensemaking Conversation, which is a facilitated meeting that enables deep reflection with a diverse, cross-functional group of institutional leaders, faculty, and staff.

The Sensemaking Conversation is informed by an online perception survey – which provides insight into current perceptions of student success activities by different stakeholders on a campus. This survey generates custom individual and aggregate reports.

The perception survey is supported by rubrics. They drive broad reflection across 11 unique but integrated topic areas central to institutional transformation for equitable student success. The rubrics for these topics were created by leading experts in each subject area.

The entire process is described in a robust set of guides, tools, templates, and resources designed for facilitators and participants at intermediaries and institutions.

It takes an extraordinary amount of time and dedication to make significant changes; there is no magic bullet. Committing to a five-year process helps solidify an institutes commitment to the communities they serve.

You will have the full support of the entire Gardner Institute Staff as you create and complete your journey, while also having a dedicated Relationship Manager who will guide you on your journey throughout the process.

You will not be in this work alone, you will join a cohort of 7-12 institutions who are also at the same place in the journey, as well as teams from previous cohorts. Cohort 1 began in June 2023.

The Institute’s team of data security and informatics experts provide technological support to ensure your university can run a successful and secure Transformation project.


Discovery Phase

An initial phase (spanning approximately the first six months) where Gardner Institute staff work with institutions to identify redundancies, gaps, capacities, readiness, and abilities.

Capacity Development and Planning Phase

Launched during the first year of the project, this phase establishes and strengthens the directions and conditions for implementation success including: ●Institutional data capacity and evaluation development ●Institutional senior leadership (Boards and Cabinets) capacity development ●Institutional unit leadership (Deans and department heads) capacity development ●Faculty development

Initial Redesign Phase

Deep support for redesigning various aspects of the foundational college experience (launched during the second year of the approach) informed by the results of the initial discovery phase. Areas for deeper work with the Gardner Institute and partners include: ●Redesign of the first college year (first-year experience) ●Redesign of the gateway course experience – both course structures and pedagogy ●Redesign of curricula – especially through the application of curricular analytics that expose inefficient and inequitable design and outcomes ●Ongoing leadership capacity development

Ongoing Redesign and Scaling

Ongoing scaling, evaluation, capacity development, continuous improvement, and national dissemination support including: ●Scaling and refinement support ●Dashboards and other means to track leading, intermediate, and long-term performance measures to make sure that the strategies are operationalized and harmonized to yield the desired goal – so every student can graduate ●Ongoing capacity development for leadership ●National rating effort (optional)


Now accepting applications on a rolling basis. This work is supported in part by Ascendium Education Group, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the ECMC Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation.

Fees are based on an institution’s undergraduate enrollment and are available by emailing for more information.

Currently accepting applications for Cohort 2 A and 2 B.

Funding Partners

Logo of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Logo for the ECMC Foundation in green and white on a blue background


colleges and universities have participated in one or more of our services and over 4 million students served.
73.9% of students leave during the Foundational Postsecondary Experience
0 %
made by participants in retention revenue for every $1 used to work with us
$ 0

In the News:

View a news story on the inaugural cohort from one of our 11  inaugural cohort institutions:

Louisiana State University Shreveport joins initiative hoping to transform early college experience

Read how transformation work impacts students in the second-year:

Inside Higher Ed- Preventing Second Year Stop-Outs

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