New Book Cites Mason as a Model for Student Success

Posted: May 10, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

A new book published by the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) cites George Mason University as a model institution with policies and practices that are especially powerful in helping students succeed in college. Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter discusses 20 colleges and universities across the country chosen several years ago to participate in the study Project DEEP (Documenting Effective Educational Practices). The book is a result of the study.

Educators from the study Project DEEP, which was conducted by AAHE and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), made campus visits to George Mason in 2002 and 2003, interviewing students, faculty, and administrators to learn what the university does to engage students in educationally effective practices and support student persistence and graduation. The schools selected for the study met two primary criteria: they had higher-than-predicted graduation rates, and they had higher-than-predicted NSSE benchmark scores.

According to the book, Project DEEP institutions share six features that foster student engagement and persistence:

  • A “living” mission and “lived” educational philosophy

  • An unshakeable focus on student learning

  • Environments adapted for educational enrichment

  • Clearly marked pathways to student success

  • An improvement-oriented ethos

  • Shared responsibility for educational quality and student success

Student Success in College praises Mason for not only promoting student engagement and involvement, but also taking measures to retain students. It highlights Mason as involving commuter students in campus programming and recognizing the value and experience nontraditional students bring to the classroom.

Many of Mason’s programs were highlighted in the book, including Writing Across the Curriculum, the STAR Center, and the Technology Assistants Program. The DEEP scholars also discussed Mason’s Robinson scholars program, which, thanks to a bequest from the late Clarence J. Robinson more than 20 years ago, has allowed the university to appoint to the faculty distinguished professors in the liberal arts and sciences who are dedicated to teaching undergraduates. The book also praises New Century College for its Living and Learning Programs, which provide students with opportunities to integrate their academic studies and social life. New Century College, the book proclaims, encourages “frequent and meaningful interaction between students and faculty, team teaching within interdisciplinary learning communities, and experiential learning requirements, including writing-intensive projects.”

Diversity was another aspect of Mason that was emphasized as a principle for promoting student success. “The diverse student body plays a significant role in creating an enriching educational environment,” said the editors. They added, “According to several student leaders, Mason’s diverse student population was a huge influence on their choice of—and satisfaction with—the institution.”

Project DEEP educators conclude the book with suggestions and practical advice on how to promote student success based on what they learned in their study. The book can be ordered through the University Bookstore or online at It is also available with a 15 percent discount at this web site.

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