Foundations of Excellence

During the 2007-2008 academic year, Stony Brook University conducted a self-study of our program for first-year undergraduates, under the guidance of the Policy Center on the First Year of College.  The following is an overview of the Foundations of Excellence® process.  More information can be found at

Foundations of Excellence is a comprehensive, externally guided self-study and improvement process for the first year that enhances an institution's ability to realize its goals for student learning, success, and persistence. The centerpiece of Foundations of Excellence is a model for first-year excellence comprised of a set of principles that are termed Foundational Dimensions®. These Dimensions, developed by the Policy Center on the First Year of College and vetted by over 300 four- and two-year institutions, guide measurement of institutional efforts and provide an aspirational model for the entirety of the beginning college experience. (initial contact with students through admissions, orientation, and all first-year curricular and co-curricular experiences.) These Dimensions also provide an intellectual foundation for the entirety of the undergraduate experience.

The engine of The Foundations of Excellence process is a campus-based task force - a group with broad representation from across the campus. The work of the task force begins with a campus audit of the first year (the "Current Practices Inventory") and continues with a nine- to twelve-month process of evaluation using the Foundational Dimensions and related performance indicators (P.I.'s), and culminates in the development of a strategic action plan for campus improvement. Institutions that participate in the Foundations of Excellence process will have access to a wide array of products and services.   Click here to learn what participants receive.

The Foundations of Excellence process is the signature work of the Policy Center on the First Year of College. The center, founded in October 1999, has enjoyed the support of the following philanthropies for the development of its work: The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Lumina Foundation for Education, USA Funds and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. The Policy Center collaborates with Educational Benchmarking Inc. (EBI) to provide the supporting technology infrastructure and surveys of faculty/staff and students in support of the self-study process.   

Highlights of the Foundations of Excellence Process
Foundations of Excellence is a process that...

  • revitalizes a campus's approach to the first year
  • moves the retention conversation to a more intentional focus on educational quality
  • is the "what's next" for many campuses who have already made significant efforts to improve the beginning college experience
  • moves away from a piecemeal approach to the first year toward an intentional comprehensive approach
  • focuses on institutional behavior rather than student behavior
  • is grounded in more than three decades of reform and research conducted by its principals
  • engages faculty, in addition to other constituent groups, in first-year reform efforts
  • links academic and student affairs in a collegial process
  • involves institutional research / assessment professionals
  • extends beyond unit-level assessment to institution-wide assessment
  • utilizes qualitative assessment supported by quantitative data and external support
  • can be integrated with accreditation-related assessment measurements
  • results in a plan for change leading to significant first-year improvement
  • combines high touch and high tech
  • is a new form of strategic planning for educational improvement