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Change in Academia Through Applied-research: The Laboratory for Student Success (CATALYST)

CATALYST supports the transformation and improvement of nonprofit four-year residential colleges and universities to enhance student success and well-being. We assist institutions in multi-year collaborations to identify problem areas and create specific policies and practices to improve student outcomes and well-being—enhancing the overall value proposition for college students.

CATALYST’s research has identified key areas in which colleges and universities can make changes that will improve both the value students gain from their experience as well as their overall well-being and performance during their time as students. They include:

  • Assessing and redesigning student-facing processes to ensure effective, student-centered design: Financial aid, registration, IT, accounts receivable, advising, counseling, academic support, career planning, health care, dining, residence life, and other functions, to name a few, can be better integrated and aligned, both to improve ease of use, reduce operational costs and to anticipate and address common issues students face. A holistic and integrated approach is considered in better serving students. Both systems redesign and technology are engaged in this goal.
  • Improving direct support for students and focusing on equity: Increasing expectations, higher stakes, increased society polarization, and the public nature of what was once personal (via social media) require an increased level of support and interaction with students. To deliver this, the role of the advisor is reconsidered as more of a case manager, who can provide a more integrated and personalized form of support to the student, with greater frequency and continuity. Effectively designed and managed student coaching, advising, timely access to the array of support services, and their oversight has proven to increase student engagement, academic progress, and completion.
  • Recommitting to the core values of Liberal Education: In addition to gaining the skills that will help students thrive in a career, students must be given opportunities to build the interests and self-awareness that will help them live a fulfilling life and consider the importance of their own civic engagement in a democratic society.