The authors of The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most (2016) set out to discover what practices, perspectives, and values have the most impact on undergraduate education. Unlike many recent books on higher education, this book takes a positive, proactive approach to the student experience, focusing on what institutions can do right, rather than what they have been doing wrong.
First among their principles is learning: “the preeminent purpose of undergraduate education is student learning.” They cite high-impact practices—such as capstones, internships, and writing-intensive courses—and co-curricular opportunities as particularly effective for students. Other principles focus on relationships, expectations, alignment, improvement, and leadership. One of the overarching themes of the book, which draws case studies from a wide range of institutions, is that everyone on campus plays a role in student success. Having strong relationships and alignment among individuals, offices, and units will help us to serve our students better and also provide a richer and more engaging environment for faculty and staff. Ultimately, it’s a win-win!