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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Minnesota State Mankato Selected to Participate in Major AASCU Initiative

"Re-Imagining the First Year of College Project" is sweeping initiative aimed at enhancing student success.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office News Release, 2-11-2016

Mankato, Minn. – Minnesota State University, Mankato has been selected by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to participate in the three-year “Re-Imagining the First Year of College” (RFY) project, a sweeping initiative aimed at transforming the first year of college to enhance students’ success in their undergraduate years and in the 21st century workplace.

According to the AASCU, the first year of college has emerged as the critical barrier to student success, the point at which undergraduate institutions experience the greatest loss of students. The objective of the RFY project is to help project participants – and ultimately the broader AASCU membership of 420 state colleges and universities – to implement changes that enhance the first-year student experience and increase student retention and graduation rates, particularly among historically underserved populations.

Minnesota State Mankato President Richard Davenport said being chosen to participate in the RFY project was recognition of the University as a state and national leader in its commitment to ensuring first-year student success.

“Minnesota State Mankato’s participation in this project reflects our institution’s reputation as a leader in serving students, but more importantly, it demonstrates that we are seeking new and innovative ways to help our first-year students be successful,” said Davenport. “The RFY project exemplifies the ‘Big ideas’ and ‘Real-world thinking’ that we encourage our students to use in transforming their own lives and today’s world.”

Marilyn Wells, Minnesota State Mankato’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said that participating in this project would allow Minnesota State Mankato to build on the University’s recently completed academic master plan and provide an intentional path forward for the University.

“It’s an honor for Minnesota State Mankato to be among just 10 percent of public universities nationwide selected to be part of the ‘Re-Imagining the First Year of College’ project,” said Wells. “The project aligns with our academic master plan and prepares us to be a public steward to the state of Minnesota’s future. Through this project, Minnesota State Mankato will have the opportunity to be immersed in and contribute to national thought leadership on students’ first year of college. It will also provide the University access to national experts and a full array of research-proven strategies we can implement to have a transformative impact on student success.”

As part of AASCU’s RFY project, Minnesota State Mankato will select and implement proven, innovative strategies and programs, adapting them to the campus’s unique environment and needs. The evidence-based strategies focus on four core areas to help first-year students succeed: institutional intentionality, curriculum, faculty and staff roles, and student roles. Minnesota State Mankato also will participate in a learning community along with the 43 other state colleges and universities selected for RFY. The learning community will enable RFY participants to attend national conferences and educational webinars, receive one-on-one mentoring, access online tools and resources, and share ideas, successful strategies and lessons learned with each other.

“We are pleased that these AASCU institutions will commit their enormous talent and knowledge to the success of this initiative, which I believe will have a profound effect on undergraduate education in the 21st century,” said George Mehaffy, vice president for academic leadership and change at AASCU. “The state colleges and universities we selected for RFY represent a broad swath of the institutional landscape and exhibit strong leadership and other qualities that are conducive to effecting broad-scale and sustainable change. Together, with the engagement of all campus stakeholders – from students to academic leadership – we will strive to transform the first-year student experience and ensure student success,” he added.

AASCU began the RFY initiative with academic leaders attending the association’s 2016 Academic Affairs Winter Meeting in Austin, Texas, from Feb. 4-6. RFY is being funded by generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds.

Minnesota State Mankato is one of two institutions from the state of Minnesota selected to participate in the project. St. Cloud State University was also selected.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 15,193 students, is part of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, which comprises 31 state institutions.

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