Fall 2017

Frontier Set

A Closer Look

UNCG’s long-held commitment to closing achievement gaps is no longer flying under the radar. In March, the university was selected for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Frontier Set, joining 31 educational institutions across the country transforming the way they operate to improve student success in learning, credential or degree completion, and transition to the labor market.

“Targeting the appropriate support to students who face challenges is the formula for student success,” says Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Dana Dunn.

The Frontier Set focuses on three major initiatives: redesigning advising, access to online education, and developmental courses. The project seeks to identify successful strategies to improve graduation rates, especially for low-income and first-generation students and students of color.

“These students have the determination and ‘grit’ required to succeed, and will, with the proper orientation and support along the way,” Dunn says.

Dr. Joseph Green, executive director for retention, progression and completion at UNCG’s Student Success Center, says UNCG was tapped for the award in part thanks to its lack of retention gap related to race. When you break down students by ethnicity, he says, African American females over the last 15 years had the highest retention and graduation rate of all groups.

Frontier Set members have committed to document, collaborate, and share best practices to improve not only their individual performance but to also spur collective progress. By facilitating knowledge sharing within and across sectors, the Frontier Set helps institutions avoid “reinventing the wheel” of promising practices and instead draws on experience from others about what works and why it works for improving student success.

As part of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities cohort within the Frontier Set, UNCG will receive $640,000 over four years to support a range of initiatives, including:

  • Launching a “Summer Bridge” program, starting in 2018, which will help up to 40 incoming students get acclimated to campus life and college curriculum. Students will live on campus at UNCG and take a science or English course as well as a first-year experience course (Foundations for Learning). Their progress will then be tracked and supported steadily throughout their career at UNCG.
  • Creating the “UNCG Chance” program to support college readiness for Latino and Hispanic students, which will help drive stronger connections between students, their families, and the university. This program will include a fully funded, three-day experience on campus over the summer for selected incoming first-year students.
  • Creating a dedicated advising system for selected students, including additional training, support, and tools to help better support at-risk students at the individual level. Advisors will work with Bridge students and others as needed as the program evolves.
  • Enhancing digital learning and online tutoring for academically at-risk students. This includes the creation of weekly online tutorials, supplemental instruction programs, and other uses of technology to better help students manage, learn and succeed in the university environment.

“If we all succeed, we will see substantial increases in the numbers of college graduates,” Dunn says. “Our economy and our society will benefit from the contributions of these educated, informed citizens.


Article by Elizabeth L. Harrison