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University of Iowa News Release

July 15, 2005

New Center Formed To Study Undergraduate Education

The University of Iowa College of Education has launched a new center dedicated to the study of undergraduate education in America, from how academics and social experiences affect students to the methods used by schools to improve students' chances for success in the classroom and beyond graduation.

The Center for Research on Undergraduate Education (CRUE) will be co-directed by two UI faculty members internationally renowned for their research of undergraduate education, Ernest T. Pascarella, the Mary Louise Petersen Professor of Higher Education at the UI, and Elizabeth J. Whitt, professor and coordinator of graduate programs in student affairs.

CRUE's mission is to "implement and disseminate research and scholarship which foster understanding of effective undergraduate education." The center plans to fulfill that mission by pursuing and coordinating research and funding initiatives among CRUE faculty and graduate students, and by disseminating research results to national, regional and state audiences via its own publications, refereed journals, scholarly meetings, professional conferences and other means.

"The long-term vision for CRUE is national and international recognition as the premier interdisciplinary center conducting, promoting and disseminating high-quality research on the impact of college and the conditions for student success," Pascarella and Whitt said.

Pascarella, who brings a wealth of quantitative research to the center, is the author of the seminal, two-volume "How College Affects Students," which Phi Delta Kappa International named in 2001 one of the 100 most important and influential books about U.S. colleges and universities in the 20th century.

Whitt, whose background is in qualitative research, is most recently a co-author of "Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter," which examines schools that have navigated burgeoning student populations, lagging state support and other challenges to create environments where students thrive. Jamie P. Merisotis, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C., called the volume "one of the most important and timely books ever written about what makes an engaged -- and successful -- student in today's colleges and universities."

Pascarella, who works in the college's Education Policy and Leadership Studies Department, said the center provides an organizing framework for research that has been ongoing in the UI College of Education, as well as for future projects. He said CRUE will allow researchers to seek out grants and other funding in a more coordinated manner, create a community of and for researchers at Iowa and nationally, and give greater visibility to the college as a leader in undergraduate education research.

Already, the center is involved in several research projects, including a study commissioned by the UI Office of the Provost of the experiences and outcomes of undergraduate education at the UI and slated to begin this fall. Additional funding for CRUE-related research projects is coming from the Wabash Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, the Association for Institutional Research and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, as well as from the UI College of Education itself.

"There really is no other center nationally that does the kind of work we do," Pascarella said. "We're going to focus on what we do best."

Given Pascarella's background in quantitative research, and Whitt's in qualitative research, Whitt, who works in the college's Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation and Student Development, said CRUE will bring a "methodologically balanced" approach to the study of undergraduate education.

The pair said the creation of the center coincides with rising interest in improving the quality of undergraduate education across the country.

"Baccalaureate attainment rates vary widely, and nearly one out of five four-year colleges and universities graduates less than one-third of their first-time, full-time, degree-seeking, first-year students within six years -- a rate most see as unacceptable," they said. "Calls for more effective means to foster undergraduate success for a wider population of students and more meaningful research about college student experiences are featured in higher education publications and professional association agendas, as well as the popular press."

CRUE, they say, will allow the UI to systematically pursue these research agendas. Through their research and scholarship, faculty in the UI College of Education have made substantial contributions to the national conversation about undergraduate education and the growing body of knowledge about college impact and outcomes. During the past five years, these faculty have secured about $1.7 million in external funding for research on effective undergraduate education.

CRUE becomes the ninth center operating within the UI College of Education. The others are the Center for Advanced Studies in Measurement and Assessment (CASMA), the Center for Evaluation and Assessment, the Cooperating Schools Program, The Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, the Grant and Research Services Center (GRSC), the Iowa Center for Assistive Technology and Educational Resources (ICATER), the Institute for School Executives and the Iowa Testing Programs.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu; Program: Ernest Pascarella, 319-335-5369, ernest-pascarella@uiowa.edu, or Elizabeth Whitt, 319-335-5290, elizabeth-whitt@uiowa.edu