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Rising higher ed leaders tackle campus challenges in EAB’s fellowship

December 14, 2023, By Logan Morris, Associate Director

EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship is a six-month, cohort-based experience that aims to build community, develop a depth of expertise in the topics and issues that matter most to institutional strategy, and provide focused professional skills development from EAB industry experts. Our second cohort concluded in December 2021, our third cohort wrapped up in spring 2022, our fourth occurred in fall 2022, our fifth occurred in spring 2023, and our sixth concluded in December 2024. All cohorts ended with presentations of the fellows’ capstone projects.

In each session, the fellows gained depth in new topics or terrains, developed leadership skills, and built a network with peers from institutions across the country. The topics covered included student success, budget models, change management, and more. The culminating experience for the EAB Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship was the capstone project that substantively contributed to the fellows’ professional advancement and helped solve a pressing challenge facing their home institutions.

In addition to the content from the subject-matter expertise and professional skills development sessions, the fellows also had access to EAB’s research library and experts, and they were paired with a partner to help develop ideas and get feedback along the way. In many cases, partners jointly completed a project that benefitted both institutions.

Below are a few of the key themes that appeared in multiple capstone projects from past participants. Scroll down to read about each of the capstone projects in the fellows’ own words.

Improve student persistence toward college and toward graduation by:

  • Incentivizing faculty to engage in student advising and mentoring
  • Encouraging students to develop a college-going mindset
  • Offering completion and retention grants
  • Making sure the right students and mentors are getting into peer mentoring programs

Encourage lifelong learning through:

  • Innovative educational offerings and delivery methods
  • Applying an equity lens to recruitment, programming, support, and partnerships
  • Strong retention for online undergraduate programs

Embrace transformational change for the institution by:

  • Becoming carbon neutral in the next two decades
  • Reviewing and updating the institution’s core curriculum
  • Moving the institution’s strategic goals from promise to reality
  • Linking the institution’s strategic plan to academic change and the institution’s mission

Fall 2023 capstone project summaries

The fall 2023 cohorts’ capstone projects addressed a broad range of challenges in higher education. Fellows examined topics from total rewards and preparing for the future of work, to gap year programs and student success coaching.

The blog posts below are written by the participants to showcase their project and early outcomes.

Note: The views and opinions in the blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Academic Affairs

Rebuilding curriculum for an interdisciplinary restructure
Elizabeth Halpin, Vice Dean, Continuing Education and Professional Studies and Undergraduate Director, Buccino Leadership Institute, Seton Hall University

Promoting faculty wellness and reducing burnout through information access and leadership education
Kimberly Grainger, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Policy, North Carolina State University

Reimagining academic program review
David Houghton, Chair, School of Business, Oklahoma Baptist University

Analyzing data on classroom engagement to advance inclusive pedagogy
Cherilyn Lacy, Assistant Dean of Faculty, Hartwick College

Cowboy Up: Upskilling today’s learners for the future of work
Stephanie Link, Faculty Fellow for Strategic Initiatives and Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and Technology, Oklahoma State University

Career and academic fusion: Establishment of a dedicated education unit (DEU)
Victoria Morell, Director Career Services and Talent Partner, Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Business Affairs and Campus Operations

How the Colorado School of Mines approaches compensation and total rewards
Brandy Malatesta, Director, Total Rewards, Colorado School of Mines

Efficiency in higher ed: introducing the “BEST” team
Emily Weers, Executive Director, Academic Accounting & Business Services, Texas A&M University

Budget model evaluation and revision
Isho Tama-Sweet, PhD, CPA, Department Chair of the College of Business, University of Montana

Budget model evaluation and change at the University of Arkansas
Cale Fessler, Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget, Financial Planning, and Business Affairs, University of Arkansas

Develop an enterprise risk management (ERM) framework for your institution
Bruce Griffin, Chief Compliance and Risk Officer, Towson University

Safeguarding campus life: Vanderbilt University’s security approach
Patrick Retton, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief of Operations, Vanderbilt University

Enhancing campus operations: Addressing transportation and parking issues at Lewis & Clark College
Bill Curtis, Associate Vice President of Student Life Operations & Strategic Initiatives, Lewis & Clark College

Enrollment and Marketing

The transfer credit conundrum: why are transfer applicants not yielding?
Tara Arneson, Registrar, Champlain College

Building a comprehensive prospect-to-applicant model
Jennifer Lee, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Systems, University of North Texas

Attracting and retaining students using gap year programs
Janice Pittman, Associate Professor of Management, Union University

Leveraging institutional research in admission criteria changes
Gina King, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

Navigating 4+1 strategies for enrollment growth: a journey of innovation and collaboration
Jaime L. Caruso, MA, Director of Graduate Admissions, Mercy University

Realigning instructional capacity with student demand: Implementing strategies to address changing enrollment patterns
Dr. Matt Applegate, Associate Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, Molloy University


Developing a strategic plan dashboard at Eastern Mennonite University
Sara Halteman, Director of Institutional Research & Effectiveness, Eastern Mennonite University

Key factors to creating effective advisory boards or councils
Kerri Carlyon, Director of Development, Stetson University

Employee engagement through leadership development
Kristen Craig, Interim Dean at Saskatchewan Polytechnic

First moves: Implementing Western’s global engagement plan
Nancy Stewart, Executive Director and Senior Advisor to the President, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada

Student Success and Well-being

Exploring and initiating a well-being model for East Tennessee State University
Michelle Byrd, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, East Tennessee State University

Advancing access and outcomes: admissions and advising for first-generation graduate students
Robert Lyons, Director of Academic Programs & Operations, Georgetown University

Exploring strategies to improve student success in an accelerated weekend program
Kathleen Apollon-Ferron, RN MSN CCRN, Program Director, Undergraduate Nursing Weekend Program, Mercy University

How UNC Charlotte created a Coordinated Care Network to manage student success campaigns
LeeFredrick Bowen, Director of Advising System, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Elevating advising at Butler University
Robbie Lopez-Shue, Executive Director, Student Success, Butler University

Developing a university impact response team at Denison University
Richard Brown, MA, Associate Dean of Student Life and Director of the Center for Belonging and Inclusion, Denison University

Assessing student success coaching at Kansas Wesleyan University
Joseph Koons, Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and Success, Kansas Wesleyan University

Spring 2023 capstone project summaries

The fellows in the spring 2023 cohort tackled a variety of campus problems with their capstone projects. Projects addressed topics such as annual giving, student retention, professional and continuing education, academic program planning, and more.

The blog posts below are written by the participants to showcase their project and early outcomes.

Note: The views and opinions in the blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Academic Affairs

Improving completion rates in gateway courses: Applying a root cause analysis model and equity lens
Betsy Dunn-Williams, Dean of Academic Success, Campbell University

Academic transformation framework implementation: Enhancing professional practice in higher education
Dr. Denise Brown, Associate Dean of Health Sciences, The Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Administration of cross-college interdisciplinary academic programs
Jamie Dyer, Interim Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, Mississippi State University

Necessary infrastructure to support interdisciplinary programs
Kimber McKay, Interim Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, University of Montana

Assessing online courses—OSCQR rubric
George Rus, Assistant Dean for Online Education, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Implementing a caseload management model in a newly centralized division
Melissa Grant, Associate Dean of Advisement, Office of the Provost, Pace University


Activating and retaining undergraduate alumni as annual donors
Margo Thomas, Executive Director of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving, Stetson University

How the University of the Ozarks engaged local alumni
Brian Henderson, Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement, University of the Ozarks

Enrollment and Marketing

Increasing adult learners’ success: Retention and belonging
Barbara Andrew, Honors College dean at William Paterson University of New Jersey

Finding new ways to recruit the ever-elusive non-athlete
Conner Ellinghuysen, Director of Admissions, Buena Vista University

Developing an undergraduate student retention strategic plan
Donna Mohr, Director of Student Retention, Lehigh University

Re-Envisioning a Doctorate of Nusing Practice (DNP) program
Daisy Sherry, Associate Dean, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Lewis University 


UMBC’s journey to better staff recruitment
Kelly Coleman, HR Director, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Design strategy for continuing and professional education at the University of Texas at Dallas
Lance K. L. Bennett, Associate Director of Assessment and Accreditation, Office of Institutional Success and Decision Support, the University of Texas at Dallas

Student Success

Exploring the impact of high school course rigor on student success in college
Mary Venezia, Chief of Staff, Enrollment Management, University of Arizona

Trauma-informed practices in higher education: Building support communities from the top down
Joanna Krueger, Associate Professor of Chemistry, UNC Charlotte

Enhancing a sense of belonging in the classroom
Dr. Anisa Hansen, Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Drake University

Fall 2022 capstone project summaries

The fellows in the fall 2022 cohort tackled a variety of campus problems with their capstone projects. Projects addressed topics such as program review, data strategy, budget models, enrollment growth, and more.

The blog posts below are written by the participants to showcase their project and early outcomes.

Note: The views and opinions in the blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Academic Affairs

Going beyond program review: Utilizing converging data sources to strategically assess departments
William Chura, Associate Provost for Research and Educational Effectiveness, Lewis University

Faculty orientations and continuing a culture of mentoring 
Kristen McCauliff, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professional Development, Ball State University

Oklahoma cooperative extension service: Family and consumer sciences
Gina Peek, Associate Dean, Extension Engagement and Continuing Education, Oklahoma State University

Business Affairs

IT project intake and institutional prioritization process
Jennifer Ferfolja, CBAP, PMP, Director, ICT Enterprise Solutions and Projects, Wilfrid Laurier University

Graduate assistantship budgeting and growth model
Jordan Johnson, Associate Provost, Business Affairs and Analysis, University of Alabama

Developing a budget forecasting model and budget dashboards at Buena Vista University
Courtney Berg, Director of Finance & Administration/Controller, Buena Vista University

Lehigh University’s data strategy: A roadmap to a university’s analytics transformation
Yenny Anderson, Vice Provost for Institutional Research and Strategic Analytics, Lehigh University

Enrollment and Marketing

Louisiana State University’s “Strategize Your Summer” initiative
Anna Bartel, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Strategic Analytics, Louisiana State University

Growing undergraduate online enrollment
Michael Harrington, AVP, Strategic Enrollment Services, Drexel University

Enrollment design project: The student experience from admission to alumni
Heather Veeder, Assistant Vice President of Student Success, Policy, and Planning, Eastern Washington University

Improve the precision of student enrollment forecasting
Jeff Pidcock, Director of Budgeting and Business Transformation, Miami University


Controlling the narrative at Howard University
Joanne R. Pluff, AVP of Student Experience, Howard University

An agile solution to higher ed problem solving
Kimberly Langolf, Chief of Staff, Finance and Administration, University Affairs, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Student Success

Removing institutional barriers to student success
Andrea Mostyn, Director of Strategic Communication, Missouri State University

The ever-persistent ROI question: What is my degree worth?
Dr. Tori McLean Good, Executive Director of Career Development, Converse University

University Research

Supporting research in a world of finite resources
Christopher Tycner, Associate Dean of College of Science and Engineering, Central Michigan University

Spring 2022 capstone project summaries

The fellows in the spring 2022 cohort used their capstone projects to explore an array of challenges. Many tackled improving student success, retention, and equity at their institutions, while others focused on budget models and streamlining administrative processes.

The blog posts below are written by the participants to showcase their project and early outcomes.

Note: The views and opinions in the blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.


Advancing the culture of philanthropy on campus by engaging employee support
Emily VanderWoude, CFRE, Director of Leadership Giving, Hood College

Academic Affairs

Supporting writing instruction in STEM courses
Megan Brown, Director of Writing, Drake University

Business Affairs

Budget alignment and transparency in higher ed
Russ Hannah, Ed.D., CPA, CGMA, CGFM, Chief Financial Officer, Arkansas State University

Expanding higher ed leadership competency to increase employee satisfaction, decrease risks and reduce costs
Raymond Hess, Director of Human Resources, Colorado School of Mines

Optimizing the policy development process in the University of Wisconsin System
Stefan Fletcher, Director of Administrative Policy, University of Wisconsin System

Managing the identification and adoption of a new budget model
Sandy Cavi, Associate Vice President for Budget & Planning, Illinois State University


A WISE (women in science and engineering) approach to STEM
Christine DeWolf, Professor and Vice-Dean, Concordia University

Anti-racism training in medicine: strategies for all learners
Jocelyn Mitchell-Williams, M.D., Ph.D., Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

Fostering sense of belonging among Black undergraduate students
Melissa McGuire, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, University of North Texas

Developing tools to support campus DEIJ initiatives
Winston Roberts, Assistant Vice President for Student Services, Seton Hall University

Enrollment and Marketing

Enrollment management strategies to win market share
Darlene Dilley, Associate Provost for Enrollment Management, Utah Tech University

Centralizing noncredit enrollment management
Josh Goldman, Director of Conference Centers, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Student Affairs

Elevating student employment experience to a high-impact practice
Mary Anderson, Director, Career Services, The College of St. Scholastica

Student Success

Improving success for pre-health students
Joe Fritsch, Ph.D., Divisional Dean of Natural Science, Seaver College, Pepperdine University

Where and when grant-funded interventions can increase student retention
Dan Regan, Associate VP for External Relations, College of Mount Saint Vincent

Graduate financial aid practices that best serve students
Stevie Dunphy, Director of Business and Finance, Office of Student Financial Services at Georgetown University

Eliminating the shuffle: reviewing the coordination of first-year advisors, coaches, and counselors
Carlos R. A. Jones, MFA, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and Coordinator of Africana Studies, SUNY College at Buffalo

Increasing course completion rates through faculty development in student engagement pedagogy
Michele Atkins, Professor of Education and Assistant Provost for Accreditation and Research, Union University

Optimizing success for students who change campuses
Eric Bielefeld, Professor of Speech and Hearing Science, The Ohio State University

Supporting transfer student enrollment and completion goals Identifying factors that influence course success rates
Tracey Baham, Ph.D, Assistant Vice President, Institutional Strategy & Effectiveness, Mississippi State University

University Research

Supporting undergraduate research and challenging assumptions
R. Gabe Cavazos, Assistant Vice President for Research Data and Information Systems, University of Texas at Dallas

2021 capstone project summaries

The 66 fellows in the 2021 cohort tackled a wide range of issues in their capstone projects, reflecting the diversity of institutions and professional experiences of the participants. Several fellows deeply examined student success at their institutions, specifically focusing on equity issues. Others made recommendations for improving campus sustainability, building stronger online programs, and adjusting graduate tuition rates.

The blog posts below are written by the participants to showcase their project and early outcomes.

Note: The views and opinions in the blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Academic Program Planning

Academic program stewardship
Joe Bruner, William McDonnell and Sarah Simpson, University of Kentucky

Building a department chairs’ academy—no longer a forgotten chair
Cynthia Lester, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Georgia State University Perimeter College

Cross-departmental collaboration for innovation and impact
Paula Mills, Chief of Staff and Operations, College of Agricultural Sciences, Colorado State University

Fiscal literacy for department chairs
Joe Lewandowski, Director of Resource Planning, University of Buffalo

How academic units can show alignment with and measure progress towards university goals
Colleen Karnas-Haines, Director of Assessment, Planning, and Accreditation, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Rethinking the academic affairs organizational structure
Nina Bates, Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives, Office of the Provost, University of Arizona

Business Affairs

Evaluating opportunities for external partnerships
Emily Hochstatter, Director of Risk Management and Administrative Initiatives, Northern Illinois University

How is burnout related between faculty, staff, and students?
Terry Longshore, DMA, Chair/Professor of Music, Southern Oregon University

Improving employee engagement through continuous feedback
Alana Lardizabal, Director of Human Resources, Southern Oregon University

Streamlining internal hiring processes and procedures through process improvement
Breanne Holloway, Assistant Director of Organizational Development and Learning, Ball State University


Improve campus DEI responses through practice discussions
Shelley Fairbairn, Professor of Education, Drake University

Building a purposeful DEIJ infrastructure at Mercy College
Andrés Matías-Ortiz, Interim Dean, School of Liberal Arts, Mercy College

Developing best practices for equitable faculty hiring
Amy Walker, University of Texas at Dallas

Making an institution a “first choice” for underrepresented students
Mario Silva-Rosa, Director for Undergraduate Admission, Bentley University

Strategies for improving graduate DEIJ enrollment pipelines
Lionel Wright, Associate Interim Dean, Athens State University

Enrollment and Marketing

Adult learners and strategies for success
Christopher Cuccia, Ed.D., Associate Provost for Academic and Graduate Affairs, Seton Hall University
Melissa McCauley, Director of Marketing, Wilfrid Laurier University

Enhancing the attractiveness of joint undergraduate and graduate degrees
Coutney B. Smith, Seton Hall University

Finding and recruiting adult learners
Jordan Lindsey, Director of Admissions, Corban University
Amy West, Assistant Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy, Bowling Green State University


How to explain facilities impacts at the institution level and obtain buy-in
Jen Cox, Missouri State University
Jeremy Davis, Miami University—Ohio
Tanara Teal-Tate, University of Wisconsin—Madison

Student Affairs

How can universities promote access to wellness resources for students?
Shankar Munusamy, Drake University
Erin Van Daalwyk, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

Conducting a diversity and equity campus climate survey
Dr. Chassidy Cooper, PhD, Coordinator for Equity and Inclusion, East Tennessee State University

How to communicate financial information to Gen Z students
Jacqueline Gatlin, Bursar, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus
Melissa Dingman, Director of Scholarship and Financial Aid, Minnesota State University Moorhead

Increasing campus climate survey response rate
Dr. Kacee Ferrell Snyder, Director of the Center for Women & Gender Equity and Co-Director of the Center for Violence Prevention & Education, Bowling Green State University

Student Success

Building the “FirstGen Presidential Fellows” program at Bentley University
Jane De León Griffin, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, Bentley University

Campus communication onboarding guide for new students
Grace Gardner, Director of Academic Affairs, Missoula College, University of Montana
Lexi Stoneburner, Assistant Director of Admissions & Visitor Experience, Converse University

Improving student enrollment and retention through on-campus employment and career development
Erica Wagner, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, Portland State University

Improve student success through digital and technological engagement
Marianne Young, Assistant Vice President for Student Development & Support, University of Kentucky
Carrie Stockton, Associate Vice President of Student Success & Academic Engagement, Biola University

Investments to improve student comfort, success, and retention
Scot Rab, Interim Dean of Academic Affairs for the College of Environment, Forestry, and Natural Science at Northern Arizona University

Motivate faculty to contribute to student retention
Ann Amicucci, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Supporting transfer student enrollment and completion goals
Megan Scherzberg, Director of Orientation, Transition, and Retention, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Roberto Vasquez, Sr. Director for Transfer & Pathways, Central New Mexico Community College

University Research

Optimizing institutional resources for research growth
Nick Hagemeier, Interim Vice Provost for Research, East Tennessee State University

Logan Morris

Associate Director

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