2015 Excelsior partner forum focuses on student success

On September 9, Excelsior College held its 4th annual 2015 Excelsior College Academic Partnership Forum at the Albany, New York campus, hosting a variety of partners from across the United States, for a daylong series of presentations, panels, and activities centered on the success of the average Excelsior College student.

The focal point of this year’s discussion was Student Success for associate and bachelor degree completion. The event provided a partner organizations an opportunity to meet advisors and program chairs, while learning about affordable Excelsior’s offerings and newest innovations.

Chris Montagnino, vice president of Extended Education and CEO of Educators Serving Educators

During the morning session, opening remarks were made by the director of academic partnerships, Lisa Romano, and the vice president of Extended Education and CEO of Educators Serving Educators, Chris Montagnino, as they discussed the importance of the partners’ role in their students’ academic careers.

“It’s critical that we work together to have the best paths for our students to have success” said Montagnino in reference to the partnership experience. Secondly, assistant vice president of Extended Education and CEO of Educators Serving Educators, Chris Gilmore, explains that “Excelsior College was really founded on partnerships with other


The participants watched the first half of “Courageous Learning,” a documentary that focuses on the role of higher education in today’s economy featuring Excelsior College’s president, Dr. John Ebersole. The partners were sent home with informational packets, marketing materials and a copy of the DVD. Hudson Whitman-Excelsior College Press distributed recent books to attendees to take home.

Transfer Shock

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Lisa Romano, director of Academic Partnerships

Lisa Romano’s presentation “Mitigating the Effects of Transfer Shock” focused on risk factors for community college students and how to alleviate the issue firsthand. Romano deemed community college students as “the most at risk students” because their demographic is different from the traditional 18-24 year old student. As with Excelsior’s students, those enrolled in community college are often working adults with full time careers. They attend school part time and in some cases, are the first in their family to attend a collegiate institution.

Research shows that the baccalaureate attainment gap concludes roughly 20 percent to 30 person of community college students fail to earn a bachelor’s degree upon transferring. Romano uses terms like “transfer shock” and “sophomore slump” to further explain her theory on how partner organizations can cater to the needs of these at risk students.

“Transfer Shock” describes the circumstance in which a community college student transitioning to a baccalaureate environment loses academic standing due to trouble adjusting to a new setting. With research, Romano-Arnold has found that students who endure transfer shock have a dip in their GPA after transferring or ultimately decide to drop out because they feel discouraged.

“Sophomore Slump” is used to describe when a community college student in their second year of schooling is feeling unmotivated during their academic track.

During her presentation, Romano outlined her solution, a theory that she argues could help transfer students meet their academic momentum points and milestones.


To alleviate a transfer student’s concern for loss of transfer credits, lack of assimilation into the baccalaureate environment and other barriers, Romano suggests “we need to change the behaviors of students to elicit the desired response…completion,” and Excelsior’s 90/30 Bachelor’s Completion Program is an example of such. By working on encouraging successful competition from the students, partners can help their students reach momentum points, such as a high GPA, and milestones, e.g. attaining their associate’s degree.

The Excelsior College Experience

Excelsior College officials used the forum to paint partners a portrait of the student experience.

Among the initiatives highlighted, included the Student Success Center, which offers a variety of services to its students, ranging from success coaching to outreach and support for newly enrolled students. The executive director of Student Success Center, Dr. Glenn Braddock, spoke about how a new partnership with Inside Track (ITK) will train Excelsior College coaches to “coach students from enrollment up until registration for credit.” The Student Success Center holds value to its students because it provides a consistent first point of contact for newly enrolled and at risk students while providing them with useful learning resources. It will also use data analytics to identify at-risk students and target intervention.

Partner Experiences

After the forum, several partner representatives were asked about their experiences, not only with the event but with Excelsior.

Mary Jane Araldi, director of the Memorial School of Nursing, added that the organization connected with Excelsior “to give the students one more option for completing their bachelor of science in nursing degree.”

Bev Plante, dean of student and faculty development at St. Elizabeth’s College of Nursing, explains that her students benefit from the partnership because it allows them to “receive 30 transfer credits for graduating from our program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam as well as a tuition discount for being an articulated college.” Nursing students account for nearly half of Excelsior’s 38,000 currently enrolled students and partnerships with schools like Memorial School of Nursing and St. Elizabeth’s College of Nursing prove quite popular with nurses seeking a flexible, quality option.

Dr. Hermina Peters, dean of student achievement at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC) in Washington, DC, admits that as a partner, they expect that the “students would have a smooth transition from UDC-CC to Excelsior, credits would be transferred toward major programs of study, and the students would receive the appropriate academic advising” for degree completion.

Paul Hunter, coordinator of transfer advising at Carroll Community College in Maryland, is content with the Excelsior partnership as he praises the College’s faculty and staff for being “very passionate about what they do.”

In total, the following colleges were represented at the event:


To see the full list of all the Community College Partners, please visit excelsior.edu.


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