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Reinventing the Student Experience

About the Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) Initiative

Since 2008, AU’s student body has become more diverse in terms of race, culture, geography, family income, academic preparation, and prior experience. As such, the university’s student support network faces new and significant challenges, including social acclimation, homesickness, depression, and anxiety as well as financial aid and academic preparedness. While facing these challenges, AU has managed to hold freshman-to-sophomore retention at approximately 90%. Unfortunately, a siloed student service model--one that is all too common in higher education—has hampered AU’s efforts to further improve retention.

In light of the changing demographics of the undergraduate student body, the University as a whole—inclusive of Campus Life, Academic Affairs, Enrollment Services, schools and colleges, and business units— should carefully consider how best to support the more diverse student body and ensure that its engagement in AU’s special opportunities, sense of belonging, degree of satisfaction, and retention and graduation rates is carefully monitored and regularly assessed.

The work of the RiSE Task Force and Leadership Steering Committee is unprecedented in AU’s history and represents a scope not previously undertaken by any college or university. We invite members of the AU community to use this site to learn more about the task force; track the progress of the project; and interact with the task force as they address pressing questions relating to the needs of our students and service delivery. Watch for invitations to town hall and other meetings as well as communications containing project updates.

Submit Feedback

If you have an idea or suggestion that you would like to communicate, please do not hesitate to contact the RiSE Task Force Co-Chairs, Fanta Aw, Sharon Alston and Peter Starr, at We look forward to hearing from you.

On a dreary Sunday morning in mid-March, a cross-divisional team of AU leadership trekked through the Bender Arena tunnel, coffee in tow, to board an Adventure Tours charter bus. With a six hour ride on the horizon and the threat of snow looming, the bus was filled to the brim with turkey jerky, Lärabars, and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Enrollment Sharon Alston's famous mint chocolate Oreos. Off to a rocky start, the bus' wifi was malfunctioning. Good thing Associate CIO Kamalika Sandell was aboard to immediately troubleshoot - no helpdesk ticket needed!

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What is it like to be an AU student today? This is a key question the RiSE Assessment Subcommittee grappled with in our efforts to better understand the student experience. The Subcommittee wanted to be sure that we understood what how services work from a student perspective. So, we tried to put ourselves in students' shoes by using an approach based on the principles of "human centered design".

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