The HEDS Student Success Champions Program supports people at colleges and universities who lead student success projects and helps develop their leadership and change management skills.

We created the HEDS Student Success Champions Program to advance student success efforts at colleges and universities and to help participants develop leadership and change management skills.

Student Success Champions will work with, support, and learn from an interdisciplinary community of practice focused on student success. The community of practice includes other Student Success Champions, the HEDS Directors and staff, HEDS Board members, and leaders with experience in institutional improvement.

Champions will develop their skills as they design and/or implement a student success initiative at their institution. Champions will gain confidence in their leadership abilities and build resilience to work through challenges that threaten to derail institutional change efforts.

We are currently accepting applications for the 2025 cohort of Student Success Champions.

The program is open to any employee at a 2-year or 4-year, public or private, non-profit higher education institution—including faculty, student affairs professionals, administrators, assessment professionals, and institutional researchers—who is, or will soon be, leading a student success project and has support from their institution.

Each Student Success Champion will participate in the program for a two-year term. We expect Champions to attend four meetings each year (two face-to-face and two virtual).

If your institution is a member of HEDS, we do not charge a program fee to participate; your institution will only be responsible for the cost of your travel, food, and lodging for the two face-to-face meetings each year. If your institution does not belong to HEDS, we charge a one-time, $1,000 program fee and the cost of your travel, food, and lodging for the two face-to-face meetings each year.

The cost of each face-to-face meeting, which covers three nights of lodging, food, and transportation between the Indianapolis International Airport and Wabash College, will be around $725. We can provide additional nights of lodging to accommodate flight schedules at $125-$150 per night.

We will help Student Success Champions develop their skills and support their projects with:
  • Two face-to-face meetings each year that focus on helping Student Success Champions develop practical leadership skills: including approaches to engaging the support of academic leaders, using evidence to advance projects, building coalitions, working with challenging faculty and staff, and keeping projects moving forward in dynamic institutional environments.
  • Two hour-long virtual check-ins each year between small groups of Champions and HEDS leaders for updates on their projects, troubleshooting obstacles, and honing plans for next steps.
  • Ongoing consultations that will focus on real-time troubleshooting to help the Champions sharpen their projects and overcome barriers.
One hesitation I had when applying was that I didn’t know exactly what project I wanted to focus on or whether any project would be worthy enough for two years worth of a program. There ended up being no reason to worry about this at all, because the program is so much more than providing time and support to focus on a single project, and that was apparent right away. The opportunity to meet new people and hear about their experiences and projects has been great, and the program really does feel like it is about the Champions and not necessarily the project itself. And that being said, I also quickly realized the various directions my project could take, and I credit the Student Success Champions Program for helping open my eyes to that.

Mike Brubaker, University of Pittsburgh (2024 cohort)

This program has offered me the opportunity to challenge myself to find ways to leave my institution better than I found it by creating a project that adds meaning to the work I do to serve students. When entering this program, I considered the professional development I hoped to acquire by collaborating with likeminded professionals with institutional struggles that may or may not be like my own. My cohort has offered me a safe and supportive space to develop a project with objective feedback. I have found that while projects may alter over the course of time, the dedication to student success is unwavering.

Janelle Gibson, Camden County College (2024 cohort)

This program has been an incredible professional development experience. It gave me the boost I needed, personally and professionally. Being part of the HEDS Student Success Champions program also provided extra leverage that was useful on my campus in gaining some key campus partnerships and buy in. [For those considering applying] Do it. This program will give you the encouragement you need to dream, design, and implement a student success program on your campus. Led by Charlie and Kathy and the great team at HEDS, you’ll be part of a warm and supportive group of colleagues from a variety of institutions, who will help you strategize and hone your ideas into an attainable plan. Just as important, you’ll be able to normalize the challenges and struggles of getting a project off the ground and maintaining project momentum in a supportive think tank collective.

Trish Moser, Rollins College (2023 cohort)

If you are thinking about applying, you should! Even if you don’t have a project completely fleshed out, share your ideas for your project in the application. I entered the program with one idea for a project, but that idea morphed and took on new life as I received helpful feedback from other participants. It is a safe and comfortable learning environment that helps participants not just focus on their projects but also their own development.

Jonathan Manz, Lewis & Clark College (2023 cohort)

Working with a cohort of like-minded professionals who ask thoughtful questions, engage in meaningful debate, share their tools, and offer their insights has been the most helpful professional development activity I have participated in, in 15 years, and I’ve been doing this for 27! I highly encourage you to apply for this program, your project will improve, your professional network will expand, and you will be reminded of the joy that comes from making an impact and connecting!

Katy Lowe Schneider, Hanover College (2022 cohort)

The Student Success Champions program gives you dedicated time and positive accountability to pick something you’re really passionate about and make it happen. It’s an opportunity to break out of the daily grind and work on something exciting and proactive! While each Student Success Champion does focus on a specific project or program, it is ultimately a professional development opportunity for the champions themselves. If your project needs to change, change it! If your project needs to be scrapped completely and rethought, lean on your Student Success Champion colleagues and do it! The HEDS staff are invested in you, your development, and your students far more so than the project on your application.

Lainie Sowell, Linfield University (2022 cohort)

The HEDS Student Success Champions program has been helpful in providing space to think about my project, colleagues who share great ideas and excitement for making positive change, and both inspiration and accountability for continuing to make strides in what I set out to accomplish. One of the best parts of this program is getting to know people with a variety of roles. Although the time commitment might seem large, the time is so well spent. I come away from each meeting feeling reinvigorated and ready to take the next step in my work.

Lauren Feiler, St. Olaf College (2022 cohort)

The Student Success Champions was a very worthwhile program. Not only have I been connected to a new network of colleagues, but it’s been a great resource for feedback and assessment skill elevation for my project. I appreciate the enthusiasm, the atmosphere, and the reminder of why retention and student engagement are fundamental to our work in higher education.

Timeka Rashid, Baldwin Wallace University (2022 cohort)

To apply, please download the program description and application by clicking on the red button above.

The application process will consist of answering questions about your interest in the program and the project you’d like to work on and providing a letter of support from an administrator at your institution.

The deadline to apply for the 2025 cohort of Student Success Champions will be September 20, 2024. We will be announcing this cohort on November 15, 2024 and their two-year term will start in January 2025.

We open applications for a new cohort every year in July.

If you have questions about the program please email Charlie Blaich and Kathy Wise.

Important Dates

July 1, 2024 – Call for applications for 2025 Cohort opens

July 16-19, 2024 – 2023 and 2024 Cohorts meeting at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, IN

September 20, 2024 – 2025 Cohort application deadline

October 2024 – 2023 and 2024 Cohorts virtual update meetings – hour-long, individually scheduled small groups

November 15, 2024 – HEDS announces 2025 Student Success Champions

January 8-11, 2025 – 2024 and 2025 Cohorts meeting at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, IN

April and/or May 2025 – 2024 and 2025 Cohorts virtual update meetings – hour-long, individually scheduled small groups

July 29-August 1, 2025 – 2024 and 2025 Cohorts meeting at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, IN

October 2025 – 2024 and 2025 Cohorts virtual update meetings – hour-long, individually scheduled small groups