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EPI’s Executive Institute on Student Success provides an exclusive resource-rich environment for high-level leadership teams to work with select experts in their field to architecturally design solutions around their institution’s current issues in the areas of college access, success, and preparation for the workforce.

Led by the internationally-recognized expert Dr. Watson Scott Swail, developer of the geometric framework for student retention (Swail, 2003), EPI’s Executive Institute on Student Success will strategically bring together some of the most elite education thinkers and practitioners in the US and Canada. The Institute is a living process linking pre- and post- institute participation that will convene members to the elegant FireSky Resort and Spa centrally located in picturesque Scottsdale, Arizona, January 15-17, 2012.

This boutique oasis of elements nestled in the heart of Scottsdale allows participants to engage in an intimate environment discovering current resources of knowledge, people, and networks connected to evolving best practices.

Why Attend?

This event will discuss the critical issues in higher education that impact student success, including financial aid, educational quality, and the nexus of college admissions and student success. Participants will hear from some of the foremost thinkers and practitioners in higher education and engage in dialogue to propel their thoughts and strategies about how they can improve persistence and graduation rates at their institution and/or system. If you want to learn more about best practices in student services, recruitment and admissions, financial aid, academic services, data, evaluation, and continuous improvement processes, and institutional leadership, you need to be in Scottsdale.

Who Should Attend?
This Executive Institute is a high-level retreat designed for decision-makers at all levels of higher education, including public, private, and proprietary sectors. We strongly encourage institutions to send institutional teams that include a mix of high-level administrators (e.g., VPs, Deans, Provosts, Chancellors, Presidents), faculty, and staff. By coming together at EPI’s Executive Institute on Student Success, teams can have quality time to discuss and plan for institutional change geared toward not only higher student graduation rates, but a higher-level of learning and engagement of students, faculty, and staff. Participation in the Executive Institute makes it possible that everyone can win at your campus.

Some of the titles of people who have attended our institutes before include:

  • President

  • Provost

  • Vice Presidents for Financial Aid, Admissions, Registrar, Student Services, Academic Services, Finance

  • Dean of Arts & Letters

  • Dean of Science

  • Dean of Engineering

  • Head of Faculty Senate

  • Professors from all areas of campus

  • Practitioners of student success programs (e.g., Student Support Services, Supplementary Instruction)

  • Director of College Outreach Programs

How Does the Executive Institute Work?

We learned over the years that one-stop events are rarely that useful. The information may be helpful, but it doesn’t push institutions to change. EPI has redesigned our retention events to encourage a broader involvement by participants. This has resulted in an Executive Institute that takes place over a full year, fully utilizing the power of web communications in concert with face-to-face events.

PHASE I begins about three weeks before the Institute, and requires you and your team to begin to collect data and other pertinent information on your institution. Institute facilitators will begin to review your information so that everyone comes to Scottsdale prepared and engaged in order to make full use of our precious time.

is the Institute itself, where individuals and teams will learn from experts about the challenges facing institutions as well as the strategies to encourage student success. All participants and teams will walk away from Phase II with materials specific to their institution which provide leverage for change back at the institutions.  

PHASE III includes an ongoing conversation following the Institute, inclusive of a web-based seminar series of participants, that culminates in participation at EPI’s International Conference on Student Success, scheduled for March 2012. EPI offers a special half-day event in Miami Beach for Institute participants to get back together and discuss the follow-up to Phase II.

PHASE IV is an ongoing network of participants and experts over a 12-month course following the Institute. This network provides support and guidance not only from EPI’s experts, but from your colleagues around the US, Canada, and beyond. This is your support group. Use it! In addition, EPI will provide regular communications and information to the group.



Dr. Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO, Educational Policy Institute

Dr. Peter Smith, Senior Vice President, Kaplan Higher Education, founding President, CSU Monterey Bay, and former Congressmen from Vermont

Dr. Paul Lingenfelter, President, State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) and former Vice President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, President and CEO, Kauffman Scholars, Inc., Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and former Vice President, Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Dr. Peter Dietsche, Assistant Professor William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership, Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto

Dr. Alex Kajstura, President, PIMA Community College, Tucson, AZ

Dr. Paul Thayer, Associate Provost and Director of Undergraduate Student Retention, Colorado State University - Fort Collins

Ms. Kimberly Landis, Director, Special Initiatives, Educational Policy Institute, Washington, DC


The retreat will start at 1:00 pm on January 15 and conclude at 12:15 pm on January 17. The following schedule is preliminary and does not include all aspects of the tracks.



12:00am – 1:00pm Registration

1:00pm – 2:30pm Introduction to Student Retention
The introductory session will look at the impact of student dropout on campuses, the cost of dropout to the individual, institution, and society, and how addressing this issue is an important part of institutional change and continuous improvement.

2:30pm – 3:00pm Refreshment Break

3:00pm – 4:30pm A Framework for Student Success
How do we envision the retention process? What is it that matters most to students and institutions? This session will introduce an evidence-based framework for understanding the dynamics of student retention and persistence. Based on a decade worth of research, Swail’s geometric model of student retention outlines a process for institutions to perceive and conceptualize the planning process.

The framework focuses on student cognitive and social outcomes, as they related to five areas of campus services:

• Financial Aid
• Student Services
• Academic Services
• Teaching and Learning
• Recruitment & Admissions

6:00pm – 8:00pm Reception
The evening reception will provide an opportunity for participants to get to know one another and share their experiences over heavy hors d’oeuvres.



7:30am – 8:30am Continental Breakfast (included in registration fee)

8:30am – 10:30am The Campus Audit
This session will focus on the importance of understanding your campus and collecting detailed information about practices, strategies, and programs on campus. Institutions must audit their efforts in order to find value in what has been done, while also setting benchmarks for future efforts. In this session, participants will learn:

• What should we look for on campus?
• How do we measure success?
• What data are important to collect?
• What do we do with all this information?
• How do we work toward a meaningful campus-wide plan for retention?

10:30am – 11:00pm Break

11:00am – 12:15pm Effective Practices in Student Success (Part I)
The remainder of the day will focus on discussion revolving the various institutional inputs for student retention, including Recruitment and Admissions, Financial Aid, Student Services, Academic Services, and Curriculum & Instruction. Our conference faculty will present information on proven strategies currently used in institutions around the US and Canada, and invite participants to share their experiences and hindsight.

Using the retention framework as a guide, the information presented on Day Two will begin to layout a menu of strategies that can be considered for your retention plan.

12:15pm – 1:45pm Lunch (included in registration fee)

1:45pm – 3:15pm Effective Practices (Part II)

3:15pm Teams will work independently on their plans for the remainder of the day.



7:30am – 8:30am Continental Breakfast (included in registration fee)

8:30am – 9:15am Discussion of Goals and Objectives
Teams and individuals will present their goals and objectives with discussion for all.

9:15am – 10:00am Campus Change, Institutional Leadership, and other Important Factors
Without the buy in of campus leadership, reform is difficult if not unlikely at any postsecondary institution. This session will discuss the importance of campus leadership and how to gain their interest and total support in developing a campus-based retention initiative. As well, leadership only counts if there are those to be led. The involvement and buy-in of faculty and departments will also be discussed.

10:00am – 10:15am Break

10:15am – 11:00am Monitoring Student and Program Outcomes Progress
The capstone session to our conference will discuss the importance of monitoring student success and institutional progress. The ability of institutions to benchmark and continuously collect and review data is paramount to the success of any large-scale initiative. Issues include:

• determining what data to collect
• how and when to collect information
• using data in a progressive manner
• understanding how data can change your plan
• incorporating a continuous-improvement cycle as a model for institutional change

11:00am – 11:40am Pulling It All Together
This last session will pull all the information together from the past two and a half days. Participants will be given instructions on how to proceed in the planning and implementation process.

11:40pm – 12:15pm Final Thoughts & Adjournment





FireSky Resort and Spa is an oasis of elements nestled in the heart of Scottsdale near Fashion Square, museums, golf courses and other favorite places that make Scottsdale such a favored destination. Step inside to the elegance and luxury awaiting our guests in this newly renovated, inspired Kimpton hotel. According to their website:

"Our Scottsdale boutique hotel, a luxury resort and spa, plays on the four elements thought to represent all that exist: fire, water, earth and air. From the hotel lobby living room, with its stunning stone fireplace and airy cathedral ceilings, step out onto the patio and lush garden courtyard. The grounds of the hotel stretch toward a sandy beach pool and a Mediterranean-inspired lagoon, as well as a torch-lit heated outdoor pool and hot tub surrounded by poolside cabanas and secluded fire pits."

For our attendees, rooms are available at the discounted rate of $209/night. This rate is on a first come, first served basis and in order to receive the Group rate, reservations must be made no later than December 1, 2011.




until November 30
Dec 1
Jan 1


Registration includes welcome reception, lunch, breakfasts, and coffee breaks.

* 20% discount for groups of 4 or more people from the same institution. Contact us at to be given the promotional code necessary for registering groups.

** includes Institute registration + 1 year EPI Premier Individual Membership.