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Kristin Bangston and Jordan Rains

Path to Completion Program


As a generation of students weigh the value of college versus its cost, universities across the nation must creatively address declining enrollment trends. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, postsecondary enrollment declined from 4.1% from Spring 2021 to Spring 2022. The goal of this project is to pilot a recruitment and outreach program in order to contact former SFASU students who are 30 credit hours or less away from graduation. Athletic Academic Services will utilize the smaller population of former student-athletes to determine the impact of a Path to Completion Program. In collaboration with campus personnel, a cohort of student-athletes will be identified, contacted, and provided with a written pathway to degree completion information. Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Services will act as continued university contact for returning student-athletes to monitor, track, and forecast degree completion. Student-athletes who return to SFASU in order to complete their degree will positively impact enrollment and university graduate rates. Additionally, delayed degree completion may positively impact the Academic Performance Rate Report data for annual NCAA reporting requirements. The program may result in increased enrollment and degree completion, with minimal cost and a large return on investment. Impact evaluations will be created to assess if the program would be successful as a campus-wide initiative. As post-secondary enrollment continues to decline nationally, we must be proactive in attracting additional student enrollment opportunities.

Veronica Beavers and M.E. McWilliams



ASPIRE ( is a summer bridge program specifically designed to address recruitment and retention issues for first-time students from underrepresented populations and socially disadvantaged backgrounds. The program grew out of a concern for the attrition of our students from African American populations, particularly the black male, which the research indicates is a national issue. Aspire, however, is open to all students who have an interest in getting a jump start on the semester as well as a desire to be in a diverse multi-cultural environment. This joint initiative is hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and the Academic Assistance and Resource Center (AARC). The three days of programming for Aspire include AARC tutors covering learning strategies, productivity management, D2L, mySFA, and working with faculty. OMA mentors cover how they found a home in SFA, affinity spaces, cultural competence, and challenges and opportunities regarding campus life. The program offers a "Speed Dating" mixer that provides a fun, personal way to get to know key staff and faculty. It also features a session called / was Once You where our Cabinet members share their personal academic struggles and how they overcame those. Throughout Aspire, students are asked to process what they are learning about themselves and SFA in a journal provided to them. What makes Aspire different from other successful bridge programs at SFA is the promotion of a multicultural, diverse, informal, small-group experience regardless of first-gen status. The collaboration that this program requires at all levels (directors, tutors and mentors, and students) generates the inclusion that is the hallmark of SFA.

Jason Bruck

DRONES II - Drone Research and Outreach in the Natural and Environmental Sciences II


The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the growing trend of declining biology enrollment. To combat this, universities must do their part to attract students back, retain current students, and recruit new students by challenging them to take an active role in their education, providing hands-on learning, increasing authentic research experiences, and thereby increasing retention. The Drone Research and Outreach in the Natural and Environmental Sciences II (DRONES II) President’s Innovation Fund Implementation Program will accomplish this by building on a successful President’s Innovation Seed Program to develop a travel research program for biology students. The need for a larger and more diverse pool of marine biologists is urgent as ocean-related human activity continues to rise. For example, marine mammals face increasing threats from anthropogenic activities including pollution, overfishing, and hunting. Therefore, there is a critical need to provide programming that empowers our students to become leaders in conservation-related careers. This can be done by providing a travel research program that facilitates students’ expertise in new technology, engagement with field-based research methods, inclusion in the dissemination of findings, and development of science identity, as a means of empowering the next generation of conservation scientists.

The objective of this implementation project is to develop a travel research course on dolphin monitoring and welfare analysis using drones. To achieve this, the project will accomplish two Specific Aims. Specific Aim 1: Develop a sustainable travel research program that provides undergraduate students with authentic field research experience that supports a potential aquatic and marine biology concentration, thus establishing SFA as a destination university for future marine biologists. Specific Aim 2: Produce an initial cohort of four students with strong science identity who can use UAS in dolphin research, analyze data, and produce publishable work.

Candis Carraway and Michael Maurer

SFA Agriculture Scholars Program


The SFA Agriculture Scholars Program is a pilot recruiting program. The goal is to increase enrollment and diversity in the Department of Agriculture. The program will target 15 high school seniors who are first-generation, low socio-economic, and/or a minority. The participants will attend a full-day of on-campus programming and be mentored by department faculty and students throughout their senior year of high school. These mentors will guide them through applying for scholarships and financial aid, applying for college, and making the transition to SFASU.

The overarching goal of this program is to increase student enrollment and diversity in the Department of Agriculture at SFASU. This goal will be accomplished by obtaining the following objectives:

  • Enroll 15 first-generation, minority and/or low socioeconomic students in the SFA Agriculture Scholars Program
  • Increase department enrollment by 3%
  • Increase department diversity by 9%

Amber Chelette, Robyn Whitehead, and Todd Whitehead

Engaging Kinesiology Students in Autonomous Active Learning through a Course Embedded Undergraduate Research Experience


A Course Embedded Research Experience (CURE) is an innovative means of implementing a collaborative research experience in which students engage in the scientific process to test a relevant research hypothesis. A CURE is a new and innovative means of challenging students to take an active role in their education and transforming classrooms into active learning spaces. CURE has been demonstrated to be an effective pedagogical tool for creating deep learning experiences (Corwin et al, 2017). A CURE is more than a class project. Each of the laboratory activities in a CURE are interconnected and designed to meet a specific practical learning goal. In this way, the course work in their lecture has an immediate and meaningful impact on their lab experience and each subsequent lab experience builds on the last. In contrast, the traditional laboratory course experience primarily provides independent laboratory activities for each class meeting.

Our goal is to transform the laboratory experience for the students in the KINE 4317 Analysis of Movement and KINE 4117 Analysis of Movement Laboratory course by using the CURE approach. We expect that our kinesiology students will experience similar benefits to those mentioned above which will lead to the development of more confident and experienced professionals. These students having a greater self-efficacy toward creating new knowledge are likely to continue this work in their professional pursuits. Thus, the effects of CURE will ripple into the future leading to new and innovative exercise and health knowledge and practices.

Lindsey Creel

Dynamic Classrooms in the SFA School of Art Designed by the Students Who Use Them


Submitted for the Innovation Seed Awards competition, this proposal seeks to transform the advanced drawing studio at the SFA School of Art (SOA) into a dynamic and modern workspace.

Utilizing key aspects of the drawing curriculum, students in the Drawing for Design Development course will conceptualize, draft, and propose a redesign of the furniture and storage spaces in the advanced drawing studio space. The project will fund two student workers for production and installation of the redesign under the supervision of qualified SOA faculty and staff, and the SFA Design Center. 

The development of the redesign component will be offered in the Spring 2023 undergraduate advanced drawing curriculum, and relies on the precise design, measurement, and drafting skills of the undergraduate students. They will complete their renderings in the classroom they are working toward rehabilitating. Two School of Art student workers will be hired for the production component during the Summer 2023 semesters, which will include the interpretation of drawings and specifications, with a focus on developing their woodworking skills as they manufacture the furniture designs using on-site facilities and equipment. The project will provide a real-world example of the cycle of design for SFA students, and pedagogically combines high-impact practices with components of experiential learning with the undergraduates and challenges the student workers using a modern equivalent of the master-apprentice dynamic.

Andrea Denis

Pineywoods Horn Day


Pineywoods Horn Day is an event that started February of 2022. The primary goal of the event is to bring in college, high school, and middle school students throughout East Texas, and the greater Houston and Dallas areas to SFA. Pineywoods Horn Day features Dr. Andrea Denis, the assistant professor of Horn at SFA, a prominent guest artist, other educational presentations from band directors or private lesson teachers, the SFA horn choir, and a participant horn choir.

Throughout the day, the focus is on educating students about different aspects of the music industry and gaining knowledge about their own horn playing. Less experienced players get to hear and play with more advanced and professional horn players creating an environment of growth and excitement.

Pineywoods Horn Day 2022 was a huge success with around 45 participants, of which, two seniors decided to attend Stephen F. Austin State University in the Fall of 2022. This year, 2023, the goal is to bring in an artist who will introduce different aspects of the instrument and educate the participant attendees about other types of horns and music careers. Our enrollment is expected to be much larger this year. Pineywoods Horn Day is not only bringing potential students to the university, but it is also educating students who may not have the opportunity otherwise.

Keith Hubbard and Dipak Singh

PIF Refinement Project Early Detection and Intervention of Disengaged Students II (EDI12)


EDI2 builds on several years of effort to collect, organize and analyze the SFA student data most related to student engagement and success. The project has three primarily goals: 1) connect data collected across campus (Brightspace, AARC attendance, meal usage, academic performance, etc.), and summarize and visualize them to facilitate data-informed decision making for student success; 2) design an effective model to identify at-risk students (who may go on probation or drop-out); 3) engage SFA students in real world data science that is both meaningful and superb career preparation. The project builds on a successful PIF project which 1) implemented spatial-temporal AI models to incorporate student academic performance for prediction with roughly 89% recall and 91% accuracy based on a student’s first2-year academic record; 2) deployed a database management system to support future projects; 3) engaged dozens of SFA stakeholders in discussion about how best to utilize data in student support; and 4) equipped 11 undergraduate students with practical data science experience.

  1. Provide weekly summaries of student engagement for a pilot set of advisors. Examine effectiveness of pilot and modify as needed. Identify additional interested stakeholders.
  2. Develop a graphical user interface that allows for visualization of key engagement metrics, first for advisors and other stakeholders, next for students themselves to see and improve their own engagement.
  3. Deploy early prediction models to identify at-risk students based on engagement, with models surpassing effectiveness of EAB’s current risk prediction.
  4. Engage SFA data analytics and math students to acquire hands-on experience with real world problems that will benefit their peers and improve their professional preparation.

Shelly Hunt, Rebecca Self, Sherrie Fontenot, and Katy Trotty

School of Nursing High School Student Immersion Project through an Interactive Summer Camp


Faculty at the DeWitt School of Nursing (SON) desire to increase recruitment and retention by implementing a three-day nursing summer camp. Currently, the_ number of nursing majors enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) has decreased by more than 300 students from Fall 2018 to Fall 2022. Additionally, the number of qualified applicants to the undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program has decreased by more than fifty students since Fall 2020. The faculty will offer local high school students between their junior and senior year the opportunity to attend a day camp to experience the nursing program directly. Current nursing students will provide support to these students during camp using peer-assisted learning. 

Faculty anticipate positive results, including recruitment of the high school students and valuable leadership experiences impacting persistence for the nursing students. A family/team model will be used to promote networking between high school students and nursing students. This camp will showcase SF A's beautiful campus and the SON's innovative teaching strategies, outcomes, and resources. To determine effectiveness, participants will complete a survey measuring student satisfaction and likelihood of attending SF A in the future. Additionally, faculty will invite students to provide longitudinal data that could be used to determine which participants enroll in SF A and choose nursing as a major. Faculty will disseminate their findings to SFA's Office of Research and Graduate Studies (ORGS), SFA STEM Center, and the campus community. Social media will allow dissemination to potential future summer camp applicants as well as other educators. The faculty expect this effort to increase recruitment and retention for SFA and the DeWitt SON.

Summer Koltonski, Sarah Straub, and Kevin Jones

Microcredential Course Development Collaborative with Lumberjack Learning Commons


Research shows building relationships with perspective recruits and establishing a recruitment pipeline are effective recruitment strategies. By providing microcredentials to both potential undergraduate and graduate students, SFASU can provide a recruitment pipeline that leads to enrollment. Microcredentials are short, flexible programs that are appealing due to their reduced time commitment and costs. The President’s Innovation Fund will allow for: (1) a quantitative and qualitative survey instrument to generate data regarding interest in, success with, and ideas for microcredentials within SFA and surrounding community, and (2) in collaboration with the Lumberjack Learning Commons, developing 2-3 microcredential courses that can be quickly uploaded into the microcredential platform when that becomes live. 

The two microcredentials to be developed include one that is focused on a niche area - Educational Diagnostician: Equity-Based Assessment Procedures Microcredential and one that is geared towards a larger audience – Diversity, Equity and Social Justice in the Workplace Microcredential. They serve as dynamic opportunities for enrollment growth and financial stability for advanced learning spaces within the College of Education initially and for multiple units, programs, and colleges in the long term. 

The two objectives of the Microcredential Course Development Collaborative with Lumberjack Learning Commons will be grounded in two of the overarching goals of the President’s Innovation Fund: (1) student recruitment and retention and (2) challenging students to take an active role in their education. 

Ja’von Long

Brother 2 Brother Mentoring Program


Housed under the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), Brother 2 Brother (B2B) is dedicated to increasing the retention and graduation rates of male students of color and those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University. B2B is concerned with strengthening intellectual growth, social enrichment, and cultural issues regarding its members. B2B seeks to create a brotherhood of accountability amongst its members to educate males on the importance of academic excellence, campus involvement, and mentorship. The program grew out of a concern for the attrition of our students from underrepresented populations, particularly black males, which research has indicated is a national issue in higher education. 

The program is designed to stress academic excellence by utilizing study hours and engagement with students' professors, campus involvement by partnering and joining with university student organizations, and mentoring by providing access to peer and professional mentors for students in the program. This initiative collaborates with the Academic Assistance and Resource Center (AARC) to provide program participants with academic learning strategies, productivity management, and resources for communicating with faculty members. The members. The OMA helps ensure that participants establish a strong sense of social belonging and provides peer mentors to help participants navigate their college journey.

Deb Scott

PIF Refinement Project Recruiting Tours by Small Ensembles from the School of Music Phase 2


The objective of this refined proposal is to expand the outreach and recruiting efforts of the School of Music to benefit the entire university. Public school music programs in Texas are considered to be some of the best in the world, and, on average, the academic scores of the students in these ensembles have been shown to be much higher than their peers who do not participate in these activities. Face to face interaction with these types of students has been incredibly effective in boosting recruitment and retention in the School of Music and in the University as a whole. Collegiate music students and faculty are in a unique position to be able to access high school students during their class periods by offering to perform and/or teach for them during a school day class period. Further, many of the high school teachers in the field are SFA alumnae, making them even more eager to host an SFA group. SFA music groups will perform and/or teach music students at a high school. Additionally, they will also collect recruiting information forms from the students gaging interest in SFA as well as their area of interest. That information would ultimately be shared with admissions and deans who would be urged to follow up with personal contact. The scope and funding of the project would be augmented to include not only instrumental ensembles but would also be open to other areas from the School of Music such as strings and/or voice. Because of cost limitations, it would still be limited to “chamber groups” (small or large) as opposed to the largest ensembles: full band, orchestra, or choir. These groups would be made up of either faculty and/or students. The expanded goal of this project is to connect with at least thirty high school music classes. This would be approximately 2000-3000 students (high school freshmen through seniors). 

Amber Wagnon and Michael Martin

The Impact of Transformative Teaching Opportunities on Teacher Candidates


The Covid pandemic severely impacted the state of education within the United States in a variety of ways. Beyond having a negative impact on student learning-forcing many struggling students to fall even further behind-the pandemic took a major toll on teachers. Since the "end" of the pandemic, school districts across the nation have suffered from a teacher exodus, and studies show that Educator Prep Programs, including the one at Stephen F. Austin State University, have witnessed a decline in enrollment. This grant application attempts to address each of those issues. 

The proposed grant will fund a study of the impact that additional field-based experience will have on secondary English Language Arts (ELA) teacher candidates. Dr. Wagnon and Martin will work with select SFA teacher candidates and design a reading/writing program aimed to offer assistance to struggling readers at the 8th grade level. The teacher candidates will meet bi­weekly with the students and, along with the SFA faculty, will carry out the designed lesson plans attached to this reading/writing program. 

We believe that at the end of this program, the students involved will see improvement in their reading/writing, that the teacher candidates will find that real-world experience will raise their professional confidence, and that these teacher candidates will find this to have been a valuable experience with a positive impact on their own education. We believe that through this grant, we will discover that the experience provided will connect future teachers with their profession, and that through replication it can be used as a recruiting tool for SFA, the department of Education Studies, and the Department of English and Creative Writing.


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Mailing Address

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