The Center for Research on Undergraduate Education explores a range of projects with support from numerous grants.

Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education

This multi-institutional, longitudinal study of college impact was supported by the Center for Inquiry at Wabash College through a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment. This research project seeks to answer the following questions: How can we demonstrate the outcomes of liberal arts education? What particular liberal arts education conditions produce these outcomes? How does liberal arts education affect student development? The Center for Research on Undergraduate Education (CRUE) continues to analyze quantitative data collected from more than 8,000 students at 49 institutions, including liberal arts colleges, research universities, regional universities, and community colleges. This project also has a qualitative component led by the University of Michigan and Miami University of Ohio. The Spencer Foundation provided support for some additional analyses of the quantitative data.

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

Personal and Social Responsibility Inventory (PSRI)

The PSRI is a survey instrument that was designed for the Core Commitments project of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and funded by the John Templeton Foundation. CRUE researchers are involved in ongoing analyses of the PSRI data that were collected in 2007. These data consist of over 23,000 responses from undergraduate students and nearly 9,000 responses from campus administrators and faculty relating to five dimensions of personal and social responsibility: striving for excellence, academic integrity, moral and ethical conduct, valuing diverse perspectives, and contributing to the larger community.

CRUE Project Lead: Cassie L. Barnhardt

Cassie L. Barnhardt

CRUE researchers have been involved in a multi-year, intensive single-institution study evaluating the role of campus climate in shaping the relative inclusion for staff, students, and faculty on a racially diverse campus. Survey data were gathered in 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016, and 2017 providing extensive information on the quality of the climate based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious faith tradition, and employment status (for faculty and staff). The data collection includes quantitative information from 3,057 campus community members (faculty, staff, and students) and extensive qualitative data from one-third of the sample. This project is an example of action research; CRUE researchers routinely interact with the campus diversity office staff, senior executive leaders, and the faculty senate to assist the campus in identifying areas where organizational structures and campus services can be modified to promote inclusion.

CRUE Project Lead: Cassie L. Barnhardt

The campus mobilization project is working to apply the most updated electronic research methodologies to the tasks of: a) building a sustainable national dataset of contemporary campus-based activism, and to do this in the service of b) conducting analyses that flow from said data for the ongoing purpose of discovering the scale, scope, content, response to, and impact of contemporary activism across the field of higher education and throughout society more generally. This project uses machine learning and informatics and is a collaborative initiative between CRUE faculty and faculty in the UI3 Informatics group.

CRUE Project Lead: Cassie L. Barnhardt

CRUE Graduate Researchers: Shinji Katsumoto, Milad Mohebali

CRUE Alumnx: Kiki Wessel (M.A. ’21)

The PSRI is a survey instrument that was designed for the Core Commitments project of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and funded by the John Templeton Foundation. CRUE researchers are involved in ongoing analyses of the PSRI data that were collected in 2007. These data consist of over 23,000 responses from undergraduate students and nearly 9,000 responses from campus administrators and faculty relating to five dimensions of personal and social responsibility: striving for excellence, academic integrity, moral and ethical conduct, valuing diverse perspectives, and contributing to the larger community.

CRUE Project Lead: Cassie L. Barnhardt

Jodi L. Linley

Dr. Linley leads multiple research studies focused on LGBTQ+ student experiences and success. As an original member of the National Study of LGBTQ Student Success (PIs: Kristen Renn, Michigan State University, & Michael Woodford, Wilfred Laurier University), Linley leads analyses out of the National Study dataset, composed of survey and interview data collected in 2013, as well as longitudinal qualitative (interview and visual) data collected 2013-2017. In 2018, with funding from the Iowa Measurement Research Foundation, Linley and HESA alum Dr. Josh Holmes revised and piloted the National Study survey instrument. With funding from the Spencer Foundation, Linley and collaborators (HESA alumnx Dr. Cindy Ann Kilgo and Dr. Alex Lange) launched a longitudinal, qualitative (interview and visual) study of transgender college students’ pathways to and through college (2017-ongoing).

CRUE Alumnx: Joshua M. Holmes (PhD ’16), Cindy Ann Kilgo (PhD ’16), Alex C. Lange (PhD ’21)

CRUE Project Lead: Jodi L. Linley

In 2017, Dr. Linley and a team of students collected qualitative (interview and visual) data from 70 undergraduate students serving as peer socialization agents (PSAs, i.e., orientation leaders, tour guides, resident assistants) at 38 institutions across all regions of the U.S. Narrative interviews focused on PSAs’ sense of belonging; campus diversity climate and PSA expectations for communicating about diversity; and PSA teams and peer pedagogies. The PSA research team has published and presented about some aspects of this project and continue to analyze these data.  

CRUE Graduate Researchers: Celine Fender, Mavis Gyesi, Lauren Irwin, Lindsay Jarratt, Maria-Victoria Perez, Nicholas Stroup, Nikki Tennessen

CRUE Alumnx: Alex C. Lange (PhD ’21), Kari E. Weaver (PhD ’21)

CRUE Project Lead: Jodi L. Linley

Katharine M. Broton

This multi-method project seeks to understand how basic needs insecurity manifests at the University of Iowa with the intent to raise awareness, improve educational outcomes, and progress towards a more equitable and just community. We are particularly interested in strengthening existing support systems including the campus pantry, Hawkeye Meal Share, and SNAP education programs. We welcome all community members including faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff to join us.

Graduate Researchers: Cole Denisen, Elmira Jangjou, Deanna Robinson

CRUE Project Lead: Katharine M. Broton

This project builds on prior knowledge regarding common “leaks” in the STEM student to teacher pathway and offers a new framework for assessing the overall health of academic majors relative to each other. College course sequences of undergraduates at a public university are used to document in- and out-migration patterns through STEM and non-STEM majors. The study helps uncover barriers to STEM degree completion and reveals if particular course-taking pathways are dominated by particular types of students. This study is funded by the National Science Foundation (PI: Freda Lynn, Co-PI: Katharine Broton, Co-PI: Yongren Shi, RA: Lindsay Jarratt).

CRUE Graduate Researcher: Lindsay Jarratt

CRUE Project Lead: Katharine M. Broton

This mixed-method, experimental field study tests the impacts of on-campus meal vouchers on students’ academic success and well-being. For results on program efficacy and implementation over the first year, please see Fueling success: An experimental evaluation of a community college meal voucher program by Katharine Broton, Sara Goldrick-Rab, and Milad Mohebali, available at hope4college.com. The project is part of a trio of interventions that provide food and housing supports to community college students in need, with financial support from the Kresge Foundation.

CRUE Graduate Researcher: Milad Mohebali

CRUE Project Lead: Katharine M. Broton

Nicholas A. Bowman

This large-scale, mixed-methods project explores the experiences and outcomes of at-promise college students (i.e., students who identities are marginalized within and outside of higher education). In particular, this work focuses primarily on the Thompson Scholars Learning Communities at three University of Nebraska campuses; it examines relevant dynamics at the student, programmatic, and university levels. This current multi-institutional project builds upon and extends an initial longitudinal study led by scholars at the University of Southern California. We are grateful to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation for their generous support.

CRUE Graduate Researchers: Lauren Irwin, Shinji Katsumoto

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

This multi-institutional, longitudinal study of college impact was supported by the Center for Inquiry at Wabash College through a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment. This research project seeks to answer the following questions: How can we demonstrate the outcomes of liberal arts education? What particular liberal arts education conditions produce these outcomes? How does liberal arts education affect student development? The Center for Research on Undergraduate Education (CRUE) continues to analyze quantitative data collected from more than 8,000 students at 49 institutions, including liberal arts colleges, research universities, regional universities, and community colleges. This project also has a qualitative component led by the University of Michigan and Miami University of Ohio. The Spencer Foundation provided support for some additional analyses of the quantitative data.

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

In collaboration with the College Transition Collaborative, this project examines the impact of a short online intervention for incoming first-year college students at 22 institutions that is designed to bolster college belonging and ultimately student success. It explores the overall effects of the intervention, along with compositional diversity in students’ courses, among female students, underrepresented racial minority students, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, students who speak English as a second language, and students with disabilities. This project is generously supported by a $1.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation, awarded to Mary Murphy, Nick Bowman, Christine Logel, and Greg Walton.

CRUE Graduate Researchers: Lindsay Jarratt, Milad Mohebali

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

This project involves a large-scale, mixed-methods evaluation of the First Gen Hawks (FGH) program, which is a multifaceted program that supports first-generation college students at the University of Iowa. This assessment examines whether and how FGH improves students’ experiences and success outcomes, and it offers detailed feedback to inform programmatic improvement. Work on the FGH program and this evaluation are generously supported by a private donor. 

CRUE Graduate Researcher: Nikki Tennessen

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

In the context of colleges and universities’ increasing efforts to identify students who are struggling, this project uses swipe card data from dining halls to infer students’ social networks. This approach has the benefits of providing complete data (rather than relying on students to respond to surveys) and being available at any time point. Overall, the results indicate that students’ social connectedness as early as the first week of classes predicts their subsequent retention and graduation, so this information appears to be useful as a very early alert for students who may be having difficulty with their college transition. 

CRUE Graduate Researchers: Lindsay Jarratt, Shinji Katsumoto

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

This project explores various factors predicting the enrollment and graduation outcomes of racially minoritized students in U.S. law schools. It focuses primarily on malleable attributes of schools (particularly related to finances, racial representation, and rankings), and the analyses examine variation both between law schools and within law schools over time. This work is generously supported by a grant from the AccessLex Institute and the Association for Institutional Research.

CRUE Graduate Researchers: Solomon Fenton-Miller, Nicholas R. Stroup

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

This project explores the impact of two sets of academic policies and practices that may have widespread effects on student success and equity: course placement and academic probation.  We use the fact that these decisions are partially or fully based on cutoff scores (for placement tests and GPA, respectively) to draw causal inferences about relevant effects.  This work is supported by a public-private partnership (P3) grant from the University of Iowa.

CRUE Graduate Researchers: Solomon Fenton-Miller, Min Ji

CRUE Project Lead: Nicholas A. Bowman

Completed Projects

This project explores the use of pair programming, which is a collaborative learning technique in which two students work on the same computer programming assignment. Discussion sections for three introductory computer science courses (designed for both majors and non-majors) are randomly assigned to have paired programming or individual programming. The data collection for this NSF-funded project is currently ongoing. We will examine short-term outcomes (including assignment and exam grades) as well as long-term outcomes (including subsequent major, course-taking, and achievement).

This study recruited a national sample of over 300 admissions officers at selective colleges and universities. Each participant read several simulated college admissions files and provide ratings of those files, along with information about themselves and the practices within their institution. Some admissions officers were randomly assigned to receive more information about high schools and students’ performance within those contexts; participants with more detailed information were considerably more likely to recommend accepting a low-SES applicant, with no difference in recommendations for higher-SES applicants. This study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has also provided unique national data on selective college admissions.

In 2015, CRUE researchers (working with collaborators at the University of Georgia) were selected to study the effects of a longitudinal educational intervention at Emory University that focuses on improving the campus climate around ethics and integrity.  This project, which is supported by funding from the John Templeton Foundation, involves gathering and analyzing individual data from students, as well as organizational data about promising educational practices.  The EIP includes quantitative and qualitative data, and it employs multiple analytical techniques. Among the measures used in the EIP assessment is the PSRI instrument.

CRUE Project Lead: Cassie L. Barnhardt

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federal program designed to promote college readiness and success at middle and high schools with large populations of students from lower-income families. With funding from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, CRUE is conducting quasi-experimental analyses to examine whether—and under what conditions—GEAR UP participation contributes to college enrollment and persistence. This study combines data from GEAR UP Iowa, the National Student Clearinghouse, and K-12 schools in Eastern Iowa.

During the 2005-2006 academic year, the faculty and research assistants of CRUE conducted a study of experiences and outcomes of undergraduate students at The University of Iowa in a project initiated by the Office of the Provost. The project incorporated quantitative and qualitative research methods to gain a comprehensive picture of undergraduate life at UI, using a conceptual framework of student engagement and success. Around the same time, the University of Iowa developed a campus-wide Student Success Team that used these findings to inform institutional practice.

The Center for Research on Undergraduate Education, in collaboration with the Boyer Center, conducted a project sponsored by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) to assess academic and student affairs partnerships. Eighteen community colleges and four-year institutions participated in this study. Examples of these partnerships included living-learning units, faculty-student fellows programs, and service-learning courses. Some of the goals of the project were to assess learning outcomes, to develop assessment tools, and to identify best principles of partnership formation.

The University of Iowa’s Realizing Educational and Career Hopes (UI REACH) was founded in October 2010 through a five-year grant totaling over $2 million by the U.S. Department of Education. The co-principal investigators were Jo Hendrickson, John Hosp, and William Therrien. UI REACH is a two-year, transition, certificate program for students with multiple intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities; it is designed to help these students become independent, engaged members of the community. CRUE and UI REACH are working together to examine and assess the experiences and outcomes of UI REACH students. This collaboration has resulted in a unique data set that provides original analyses of an understudied college student population.

This project examines students’ college experiences and adjustment from every week during the first semester of college. These data consist of over 12,500 observations from nearly 900 students over a period of seven years. Most of the responses are quantitative, but students also provided open-ended responses about their best and worst event in each week. The unique nature of this dataset provides an opportunity to understand the college adjustment process in a more nuanced manner than traditional assessments at one or two timepoints.