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.

UI Project Lead: Nicholas 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. 

UI Project Lead: Cassie Barnhardt

The LGBTQ+ Student Experiences and Success project currently comprises four research studies. The first study seeks to understand the experiences of LGBQ student veterans, particularly as veteran enrollment in postsecondary education continues in the wake of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This study is funded by a grant from ACPA: College Student Educators International Foundation. The second study concerns the creation, piloting, and validation of a quantitative instrument designed to understand the experiences of LGBTQ+ college students and their success in college. This study is funded by a grant from the Iowa Measurement Research Foundation. The third study focuses on first-year transgender college students’ journeys to higher education and their experiences in their first-year of college. This study is funded by a grant from the Spencer Foundation. The fourth study entails multiple analyses of qualitative, longitudinal data from the National Study of LGBTQ Student Success (PIs: Kristen Renn, Michigan State University, & Michael Woodford, Wilfred Laurier University).

UI Project Lead: Jodi Linley

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 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. 

UI Project Lead: Katharine Broton

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 how these interact 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 $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, awarded to Mary Murphy, Nick Bowman, Christine Logel, and Greg Walton.

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).

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, and 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.

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 the 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.

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 is using machine learning and informatics and is a collaborative initiative between CRUE faculty and faculty in the UI3 Informatics group.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 timepoint. 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. 

This project builds on prior knowledge regarding common “leaks” in the STEM pipeline 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).

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 (Katharine Broton, Cole Denisen, Elmira Jangjou, and Charlotte Lenkaitis).