Give Students a Compass

A Tri-State LEAP Partnership for College Learning, General Education, and Underserved Student Success

Give Students a Compass (2008-2011) helped institutions in three state systems—California State University System, Oregon University System, and the University of Wisconsin System—build capacity to support academic excellence for all students, emphasizing the success of students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The project took as a guiding framework the challenge of "making excellence inclusive" across all institutions of higher learning.

The Compass alumni systems and campuses continue to work together to re-map general education, take new approaches to program design and assessment, and concentrate attention on the success of students from underserved groups. This work set a blueprint for continued collaboration in large, complex systems where students are highly mobile.

The project was part of AAC&U’s signature initiative, Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP).

Compass Project Beta Campuses

The participating systems identified nine institutions in California, Oregon, and Wisconsin to model new approaches to general education designed to increase achievement of important learning outcomes. The following institutions received funding to serve as pilot sites over the course of the project:

  • California State University, Chico
  • Sacramento State University
  • San José State University
  • Eastern Oregon University
  • Portland State University
  • Southern Oregon University
  • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Many of their findings are available as case studies on the LEAP Campus Toolkit. To see a brief description of each campus' project, click here.

Project Information

The Compass Project supports public higher education and faculty-driven reform efforts designed to strengthen the quality of student learning on campuses within each system. The broad goals of the project address AAC&U’s strategic priority to make excellence inclusive for students historically underserved—first-generation students, racial and ethnic minority students, and those from low-income families. Compass partnerships are designed to work in multiple directions within state systems—bottom up, top down, inside out, and outside in. Communication among the partner systems encourages exchange and growth.

Key Questions:

  1. How can state systems become generative catalysts for change that is also supported at the campus level?
  2. How can general education be redesigned in ways that raise the levels of underserved student success within large systems?
  3. How can general education become a catalyst for helping students achieve the LEAP “essential learning outcomes?” What new design principles should be applied?

This initiative was funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, State Farm Companies Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, and the participating system partners of the Compass project.