Student Belonging Faculty Incentive Program

Student Belonging Faculty Incentive Program

The UTC Student Belonging Faculty Incentive Program

     The University Teaching Council is pleased to offer grants of  $500 for participating in specific activities related to creating an equity-focused syllabus that will support students’ sense of belonging at Kent State University.
     For the fall 2023 semester, participating faculty will revise a course syllabus to change elements such as language choices, course policies, grading practices, office hours, communication norms, assignment descriptions, and more, based on techniques proven to increase equity, inclusion, and belonging for students.1 Faculty members will meet once in the summer for collaboration and consultation on their proposed course revisions and ongoing strategies to strengthen student belonging throughout the semester.  The faculty member will assess how implementing these changes impacted the students by administering an ASCEND survey at multiples during the semester. At mid semester, the faculty member will meet with their cohort to discuss the results of surveys and share resources. The faculty member will agree to share what they have learned with others in the university community.
     In exchange for studying syllabus changes that affect the student experience, implementing changes to their course syllabus, assessing the impact of the changes, agreeing to share their work as a model, and to share their results with other faculty, the UTC will provide a $500 stipend.

Why Belonging Matters in Higher Education

     Belonging is a key component in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education.  Belonging is based on valuing different elements and individuals that make up the whole in promoting a comfortable learning environment based on a shared sense of community that is inclusive, fair, and cooperative.  Belonging helps lessen feelings of social isolation and non-acceptance among students, especially those from underrepresented populations, in the education experience.  Creating a sense of community and affinity among students ignites reciprocity and a “growth mindset” for personal academic, and professional advancement. 
     Institutional data and other evidence-based studies recognize the tangible and intangible benefits of belonging in promoting equity, learning efficacy, and student success. The Student Experience Project notes that, “feeling valued and connected to others in one’s learning community (i.e., having a sense of social belonging) is positively associated with student well-being, academic engagement, and performance.”  Likewise, Nunn (2021) suggests a strong sense of belonging has a significant impact on student success and wellbeing: “Our own institutional data tells us that a key reason that students consider leaving Kent State is that they lack a sense of belonging.”
     Kent State University’s Strategic Roadmap offers a student-centered approach to learning that includes academic excellence, diversity, equity, and community engagement rooted in an ethic of care and student empowerment. This is important in cultivating a sense of belonging whereby members seek to “build an inclusive community where everyone knows that they are valued. ”


Project Timeline

  • May 1: a cohort is chosen and participants are notified.
  • Prior to the Summer Workshop in June or July- Faculty members will complete the online module and syllabus review guide for instructors found at the Student Experience Project First Day Toolkit Website ( and use this information to revise a course syllabus.
  • Summer Workshop: Tuesday, June 27, 10-AM-12PM or Wednesday, July 19, 10AM-12PM: remote faculty meeting for collaboration and consultation on the revised syllabi. Draft syllabus due one week before the chosen summer workshop.
  • Monday, August 21: courses under the new syllabi begin.
  • Thursday, October 12, 11:30AM-1PM or Friday, October 13, 9:30-11AM: cohort meets to discuss early findings, explore additional belonging strategies/resources

  1. Ryan, K., Boucher, K., Logel, C., & Murphy, M. (2022). The Classroom Practices Library. Syllabus Review Guide.”  College Transition Collaborative. Student Experience Project. Retrieved 2/16/22 from
  2. Lightner, J, Marcinkiewicz, J. (2022). Preparing to Teach - Successful Syllabi. Kent State University Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved 2/16/22 from