Student Belonging Faculty Incentive Program

Student Belonging Faculty Incentive Program

     During the fall 2023 semester, participating faculty revised 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 met 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 members assessed how implementing these changes impacted the students by administering an ASCEND survey at multiples during the semester. At mid semester, the faculty members met with their cohort to discuss the results of surveys and share resources.
     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 provided a $500 stipend to participants.

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. ”

Inaugural UTC Student Belonging Faculty Incentive Program Participants

Michelle Bagwell, Stark

Christie Bartholomew, Trumbull

Judy Benjamin, Kent

Gargi Bhaduri, Kent

Loubna Bilali, Kent

Michelle Burton, Kent

Matthew Butler, Ashtabula

Ning-Kuan Chuang, Kent

Elizabeth Devore, Ashtabula

Qunxing Ding, East Liverpool

Doug Ellison, Kent

Abbey Eng, Kent

Arron Foster, Stark

Claudia Gomez, Stark

Elizabeth Graham, Kent

Leslie Heaphy, Stark

Suzanne Holt, Kent

Elaine Hsiao, Kent

Julia Huyck, Kent

Xiang Lian, Kent

Maria Niza Licuanan-Galela, Trumbull

Pam Lieske, Trumbull

Adam Lockwood, Kent

Shelley Marshall, Ashtabula

Karen Mascolo, Kent

Molly Mokros, Geauga

Xiaozhen Mou, Kent

Deepraj Mukherjee, Stark

Ellen Mulqueeny, Kent

Mary Russell, Trumbull

Astrid Sambolín Morales, Kent

Rekha Sharma, Kent

Mason Shuman, Stark

Kuldeep Singh, Kent

Michelle Souza, Kent

Lindsay Starkey, Kent

Melanie Tabak, Stark

Janine Tiffe, Kent

Tina Saunders, Kent

Joseph Underwood, Kent

Robin Vande Zande, Kent

Joe Vanfossen, Tuscarawas

Jihyun Vick, Kent

E. Sue Wamsley, Salem

Haiyan Zhu, East Liverpool

  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