Office of the Provost

Student Experience Project (SEP)

Transforming the college student experience so that every student is supported to succeed

SEP logo

UToledo continues to be an active participant in a national initiative of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) in the Student Experience Project which is designed to improve student success among underrepresented minority students, with $250,000 in grant funding over three years.

UToledo is one of six member universities selected to develop initiatives and actions to make the process of earning an undergraduate degree as welcoming and inclusive as possible.


The Student Experience Project (SEP) is a collaborative of university leaders, faculty, researchers and national education organizations committed to innovative, research-based practices to increase degree attainment by building equitable learning environments and fostering a sense of belonging on campus.

The Challenge

Colleges and universities are enrolling more diverse student populations than ever before. Yet, one-third of new college students will not graduate within six years. There remains a need for additional support and action to provide every student with an equal opportunity to graduate from college.

The Student Experience Project was created to tackle inequities in college success by transforming the student experience. By focusing on building community and a sense of belonging on campus, the SEP is committed to a future of higher education where all students—particularly students who face barriers entering college—feel supported to persist through academic challenges until graduation day. 

 UToledo SEP Leadership


  • Denise Bartell, Associate Vice Provost for Student Success
  • Melissa Oddo, Project Manager, Student Experience Project
  • Brian Ashburner, Associate Dean, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Lesley Berhan, Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement, College of Engineering
  • Willie McKether, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Mingyang Liu, Survey Statistician Office of Institutional Research

UToledo's Equity Champions 

The Equity Champions project, started in Summer 2020 , creates a continuous support network in which instructors are able to learn together, share ideas, and develop resources to support equity in classes. Equity Champions have implemented evidence-based changes in their classroom that have improved student’s sense of belonging, identity safety, and growth mindset. They have revised their syllabi to include student attuned-language, created welcome letters and videos, and shared their own personal stories of belonging. They have used an innovative new tool called Copilot-Ascend which assessed the immediate impact of changes in their classrooms.  

For a high-level overview of their accomplishments inside the classroom and a look at the data to support the collective increase on Social Connectedness, Social Belonging, and Identity Safety from the fall '20 to spring '21 semester:

 View Equity Champion Spring '21 Summary Report            View Equity Champion Fall '20 Summary Report

Who are They?

Equity Champions are instructors who teach first year gateway courses; they are committed to making evidence-based changes in their classrooms to improve student outcomes by focusing on belonging, identity safety, and growth mindset.​​ Spring '21 Equity Champions instructors are from the College of Engineering, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Education, Arts & Letters, Heath and Human Services, and Business. 

Equity Champions are a community of practice engaged in a continuous network of support to learn together, share ideas, and develop resources to support equity. The work gives students the opportunity to share about their experiences in classrooms so Champions can use their insights to improve success and reduce equity gaps. 

What They are doing?

Equity Champions are making changes that begin with activities such as revising syllabi to include student attuned language, creating welcome letters, and sharing belonging stories.  They continue with work such as developing Wise feedback for assignments, using exam wrappers, and addressing diverse representation in course materials.​

​To assess the impact of changes, Equity Champions will use a tool from SEP called Copilot-Ascend, a survey that gathers feedback on students' experiences in the course. They will administer the survey four times throughout the semester, after implementing key changes, to learn how the changes impacted students' experiences in the class .​

What They hope to accomplish?​

The Student Experience Project is an important part of UToledo's efforts to support success and reduce equity gaps for students. We will use what we learn from this project to improve the experience for current and future students in our classes by continually examining students' experience and making evidence-based changes that improve learning. ​

2020-2021 Equity Champions

From the College of Arts and Letters: 

  • Holly Hey, Theatre and Film, Spring 2021  

From the John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation: 

  • Karen Green, Accounting, Spring 2021
  • Nancy Snow, Accounting, Spring 2021  

From the Judith Herb College of Education:  

  • Vicki Dagostino-Kalniz, Education Studies, Spring 2021 
  • Lynne Hamer, Education Studies, Spring 2021 
  • Liu Sowa, Education Studies, Spring 2021  

From the College of Engineering: 

  • Defne Apul, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021 
  • Anju Gupta, Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021 
  • Glenn Lipscomb, Chemical Engineering, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
  • Sandrine Mubenga, Engineering Technology, Fall 2020
  • Arun Nadarajah, Bioengineering, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
  • Jared Oluoch, Engineering Technology, Spring 2021
  • Ala Qattawi, Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering, Spring 2021
  • Alex Spivak, Civil Engineering, Spring 2021 

From the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics: 

  • Jillian Bornak, Physics and Astronomy, Spring 2021 
  • Kennedy Doro, Environmental Sciences, Spring 2021 
  • Sally Harmych, Biological Sciences, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
  • Kristi Mock, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Fall 2020
  • Hanh NguyenMathematics and Statistics, Spring 2021
  • Sandra RobinsonMathematics and Statistics, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
  • Kathy Shan, Physics and Astronomy, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
  • Robert Steven, Biological Sciences, Spring 2021
  • Amy TooleChemistry and Biochemistry, Fall 2020 & Spring 2021
  • Elizabeth Zhurova, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Fall 2020

From the College of Health and Human Services: 

  • Michael Prior, Social Work, Spring 2021
  • Heather Robbins, Exercise and Rehabilitations Services, Spring 2021 
  • David Sherman, Exercise and Rehabilitations Services, Spring 2021


 Together, the SEP is using this research to test, implement, and scale innovative practices that transform the college experience into one where every student can access the support and resources they need to succeed.

For more information about SEP, contact Melissa Oddo, Project Manager, Student Experience Project at

Last Updated: 7/20/21