Office of the Provost

Student Experience Project (SEP) – Equity Champions Community of Practice


Learn more about SEP

Learn more about Equity Champions

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
  • Mingyang Liu, Survey Statistician Office of Institutional Research
  • Heather Robbins, Equity Champion Coordinator

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, spring '21 semester to fall '21:

View Equity Champion Fall '21 Summary Report  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 implementing change ideas and 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. ​

Spring 2022 Equity Champions 

Equity Champion Faculty Leaders:  
Jillian Bornak, Physics & Astronomy
Glenn Lipscomb, Chemical Engineering 
Christopher Martin, Philosophy 
Heather Robbins, Exercise and Rehabilitations Sciences 
Kathy Shan, Physics & Astronomy

From the College of Arts and Letters:
Elliot Adams, Composition & English
Sharon Barnes, Women's & Gender Studies
Daniel Compora, English 
Jason Cox, Art 
John Cumming, Psychology 
Michelle Davidson, English*
Jeanine Diller, Philosophy & Religious Study 
Tasha Dunn, Communications
Elizabeth Gallinari, Psychology* 
Dingzhong Hu, Psychology*
Tiffiny Jones, Africana Studies
Paulette Kilmer, Communication
Jeanne Kusina, Women's & Gender Studies* 
Christopher Martin, Philosophy*
Montissa Mays, Communication
Kimberly McBride, Women's & Gender Studies
Randy Meyer, English
W. Benjamin Myers, Communication 
Suzanne Smith, English

From the John B. and Lillian E. Neff College of Business and Innovation:
Gary Inch, Management
Lora Parent, Marketing & International Business

From the Judith Herb College of Education:  
Elizabeth Razzoog, Educational Technology*
Katherine Delaney, Teacher Education 

From the College of Engineering:
Omid Amili, Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering
Sorin Cioc, Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering*
Glenn Lipscomb, Chemical Engineering* 
Arun Nadarajah, Chemical Engineering* 
Thehazhnan Ponnaiyan, Chemical Engineering

From the College of Health and Human Services:

Nathanael Batista, Exercise Science
Christa Black, Population Health
Michael Dillon, Speech-Language Pathology
Holly Eichner, Recreation Therapy 
Stephanie Heuker, Microbiology, Anatomy, Physiology & Pathophysiology*
Grant Norte, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Dinisha Paul, Counseling
Michael Prior, Social Work*
Heather Robbins, Exercise and Rehabilitations Sciences*
Samuel Rosario, Exercise and Rehabilitations Sciences
Heather Tessler, Student Services

From the Jesup Scott Honors College: 
Ashley Pryor, Honors

From the College of Medicine and Life Sciences:
Ivana de la Serna, Cancer Biology

From the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics:
Samuel Beiler, Physics & Astronomy
John Belizzi, Chemistry & Biochemistry 
Jillian Bornak, Physics & Astronomy*
Nathaniel Coleman, Chemistry
Madhurima Datta, Mathematics & Statistics
Katharine Fisher, Mathematics & Statistics
Ann Medling, Physics & Astronomy
Ram Mukhergee, Mathematics & Statistics*
Akinwale Ogunkoya, Environmental Sciences
Rangegama Premathilaka, Mathematics & Statistics
Sandra Robinson, Mathematics & Statistics*
Kathy Shan, Physics & Astronomy*

From the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences:  
Julie Murphy, Pharmacy Practice
Michelle Seegert, Pharmacy Practice

From the University College:  
DeMya Wimberly, Center for Success Coaching

*Returning Equity Champions

view Past Equity Champion participation

 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: 4/27/22