Association of College and University Educators to Strengthen Teaching and Learning for More Than 250,000 Students Through New National Initiative

Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program will certify up to 2,000 professors and staff

NEW YORK — June 27, 2023 — The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) today launched a new national initiative, Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program, that will strengthen the higher education experience for hundreds of thousands U.S. students. Developed with Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY), this new program will allow up to 2,000 professors and staff to earn an ACUE certificate through its “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course. Given typical teaching loads, the course will benefit an estimated 250,000 students annually. The announcement was made last week at the inaugural National Higher Education Teaching Conference co-hosted by CCNY, ECMC Foundation and others.

“Our first task as educators is to create a welcoming learning environment that enables all students – regardless of their backgrounds – to succeed. A sense of belonging must transcend differences of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and one’s beliefs. Great teaching makes this happen, and it’s the pre-requisite for learning,” said Jonathan Gyurko, Ph.D., ACUE President and Co-founder. “We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Carnegie Corporation of New York on this program. We further intend to grow the initiative with additional matching funds and ensure that more than a million students know that they belong in college — in-class and campus-wide.”

ACUE’s “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course provides campus professionals with practical approaches to ensure students and colleagues feel seen, heard, and valued. Its commonsense strategies deepen an institutional culture that supports all students, particularly those who can most benefit from a college education including first generation and historically under-deserved students. To date, thousands of professors and staff from public, private, and denominational institutions, across 23 states in all regions of the country, have earned this certificate. Among these diverse course-takers, 98 percent find ACUE’s commonsense recommendations relevant to their teaching and students.

Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Vice President, National Programs, and Program Director, Education, LaVerne Evans Srinivasan, said, “One of our long-time areas of focus is post-secondary success, because we know that economic and social mobility is critically dependent on educational attainment. We also know that quality instruction is fundamental to the success of the students in our collective care, which is why we have invited ACUE to apply for a challenge grant to support this initiative.”

Today’s announcement builds on the success of a similar initiative launched late last year with the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), involving dozens of private independent colleges. This new program will be administered in collaboration with the National Association of System Heads and is open to all colleges and universities eligible for federal support. Interested institutions can find more information and apply at

About ACUE

The mission of the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) is student success through great teaching. In partnership with colleges, universities, higher education systems, and associations, ACUE prepares and certifies professors and staff in the evidence-based teaching practices that lead to higher retention and achievement, deeper learning, and closed achievement gaps. Numerous and independently validated studies confirm that students are more engaged, learn more, and complete courses in greater numbers when taught by ACUE Certified faculty members. ACUE’s online, cohort-based certification programs are delivered through institutional partnerships and open enrollment courses endorsed by the American Council on Education.

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