The 1996 Board of Trustees resolution Aggressively Pursuing Excellence in Undergraduate Education and the 1999 resolution Repositioning Undergraduate Education established excellence in undergraduate education as a core institutional goal, determined the broad parameters of a strategy to achieve this goal, and asked for the development of measurable outcomes to be used to assess progress toward this goal.

Since that time, the University has aggressively pursued excellence in undergraduate education and has developed an assessment system to guide these efforts. The University has used specific assessment methods to monitor and improve the retention, satisfaction, and graduation of its undergraduate students. Data have been gathered by creating and regularly revising extensive in-house student surveys, participating in national surveys, and benchmarking progress against peer and aspirational peer institutions. These data have been used to drive programming that will increase retention and satisfaction and to improve graduation rates and students’ preparation for life after graduation.

As a result of these efforts, the University has improved the student experience, as demonstrated by improved retention, graduation, and satisfaction (see Figure 9 and discussed below). The University’s success also has earned external recognition, including rising in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of top public research universities from the second tier (51st–115th) in 1995 to tied for 19th in the most recent ranking (2012); being cited by Kiplinger’s, the Princeton Review, and U.S. News as one of the best values in higher education; and, in the Princeton Review’s list of 650 universities, being ranked eighth as having the “happiest” students and 11th for best quality of life for students.