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The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Project

CECE Project

University of Denver

The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Project

Need for the CECE Project

President Barack Obama, state governments, major philanthropic foundations, and national policy organizations have all reinforced the importance of increasing the number of college graduates who are prepared to be productive members of the workforce. As a result, institutions of higher education are facing pressures to enhance learning outcomes and increase graduation rates on their campuses. However, the students entering college are becoming increasingly diverse, and institutions of higher education are struggling to increase learning and success among diverse populations on their campuses. The CECE Project offers a new approach to achieving these college completion goals at national, state, and institution levels.

Pillars of the CECE Project

The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Project is an initiative aimed at transforming campus environments to create the conditions for diverse college student populations to thrive. The CECE Project's design, goals, and activities are founded on four pillars:

  • Vision: The CECE Project is designed to cultivate a shared vision regarding what campuses¬†must look like to be characterized by inclusive excellence and provide all students with optimal opportunities to thrive in college.
  • Inquiry: The CECE Project is designed to stimulate educational research and campus assessment practices that advance knowledge about institutional environments in postsecondary education.
  • Transformation: The CECE Project is aimed at generating data and evidence that can inform efforts to transform institutions of higher education (including policies, programs, practices, pedagogy, curricula, and activities) to maximize success among diverse populations.
  • Equity: The CECE Project is focused on advancing an equity agenda through promoting the development of campus environments that engage the cultural backgrounds and identities of all students.

Origins of the CECE Project

The CECE Project is a response to the need for theoretical models and assessment tools that (1) reflect the cultural diversity of today's college students, (2) delineate the elements of campus environments that allow diverse populations to thrive, and (3) can be used to examine and improve college environments to maximize success among diverse populations.

Using theory and research published over the last 30 years and qualitative data from several studies examining the experiences of racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse student populations, the CECE Model was developed to explain the types of campus environments that allow diverse student populations to thrive in college.

The CECE Survey was constructed to offer a tool that education scholars, institutional researchers, assessment specialists, and college educators can use in conjunction with the CECE Model to examine their own campus environments and the impact of those environments on the experiences and outcomes of their respective student bodies.

Core Elements of the CECE Project

Culturally engaging campus environments are institutional environments that reflect and are responsive to the identities of culturally diverse student populations. Research indicates that these types of college and university environments lead to more positive individual experiences and higher levels of success among diverse college students. There are a total of nine indicators that characterize culturally engaging campus environments:

  1. Culturally Familiarity
  2. Culturally Relevant Knowledge
  3. Cultural Community Service
  4. Cultural Validation
  5. Meaningful Cross-Cultural Engagement
  6. Collectivist Cultural Orientations
  7. Humanized Educational Environments
  8. Proactive Philosophies
  9. Holistic Support

These nine indicators are described in more detail on the Survey and Indicators page.

Aim of the CECE Project

The overarching aim of the CECE Project is to utilize the CECE Model and Survey to assist postsecondary institutions in their efforts to examine, understand, and improve their campus environments and maximize success among their diverse student populations. There are several additional goals of the CECE Project:

  • To expand the use of culturally relevant and responsive perspectives in research and assessment practices.
  • To help institutions understand the extent to which their respective campus environments are conducive to success among diverse student populations.
  • To provide tools and support for the development of institutional action plans to transform campus environments and allow diverse populations to thrive in college.