Southeast Selected to Participate in Inaugural Cohort of ACE Learner Success Lab


Southeast Missouri State University has been selected to participate in the American Council on Education (ACE) Learner Success Laboratory (LSL).

New this year, the LSL is part of a suite of Transformation Labs offered by ACE to guide colleges and universities through a structured strategic planning process to advance critical institutional priorities.

A leadership team from Southeast will work over a period of 12-18 months to integrate evidence-based practices for persistence and completion, life design and career exploration, and workforce skills development, ultimately producing a comprehensive strategy for learner success. The pilot cohort, supported by a grant from the Strada Education Network, will begin work in October 2020. Dr. Debbie Below, vice president for enrollment management and student success, and Dr. Mike Godard, Southeast provost, are co-chairing Southeast’s team.

“As Southeast continues to evolve and deploy strategic initiatives to support its students’ success, we are very interested in becoming more informed and knowledgeable about the key factors that support students to graduation,” said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University.

In spring 2019, Southeast launched a strategic initiative designed to optimize the University’s identity, diversity, career readiness, student success and enrollment. Additionally, several key initiatives have boosted the University’s recruitment, retention and graduation efforts as the institution works to maintain its 80% retention goal, attained this fall, and reach a 60% graduation rate. Among them, the University has eliminated registration and financial barriers, streamlined student financial processes, implemented technology-enabled advising known as SupportNet to boost academic confidence and has enhanced its curriculum with innovative academic offerings while reducing non-productive credits.

Other efforts like Southeast’s new Copper Dome Scholarship Program now provide aid to 70% of first-year students, up from 30% previously; expansion of its test optional admissions and scholarship offerings available to beginning freshman in fall 2021; and the University’s new need-based Will To Do Award fills the gap in eligible Pell students’ unmet tuition and general fees, meaning recipients pay $0 in tuition and general fees. All these initiatives underscore the University’s commitment to providing a high-quality and affordable learning environment that allows students to achieve their higher education goals.

“With the ACE Learner Success Lab, we look forward to continuing to strengthen the University’s mission to provide student-centered education and experiential learning focused on student success and career readiness,” Vargas said. “The Learner Success Lab is an opportunity for continuous improvement and transformation.”

Southeast will join leaders from nine other universities selected for the program’s inaugural cohort. In addition to Southeast, participating institutions include Elon University; Iowa State University; Labouré College; Massasoit Community College; Richard Bland College of William and Mary; Union Institute and University; University of Hawaii-West Oahu; Western Oregon University; and Windward Community College.

Institutions in the cohort serve approximately 67,000 undergraduate learners and comprise a diverse group of two- and four-year, public and private institutions, and several current or emerging Hispanic Serving Institutions.

“This is an important time to take action to further learner success, especially for post-traditional and traditionally underserved learners who are our new majority,” said Lindsey Myers, director of the Learner Success Lab at ACE. “As higher education reshapes itself in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions in the Learner Success Lab can leverage this opportunity to align their resources and build strategies that center and empower learners.”

About ACE

ACE is a membership organization that mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovate, high-quality practice. As the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities, our strength lies in our diverse membership of more than 1,700 colleges and universities, related associations and other organizations in America and abroad. ACE is the only major higher education association to represent all types of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions: two-year and four-year, public and private. For more information, please visit or follow ACE on Twitter @ACEducation.

For more information about ACE and the Learner Success Laboratory, visit