NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Stephen F. Austin State University has been named a 2020 College of Distinction, a national honor that recognizes the university’s success in helping students learn and succeed.
With a student-centered approach to teaching and learning, SFA students have traditionally participated in activities that allow them to apply what they learn in the classroom to the needs and interests of society, according to Dr. Scott Gordon, SFA president.
“SFA places a primary focus on meeting the needs of students in an engaged learning environment,” Gordon said. “I am delighted to see the university receive the Colleges of Distinction designation. It is a fitting recognition for the outstanding manner in which SFA faculty members are delivering a well-rounded education to our students. ”
The award is unique among popular college guide classifications, which typically rank schools on the basis of ambiguous numbers, such as the size of endowment, selectivity and faculty salaries. SFA’s recognition is based on the excellence exhibited in its classroom, incorporating high-impact practices throughout every student’s undergraduate education.
Such student-centered programs include first-year seminars, community-based learning programs, service-learning programs, alternative spring breaks, diversity and global-learning programs, intensive language programs, intensive writing courses, interdisciplinary programs, undergraduate research, living-learning communities and study-abroad programs.
Tyson Schritter, chief operating officer for Colleges of Distinction, said a truly valuable education can’t be measured solely by rank or reputation.
“Students learn and thrive best when they embrace hands-on learning in a vibrant, welcoming community,” Schritter said. “That’s why it’s so encouraging to find SFA taking such an innovative approach with its curriculum: its high-impact educational practices ensure that the undergraduate experience is worthwhile and unique.”
SFA received specific accolades for its programs in business, education, engineering and nursing, as well as career development.
“In addition to training in their academic areas, students must learn to be adaptable in an every-changing career landscape,” said Dr. Steve Westbrook, vice president for university affairs. “Our Center for Career and Professional Development equips students with job-market research and the self-reflection and networking skills needed to launch their careers.”
A national resource for school selection and quality assessment, Colleges of Distinction’s evaluation process consists of detailed interviews and research for each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, career development, strategic plan and student satisfaction. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to four distinctions: engaged students, great teaching, vibrant community and successful outcomes.
“Colleges of Distinction doesn’t rank schools, because we know that every student is different in what they need to best learn, grow and succeed,” said Schritter. “Instead, we value schools that embrace those differences. SFA puts the student experience first, providing all the tools and opportunities they need to become lifelong learners who are ready to take on any challenge in today’s ever-evolving society.
Since 2000, the Colleges of Distinction website and guidebook have honored school throughout the U.S. for excellence in undergraduate-focused higher education. The schools in the Colleges of Distinction consortium distinguish themselves through a focus on the undergraduate experience. The website, CollegesofDistinction.com, and guidebooks provide dynamic college profiles, customized tools and resources for students, parents and high school counselors.