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NASH Announces First-Ever Catalyst Fund Awards to Scale Best Practices for Student Success

December 8, 2022

For Immediate Release: December 8th, 2022

Contact: David Belsky; 347-227-0055;

Washington, DC – The National Association of System Heads (NASH) today announced the first round of awardees for its newly established Catalyst Fund. The NASH Catalyst Fund encourages broad engagement of NASH members in sharing promising practices that lead to equitable student success outcomes that are scalable within and across public higher education systems.

The first round of NASH Catalyst Fund awards are aimed at recognizing hotspots of best practices that demonstrate interventions that are already underway and proving to be successful with the potential to have a catalytic impact in meeting NASH’s measurable goals.

“As an incubator of best practices, NASH is proud to have launched our innovative Catalyst Fund,” said Dr. Nancy Zimpher, director of the Power of Systems at NASH. “Its impact will be far reaching but the concept is simple: through pooled philanthropic support, NASH is recognizing and incentivizing the development of systems’ big ideas that, once proven to work, have the potential to be scaled not only within systems but at peer systems across the country.”

We are proud to recognize our Cohort I Catalyst Fund awardees from across the nation:

  • The Black Scholar Experience – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), Southern Illinois University System
    • At SIUE, just 35% of Black students who enroll earn a degree after six years. SIUE is committed to closing this equity gap with the Black Scholar Experience (BSE)—a comprehensive academic and advising program designed to engage students and strengthen their ability to graduate. Through the development of academic cohorts, proactive advising, and educational programming that highlights African American ideas and interests, the BSE builds upon the positive outcomes of initiatives already offered through SIUE and is expanding offerings from a select group of 40-50 first-year Black students each year to serve all incoming Black students.
  • Reginald F. Lewis (RFL) Scholars Program – University of Louisiana System
    • This program is designed to enhance both the achievement and educational experience for exemplary Black male students. Two students from each of the System’s nine-member institutions make up yearly cohorts participating in a three-year program focusing on three key areas—academics, social and career advancement, and community service. The RFL Scholars Program draws from research that Black male achievement is best accomplished by prioritizing academic endeavors over social programming.
  • Compete LA – University of Louisiana System
    • The program recognizes that adults who want to return to school have significantly more competing priorities than traditional students and provides solutions including a personal coach, reduced tuition rates, and adult-friendly programs. In its first 36 months, Compete LA successfully completed outreach to a total of 5,699 potential students, with 1,216 students applying and 874 students enrolling in the program. This first cohort of students completed an average of 74.16 credit hours, and 206 students obtained their degree.
  • Sam Houston ELITE (Establishing Leadership In & Through Education) Program – Sam Houston State University, Texas State University System
    • Program participants attend guest speaker series, weekly small group meetings, seminars, social activities, and community service. Additionally, program participants work with their professors to complete academic progress reports to support grade awareness and engagement with faculty. Their experience and development are chronicled through a portfolio which serves as a personal and professional record of their accomplishments, skills, and development. SH ELITE has resulted in average one-year retention rates 16% above non-program participants, as well as in 4- and 6-year graduation rates 7% and 15%, respectively, higher than non-program participants.
  • Common Curriculum Management System & Process – California State University (CSU)
    • Digital degree planners are one critical element for solidifying what are commonly referred to as Guided Pathways that: 1) clarify pathways to a student’s end goal; 2) help students choose and enter degree pathways; 3) help students stay on track; and 4) ensure student learning. CSU is planning to implement a common system-wide curriculum management system and annual curriculum cycle as a prerequisite for our Digital Roadmap Equity Priority in order to provide accurate, timely, personalized, and mobile-friendly digital roadmaps for all students prior to their arrival at our campuses upon admission.
  • Transformational Change Initiative (TCI) – Washington State University
    • In a randomized controlled trial, TCI interventions have already proven to improve student retention. The TCI has three components that use evidence-based strategies known to increase students’ academic resiliency:
      • Letting Go and Staying Connected: Provide parents and their WSU-bound children with a handbook including interactive exercises, tools, and strategies for identifying core values, developing a sense of purpose, and engaging in values-based decision making.
      • LAUNCH: Peer-mentoring program to facilitate students’ early connection with, and involvement in, high-impact learning opportunities
      • Lift. Inspire. Foster. Transform. (LIFT): Four-part faculty development workshop series on pedagogies and behavior interventions that foster connection and belonging, values-based decision-making, mindfulness and self-compassion, and resiliency and growth mindset.
  • Technology Pathways for Incarcerated Students – New Mexico State University System (NMSU)
    • In 2017, NMSU saw an opportunity to serve the community and ensure that incarcerated people have access to robust educational services that prepare them for both higher education and 21st-century jobs. Classes began in Spring of 2017 at two women’s facilities, with students taking courses to earn certificates in Web Fundamentals, Computer Technology, and Creative Media. Students in the program have achieved 24 certificate completions since 2019, and 3 students have also completed societal re-entry with certificate in hand.
  • Transfer Credit Recovery: Earn What You’ve Earned – Commonwealth University, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)
    • Through participation in the NASH Improvement Community on Transfer, Commonwealth conducted an audit of all current students who had an associate’s degree and adjusted their degree audits accordingly to show the completion of the general education requirements. These changes positioned a number of students to graduate earlier than previously anticipated, reducing their total cost of attendance through shortening time to degree completion. Taking this work further with application of their Transfer Credit Framework, Commonwealth has audited the transcripts of all students who transferred in 30-59 credits to identify those who may have already fully satisfied general education requirements. Based on a Fall 2022 audit, 456 students were able to receive a total of 2,414 additional transfer credits.
  • Transfer Process Improvement – Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE)
    • Through participation in the NASH Improvement Community on Transfer, the Kentucky CPE has worked with Western Kentucky University and Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College to identify unnecessary obstacles to the in-state vertical transfer process and to implement short-term, reactive changes to address those obstacles. CPE plans to implement this rapid improvement process with additional sets of partners, which would include one regional university and at least one feeder community college.
  • We Want You Back: Reengaging and Reenrolling with the Welcome Back Form – California State University (CSU)
    • CSU developed a simplified reenrollment form to efficiently and warmly welcome back students who have stopped out. The Welcome Back Form also streamlined operational processes for staff and eased administrative burden on campuses. After identifying the application and related fee as barriers to underrepresented student reengagement and reenrollment, as well as the tediousness of the manual processing of reenrollment application data by staff, a collaboration emerged to develop a streamlined, fee-free alternative that would support student reenrollment and ease the administrative burden the reenrollment process created.
  • Scaling up RI Reconnect – Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner (RIOPC)
    • The RI Reconnect program is an initiative that deploys navigators to provide one-on-one coaching and resources to individuals looking to enter or re-matriculate at a RI institution of higher education or enroll in a postsecondary training program from start to finish. Since being launched in 2020, 2,844 students have experienced the strength in educational support in a wide range of outreach initiatives. The NASH RRI will support RIOPC in developing a funding model and community-based implementation plan to expand and scale up this already successful initiative to all Rhode Island postsecondary students—including those resettled as refugees.
  • Resilient Refugee Program – Western Kentucky University (WKU), Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (KYCPE)
    • Located in a refugee resettlement city, WKU is uniquely poised to enroll large numbers of displaced students eligible for the Kentucky Innovative Scholarship Pilot Program into undergraduate programs. In order to provide outstanding preparation and ongoing service to this population, the WKU is launching the Resilient Refugee Program. This initiative innovatively combines three already successful WKU programs (Summer Scholars, International Pathway to Academic Success (IPAS), and Global Learning Ambassadors) to provide displaced students with access to personalized support navigating the complexities of life at an American university.
  • Making Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) – Washington State University (WSU)
    • The WSU-Pullman ECAR Chapter has successfully hosted a family in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and will collaborate with the College of Nursing at WSU-Spokane as an ideal location for expansion. During their inaugural year, WSU-Pullman recognized barriers to health access experienced by refugee families and will work to remove those barriers for refugees settling in Spokane by mobilizing students enrolled in the BSN program. This creates a model whereby student engagement in refugee resettlement assistance can be a valuable educational experience throughout the WSU system.

In addition, NASH’s Refugee Resettlement Initiative (RRI) is accepting Catalyst Fund proposals on a rolling basis. Funds will be granted to projects that support and empower refugee students and families with access to education, offering wrap-around services, community sponsorship, securing refuge for displaced scholars, and more at NASH member systems.

Through continued support, the Catalyst Fund will support member systems in advancing promising practices in pursuit of equitable student success. For more information on our recipients, RRI’s request for proposals, or applications for the Catalyst Fund, please visit

About the National Association of System Heads

Founded in 1979, the National Association of System Heads (NASH) represents chief executives of the 65 public higher education systems in the United States. Member institutions work collaboratively to advance innovation and change in public systems of colleges and universities. To learn more about NASH and its national initiative, the Power of Systems, visit


Media Contact

David Belsky