February 2007


New York, NY - February 5, 2007 - TIAA-CREF, the leading provider of retirement savings products and services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields, today announced the University of Wyoming as the recipient of the 2007 TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award, which recognizes innovative faculty development programs to enhance undergraduate teaching and learning. The university will be honored February 12, 2007 during a special presentation at the American Council on Education's annual meeting in Washington, DC.

"We are proud to honor the University of Wyoming and its Synergy Program which helps at-risk students thrive during their first year in a university setting," said Madeleine d'Ambrosio, Executive Director of the TIAA-CREF Institute. "TIAA-CREF has a long-standing commitment to the higher education community, and we take special pride in formally recognizing innovative programs that effectively support the diverse, multicultural aspects of undergraduate education, as well as offer a fresh approach to faculty development."

Established in 1993 by TIAA-CREF and administered by the TIAA-CREF Institute, the Hesburgh Award is named in honor of Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, nationally renowned educator and world humanitarian. Father Hesburgh also served on the TIAA and CREF Boards of Overseers for twenty-eight years.

The University of Wyoming was chosen as this year's Hesburgh winner in recognition of its Synergy Program, which offers structured first-year support for underprivileged and under-prepared students. The following four independent judges, all with distinguished backgrounds in higher education, reviewed this year's entries and selected the Synergy Program as the winner: G. Edward Haring, President, Kellogg Community College,; Margaret Miller (Chair), Professor, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia; Mary Deane Sorcinelli, Associate Provost, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Gordon Watts, Executive Vice President, National Park Community College, Hot Springs, Arkansas.

About the Synergy Program

First implemented in 2001, the Synergy Program is a first-year, classroom-based program for provisionally admitted students (those with low ACT or high school GPA scores) designed to help them build relationships with peers and faculty, and succeed in their coursework. According to the University of Wyoming and national statistics, provisionally admitted students are at significantly greater risk for academic failure or departure than other students. Synergy instructors work collaboratively throughout the year to integrate thematic, text and assignment-based connections among writing, research and reading, public speaking and government courses. In addition to learning democratic and community-based pedagogical approaches, instructors learn strategies for meaningfully integrating speaking, writing, reading and citizenship literacies.

In its first five years, the program has demonstrated significant success rates. When compared to data compiled the year before Synergy began, data from the University of Wyoming have shown significant improvement on three measures: grade point average has improved from 1.77 in 2000 to 2.08 in 2005; students receiving academic probation has decreased from 67 percent to 40 percent over the same timeframe; and fall-to-fall retention has increased from 73 percent to 87 percent. The results of a 2005 survey of Synergy students show an 85 percent satisfaction with the program and 96 percent satisfaction with their teachers. Because of the program's growing popularity, there is now a waitlist for regularly admitted students wishing to participate.

Hesburgh Certificate of Excellence Winner

In addition to the Hesburgh Award winner, Columbia College of South Carolina was selected to receive a TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Certificate of Excellence for its meritorious faculty development program. Since 1999, the college has placed a rededicated emphasis on workshops, training sessions for teaching and weekly faculty meetings to help faculty concentrate on deepening students' learning and encouraging them to become self-motivated, critical thinkers and active learners.

TIAA-CREF is a national financial services organization with more than $406 billion in combined assets under management (12/30/06) and is the leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields.
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About the TIAA-CREF Institute
The mission of the TIAA-CREF Institute, part of TIAA-CREF, is to foster objective research, build knowledge, support thought leadership, and enhance understanding of strategic issues related to higher education and lifelong financial security. For additional information regarding the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award, or other TIAA-CREF Institute programs, please visit

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