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Best Practices in Christian Higher Education

A Cohort-Based Research Seminar Series

In partnership with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Abilene Christian University is hosting a series of two-year, cohort-based research seminars examining critical features of student success with a special emphasis on developing, implementing and assessing high-impact practices

As a nationally ranked university in student success, ACU is uniquely positioned to lead conversations around best practices in Christian higher education. ACU is the only Texas university nationally ranked for 2020 by U.S. News & World Report in five of eight key student success areas: First-Year Experiences, Service Learning, Undergrad Research/Creative Projects, Study Abroad and Learning Communities.

The work produced through the seminars, plus submissions from a broader call, will be presented at a biennial conference hosted at ACU. Additionally, ACU Press will work to produce an edited volume featuring the most relevant papers from the cohort.

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Cultivating Engaged Learners Through First-Year Experiences: Seminar 1

The inaugural seminar for Best Practices in Christian Higher Education will focus on the First-Year Experience with a cohort of 12 scholars. The second cohort will launch in Fall 2022 and focus on Global Learning/Study Abroad. Future seminars will focus on other high-impact practices.


Each cohort of High-Impact Scholars will meet for two intensive workshops to focus on one specific practice (e.g., first-year experience, service learning, study abroad, etc.) and examine the impact and implementation in Christian higher education. After the three-day workshops, participants will engage in research at their respective institutions the following year.

Dates and Locations

The first workshop will take place February 25-27, 2021, on the ACU campus, 1600 Campus Court, Abilene, Texas. The second will be May 24-26, 2021, at the university’s Dallas campus, 16633 Dallas Parkway, Addison, Texas.

Participants will present their research alongside other presenters at a national conference hosted in Abilene, Texas, in Fall 2022


ACU will provide meals, lodging, facilities and materials during the three-day workshops. Lodging will be single-occupancy rooms for each participant at the Courtyard Marriott. Members are responsible for arranging and paying for their transportation to and from the workshops.

Research Topics and Methods

  • First-year seminars
  • Integrating first-generation students
  • Increasing engagement of traditionally underserved students
  • Orientation for new students
  • Academic advising of new students
  • Spiritual formation of first-year students
  • Creating learning communities within the first-year experience
  • Professional discernment and professional development during the first year
  • Retention of first-year students
  • Peer mentors for first-year students
  • Developing and fostering relationships between faculty and first-year students

Research methods (i.e., quantitative, qualitative) will vary based on the specific research topic and question of each scholar. The methodology will be developed during the two workshops in collaboration with research design experts and cohort members.

Benefits of Participating in the Research Seminar

High-Impact Scholars will have the unique opportunity to learn from ACU’s national leadership in high-impact practices and collaborate with faculty and staff from various institutions across the nation to produce work that will be a significant contribution to scholarship of Christian higher education. 

Findings and institutional practices will be showcased at a national conference hosted by ACU in Fall 2022, and scholars will have the opportunity to submit their work to be considered for inclusion in an edited volume published by ACU Press.

ACU is eager to host these cohorts of Christian faculty and staff for the purpose of investigating creative and innovative evidence-based practices, which will enhance the learning experiences of students across the nation. We look forward to hearing your ideas and collaborating on this exciting opportunity to spur one another on in raising up future Christian servants and leaders for the sake of the kingdom of God.

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Banner showcasing ACU's student success awards from U. S. News and World Report.