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‘The Eagle Experience’ wins national award for excellence

The Eagle Experience,’ a collaborative cross-university effort to ensure new students’ successful transition into their college years, grabbed the attention of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and won a 2021-22 NASPA Excellence Bronze Award. 

“NASPA, the professional home for the field of student affairs and higher education, is known for promoting development and best practices for co-curricular student engagement and success,” said Amy Smith, associate vice president for Enrollment Management. “Recognition by this 15,000-plus member national organization helps to validate the work being done to facilitate student success at Georgia Southern!”

The NASPA Excellence Awards recognize the contributions of members who are transforming higher education through outstanding programs, innovative services and effective administration. NASPA’s Excellence Awards cover 11 categories crucial to the success of students. Sharing our successes benefits students, improves institutions and promotes our profession. Georgia Southern was the only University System of Georgia institution recognized in this year’s list of winners.

‘The Eagle Experience’ began with a charge and directive in fall 2020 from the vice presidents in Enrollment Management, Student Affairs and Academic Affairs to reimagine the transition experience for incoming students beginning summer 2021. This resulted in more than 50 faculty, staff and students working together to create an exemplary experience for new students.

“This recognition showcases the success shown when the University strategically coordinates programming and focuses on outcomes that are serving students on our three campuses for the greater purpose of student success,” said Ken Gassiot, Ph.D., associate vice president for Student Development. “Academic affairs, enrollment management and student affairs were guided by learning outcomes that were aligned with University pillars and USG’s Momentum Approach, and intended to welcome all students so that their unique story could thrive in and outside of the classroom.”

Much effort was given to design a schedule that considered engagement and support for a broad range of student populations, including online-only, first time-first year, graduate, LGBTQ+, multicultural, dual-enrolled, military-affiliated, honors, international and transfer, among others, to showcase the value that Georgia Southern has in ensuring all voices and students feel welcome, Gassiot added. 

Winning the bronze award reassured the committee they are on the right track for future iterations of the program. 

“The award speaks to the potential of ‘The Eagle Experience’ more than anything else,” said Dustin Anderson, Ph.D., associate provost for Student Success. “This was a big change in the culture around the orientation and transition of new students through their first year at Georgia Southern. The goal was to build a coherent voice across all of our units for our students. We feel ‘The Eagle Experience’’s approach in connecting students with academic departments and support prior to classes beginning, along with University-wide engagement, supported that goal.” 

Throughout the events for fall and spring semesters, The Eagle Experience planners welcomed and collected feedback from the campus community. This valuable information was used for planning summer and fall 2022 initiatives.

Fall 2022 programming will focus on wellness and balance, scholarship and success, and discovery and exploration to help create greater connections with these topics for students. In addition, efforts are being put into hosting more large events, even more involvement with faculty and academic departments, as well as additional ways to connect students.

“The external validation through this national award speaks to how other professionals across the country view Georgia Southern’s commitment to successful student transition,” Gassiot said. “The examples, data and people who participated in so many capacities of ‘The Eagle Experience’ provided the substance of the nomination submission. An enormous amount of pride is felt for the faculty, students, and staff who planned, participated in, and supported ‘The Eagle Experience.’” 

Learn more about programming and upcoming events at


Posted in Awards and Recognition, Press Releases