Dominican Wins Higher Ed’s Top Innovation Award

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Dominican University of California has been named the nation’s most transformative four-year university by the American Council on Education (ACE) in recognition of a deep commitment to student opportunity and success.

As the 2020 recipient of the ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation, the Marin County university has been recognized for responding to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways — and helping students succeed in college during a period of unprecedented volatility and change.

“As this tremendous recognition from the American Council on Education confirms, Dominican University of California is at the forefront of responding to individual student needs while never wavering from a commitment to hands-on learning and critical thinking,” said Dominican President Mary B. Marcy.

 The national award recognizes Dominican’s focus on providing every student with an education that embraces the increasing importance of technology and the powerful impact of a mentor.

“As the workplace becomes more complex, the unique opportunities provided by small colleges like Dominican have never been more essential,” President Marcy said. “This award honors our dedicated faculty and staff for their commitment to our students and to our society.”

The crux of the institution’s transformation is the Dominican Experience, a signature program that provides undergraduates with access to personalized coaching and the opportunity to engage with the community through service-learning, internships, and fieldwork. In their junior and senior years, students work closely with faculty mentors to develop original research or creative projects — often to present at regional or national conferences. Students graduate with digital portfolios that showcase personal growth, academic accomplishments, and professional skills.

In the past decade, Dominican also has launched forward-thinking programs and collaborations, including an unprecedented partnership with the coding academy Make School that developed industry-aligned programs in computer science. Dominican was the driving force behind the State of California’s Civic Action Fellowship, which draws on public service as a way to assist with college tuition. New academic programs include a Social Justice degree, a Post-Baccalaureate Premedical program, a Master of Science in Business Analytics, and a minor in Coding and Software Design.

As a result of innovations, Dominican has seen graduation rates improve by more than 70% since 2011, along with an increase of 30% in the ethnic diversity of the undergraduate degree-seeking student body from 2011 to 2018. In fall 2019, first-to-second year retention for those who started as first-year students was at 87.5%, the highest in nearly a decade.

The ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation is divided into two categories. Dominican received the award for institutions with student populations of up to 5,000. Amarillo College, a community college in Texas, is the recipient for institutions with student populations of 5,001 and more.

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