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ECMC Foundation Joins Association of College and University Educators’ National Initiative to Strengthen Teaching and Learning for More Than 250,000 Students

With NASH partnership, momentum builds for Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program, developed to certify up to 2,000 professors and staff

August 10, 2023

Today the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) announced that ECMC Foundation is joining its national initiative, Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program, as a founding sponsor. Designed to strengthen the higher education experience for hundreds of thousands of U.S. students, this new program will allow up to 2,000 professors and staff to earn an ACUE certificate through its “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course. Given typical teaching loads, the course will benefit an estimated 250,000 students annually. Last month, ACUE announced it was partnering with Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) on the development of the program.

The grant will be implemented with the support of the National Association of System Heads (NASH). In addition to serving as a fiscal sponsor for the generous funding from ECMC Foundation, NASH will work to encourage participation of systems of higher education and leverage their ability to make an impact at scale. The work naturally integrates with NASH’s Power of Systems agenda to advance prosperity for the nation and, in particular, its Learning Imperative, which calls for a shift in the postsecondary experience from institution-centric to student-centric approaches.

Jacob Fraire, president of ECMC Foundation, said, “We are pleased to be among the partners committed to this work. Too many students with aspirations to complete their degree arrive on campus only to find there is a lack of support across the board. I’m optimistic that, together, we can truly build a system of higher education that prepares all learners, with no exception.”

ACUE’s “Fostering a Culture of Belonging” course provides campus professionals with practical approaches to ensure students and colleagues feel seen, heard, and valued. Its commonsense strategies deepen an institutional culture that supports all students, particularly those who can most benefit from a college education, including first generation and historically under-deserved students. To date, thousands of professors and staff from public, private, and denominational institutions, across 23 states in all regions of the country, have earned this certificate. Among these diverse course-takers, 98 percent find ACUE’s commonsense recommendations relevant to their teaching and students.

“With college retention rates hovering around 60 percent, the higher education community must focus on creating learning environments that make all students feel welcomed and valued – regardless of their backgrounds. By empowering campus professionals to foster a culture of belonging, our colleges and universities become places of acceptance and, ultimately, success for all students,” said Jonathan Gyurko, Ph.D., ACUE President and Co-founder. “It is exciting to collaborate with ECMC Foundation and NASH as we grow our national initiative to foster a culture of belonging in U.S. colleges and universities.”

"We are thrilled to play a partnership role with ECMC Foundation and ACUE to provide teaching certification to thousands of faculty across the country,” said Nancy Zimpher, interim executive director of NASH. “Our systems have made it their collective mission to increase degree completion, reduce student debt, and improve social mobility. None of that can happen without a strong commitment to good teaching on our campuses, and we are proud to enable ACUE’s quality training and support to benefit even more students.”

All U.S. colleges and universities participating in Title IV federal student aid programs are eligible to apply for Fostering a Culture of Belonging: The National Higher Education Excellence Challenge Grant Program. Interested institutions can find more information and apply at

About ACUE

The mission of the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) is student success through great teaching. In partnership with colleges, universities, higher education systems, and associations, ACUE prepares and certifies professors and staff in the evidence-based teaching practices that lead to higher retention and achievement, deeper learning, and closed achievement gaps. Numerous and independently validated studies confirm that students are more engaged, learn more, and complete courses in greater numbers when taught by ACUE Certified faculty members. ACUE’s online, cohort-based certification programs are delivered through institutional partnerships and open enrollment courses endorsed by the American Council on Education.

About ECMC Foundation

ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to improve higher education for career success among underserved populations through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments to remove barriers to postsecondary completion; build the capacity of organizations, institutions and systems; and transform the postsecondary ecosystem using a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to support both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. Learn more about ECMC Foundation by visiting and ECMC Group by visiting

About the National Association of System Heads

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

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