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Students

Key to your success

April 6, 2009

The Key Communities, started in 1998 to meet the needs of underrepresented students, have blossomed into an essential part in the experience that students have at CSU. The Key communities are places where students are challenged, welcomed, and supported.

An idea

In 1998, Paul Thayer, associate VP for Student Affairs, dubbed the father of the Key Communities, came up with the idea of a community that would serve any student who wanted to participate but would be intentional for underrepresented students. A community where students will be challenged, welcomed, and supported.

“Key is a strong community and a diverse community where students from all backgrounds can feel welcomed and know that they are not alone in their experience” says Tae Nosaka, assistant director for the Center for Advising and Student Achievement, or CASA. “We want students to believe in themselves. If we provide structure, guidance and support, maybe we’ll see that difference.”

Research shows

CSU conducted a research in the mid-1990s on the experience that students have at the university. The research showed that underrepresented students, such as first generation, students of color, and non-resident students’ overall experience was not the same as their counterparts. In many cases, it showed that underrepresented students had lower level of academic performance, a lower rate of retention, and were less satisfied with their overall experience at CSU.

“Even when you compare similar students, similar GPA, and similar test scores, you still got the same result. This led some to believe that change needed to occur within the university to provide a more supportive environment for many students,” says Nosaka.

Goals of Key

  • Provide the opportunity for shared learning both within and outside of the classroom, as well as opportunities to engage in academic experiences on campus.
  • Foster a healthy, diverse community in which students interact with and learn about students with backgrounds different from their own.
  • Offer enriched opportunities for involvement and leadership development, encouraging students to feel connected to the university community.
  • More goals

The Key communities are highly diverse first and second year learning communities designed to assist students with their transition to and through the university.

Key for more students

When asked to expand the Key Academic Community to serve more students, Nosaka decided that the best approach would be to expand the number of communities and not the number of students in one community. She was worried that making the program bigger might take away from the sense of community that was essential to the success of the program.

“I hope that we can spend the next five years enriching what we have – changing, adding, and building. The programs will become even better if we can improve them before we grow,” says Nosaka.

The communities

“I enjoy being apart of Key because it made my transition to college much smoother and has left me with an appreciation of campus activities and programs that connect students. The smaller classes and living community have increased my opportunities to truly get to know a diverse group of people,” says Katie Hartwig, a freshman business administration major with a double concentration in marketing and management.

Similar structure

All students of the Key programs are provided with peer mentors or graduate coordinators who will help guide and support the participants towards a positive experience. First year students take a cluster of classes together and sophomore students take a leadership development or academic and career-decision making seminar. All students live together in Braiden Hall with the exception of Key Plus students who have the option of living off campus.

So what’s so special?

Just to name a few…

  • Key Plus students are retained to the third year at 9.7 percentage points higher than the university average.
  • Since the start of Key Service, 322 students contributed 9,392 hours of service/volunteer work.
  • 81.5% of Key students were satisfied with their decision to participate in Key.
  • 100% of faculty who responded to the Faculty Survey were satisfied with their experience teaching in Key

“The Key communities provide a safe and welcoming environment, it gives student confidence, and we expect a lot of our students. Key students consistently perform better than the incoming freshmen class academically and first year retention rates are higher. But the best measurement of success is when you hear a student say they wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the program and that they’re proud to be a CSU student,” says Nosaka.


Contact: Anh Ha
E-mail: Anh.Ha@ColoState.edu
Phone: (970) 491-4161