Letter from the CEO

A year of reemergence and connection.

Bridget Burns

Dear colleagues,

At the University Innovation Alliance, we believe that innovation and change are best sustained through a movement that brings inspiration, community, and purpose to the difficult daily work of redesigning higher education.

2022 was a year of transition and reemergence for the UIA. Our board, staff, and network convened in person for the first time in three years. We added four new universities to the Alliance, bringing with them new energy and ideas. We released two new playbooks designed to accelerate learning from national multi-year scale projects on proactive advising and the college to career transition. We have now produced 100 live-stream shows and episodes of the Innovating Together podcast and our newsletter tripled in subscribers. We raised $5 million dollars for cutting edge collaborative innovation projects, and we welcomed new colleagues and partners to the University Innovation Lab (our digital ecosystem of transformational tools, templates, resources, and community for student success innovators within and beyond our member campuses.)

The UIA was designed to accelerate student success innovation across higher education, and, in turn, drive social and economic mobility across our country. As we approach the 10-year anniversary of our first gathering, I am grateful and humbled that this movement has expanded and evolved to challenge and inspire so many institutions and student success leaders beyond the UIA. It is an honor to share what we've learned and to hear from others how you've built upon those lessons to improve your own institutions.

We know that when universities collaborate, students win - and when students win, our country's future is bright. Thanks for being part of our innovation community this year.

Bridget Burns

Bridget Burns, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer

Impact and Scale

Founding UIA institutions have produced more than 118,000 additional graduates together over the past 9 years.

UIA institutions are deeply committed to producing more low-income graduates and graduates of color across the country, and their efforts are paying off. Data from fall 2022 show that:

  • Founding UIA institutions have now produced over 118,500 additional degrees above baseline projections and are on track to double their 68,000 degree goal by 2025.
  • The number of annual UIA graduates who are students of color has increased 93% from 2012-2013 to 2021-2022.
  • The number of annual graduates from low-income backgrounds has increased by 50%.
  • The number of overall annual graduates has increased 32%.

In 2022 the UIA welcomed four new institutions, bringing our network to 15: Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Illinois Chicago, the University of Colorado Denver, and the University of Utah. Collectively, UIA institutions now enroll 502,000 undergraduates, including 154,000 Pell recipients and 168,000 students of color, and produce 114,000 annual bachelor's graduates.

  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • University of Colorado Denver
  • University of Utah

This year we grew the membership of our University Innovation Lab, to student success leaders across UIA institutions. We released a virtual course in process mapping (you can try a short version here) and developed 95 downloadable tools and templates - such as this institutional habit planner and this tactics for student-centered design worksheet. Our team developed 10 virtual events on topics ranging from navigating burnout to defining student success from a student centered lens.

We're excited about the ways the Lab is supporting our member campuses. One UIA Fellow shared: "I think the Lab is a great way to connect to other institutions that are doing similar work. You are able to meet people directly, share ideas, ask questions, and really innovate together." Another Fellow noted that she'd worked with her campus to implement the most efficient and effective chatbot pilot their vendor had ever seen, thanks to resources and connections from other experienced chatbot campuses in the Lab.

We believe sharing the best templates, tools, resources and materials will make innovation adoption easier and faster for thousands of student success administrators. Beginning in 2023, we are making the Lab available to individuals and institutions outside the UIA. Everything we do is designed to pave the way for broader progress across the sector. For more information on how to access the Lab as a non-UIA member, please add your name to our wait list.

Our Work

We are testing, scaling, and learning about innovative student success methods at campuses across the country.

This year we worked to refine and clarify our evolved theory of change. Core to our hypothesis is the belief that testing and scaling innovative interventions across our network can lead to widespread sector change. Our growing network provides even greater opportunities to learn and scale the most promising student success practices.

Scale Projects

The Black Student Success Initiative

Building on landscape assessment and planning work that began in 2020, this year campuses participating in the UIA Black Student Success Initiative began piloting new interventions designed to improve the outcomes and experiences of Black students. Below is a cross section of campus project examples:

The UIA is also developing a playbook focused on identity-conscious redesign that will equip any institution to drive change focused on a unique community. We are grateful for a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to support this work.

Listening Lab for Campus Transformation

In 2022, the UIA launched a new project to design, implement, and scale an adaptable but systematic approach to elevating and listening to the student voice. With project leadership from Michigan State and pilot engagement from three additional UIA campuses (UC Riverside, Purdue, and Georgia State), the UIA is developing protocols, training modules, and actionable insight reports designed to help institutions uncover and address barriers to equitable student success that might not appear in large survey datasets.

Doctoral Research Fellows

We launched a second cohort of emerging scholars who are working with faculty advisors and UIA liaisons to conduct research on student success at their institution. You can learn more about our first cohort's research here. Seven UIA campuses are now participating in the second round of this collaborative effort. Their projects this year focus on:

  • Understanding how the implementation of course remediation policies affects equity gaps in DFW courses,
  • Identifying which life stressors influence students' mental health and their utilization of connecting campus resources,
  • Assessing the impact of a summer enrichment program aimed at first year students who need additional academic support,
  • Exploring how institutional constraints affect student success for sophomores with minoritized identities, and
  • Utilizing mixed research methods to understand how inclusive advising practices impact Black student success.

We look forward to sharing their findings and recommendations for policy and practice with our network and with you in 2023.

Frontier Set

From 2015-2021, the UIA supported a subset of member institutions participating in the Gates Foundation's Frontier Set—a group of high-performing, high-potential colleges, universities, state systems, and supporting organizations that are committed to eliminating race/ethnicity and income as predictors of student success by transforming how they operate.

UIA institutions that participated in Frontier Set (Arizona State, Georgia State, and the University of Central Florida) worked with both the UIA and the broader Frontier Set network to show how innovative course delivery models, use of data and technology, and cross-functional collaboration and organizational redesign can all improve equity in student outcomes and experiences. The Frontier Set's activities came to a close at the end of 2021, and we are pleased to share what we learned from this initiative about transformation in large public research universities. The UIA is grateful to our partners at the Gates Foundation and at UCF, GSU, and ASU for sharing their transformation journeys as part of this initiative.

Diffusion to the Field


This year we were thrilled to elevate three playbooks designed to help others across the sector leverage what we've learned. We released each of these playbooks with public webinars in partnership with the Chronicle of Higher Education.

We'll have more playbooks to share in the future as we document and diffuse what we're learning from our next wave of scale projects - from identity conscious redesign to academic recovery efforts and scaling empathy through inclusive focus group methods. We hope you'll let us know what you think of these resources and how we can improve them.

Live Content

The UIA has leveraged its foundation as a virtual organization to adapt amid Covid and test new ways of engaging the higher ed sector. Our web shows focus on elevating topics and guests that direct the field's attention to issues and values we prioritize: equity, student success, experiences and outcomes for traditionally underserved communities, and diverse leadership. These shows allow the UIA to reach and inspire higher education leaders and practitioners beyond member campuses.

We produced a cross section of following livestream shows in 2021-2022:

Thanks to support from the Carnegie Corporation of NY, Inside Higher Ed and the UIA teamed up to bring our live Weekly Wisdom show to the broader higher education community. Over 250,000 higher education leaders, staff, faculty and advocates watch each episode across our audiences.

The UIA's podcast "Innovating Together" translates content from our web shows into audio format. Innovating Together reached its milestone 100th episode at the end of 2022 and ranks in the top 5% of podcasts globally. Find and share it via your podcast app!


The UIA's monthly newsletter provides actionable strategies, resources, and tips that professionals in the field can use to help more low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color graduate from college. Each month we aggregate the best of what we've learned, heard and read, and we share it with you. In 2022 we tripled the reach of our newsletter and are thrilled to know it's extending far beyond the Alliance to engage and inspire those who share our values of equity, innovation, and collaboration. We invite you to sign up and share with your networks.

Our Network Partners

The heart and soul of our network: campus leaders with the skills and passion to drive change in higher ed.

UIA Board

The UIA is governed and led by a group of dynamic and visionary presidents and chancellors who embody our commitment to student success for low-income students and students of color.

UIA Liaisons

UIA Liaisons are the essential engine driving our work. Their strategic guidance, insight, collaborative efforts, and selfless leadership power the UIA. Liaisons mentor, guide and supervise UIA Fellows, convene campus student success teams, and ensure organizational accountability for their presidents and chancellors.

UIA Fellows

The UIA Fellows program has become a premier early- to mid-career professional development and innovation training program in higher education. Fellows provide strategic innovation capacity to propel our collaborative work. UIA Fellows have gone on to serve in leadership roles on member campuses, to lead national collaboratives, to serve in faculty roles, and to work for research organizations. These leaders are the future of our sector.

Looking Ahead

Scaling our impact and sharing what we learn.

With 2020 and 2021 further behind us and the success of 2022 inspiring us to forge ahead, the UIA looks forward to sharing with you everything we do and learn in 2023. The Alliance will welcome new member universities early in the year - creating new opportunities for greater impact on behalf of today's students.

To support and extend our collaborative work, we've developed the University Innovation Lab to share tools, resources, and virtual learning opportunities across our network and beyond. Recognizing that virtual collaborative space has never been more crucial, we are expanding Lab access to partners outside the UIA. Reach out if you're interested in learning more about how to engage. We'd love to include you in our community.

In the year ahead, we'll be focused on our Black Student Success Initiative and Listening Lab for Transformation - and on launching our newest multi-year scale initiative focused on addressing D, F, and Withdraw grades in gateway courses. Through a new investment from Ascendium Education Group and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation, UIA members will scale and study an innovative academic recovery model that's already been successful at one of our institutions. We look forward to sharing with you what we learn.

Thanks for being part of our movement to redesign higher education around student success. Reach out to us - we'd love to hear what you're learning, too.


Thanks to our Partners

The UIA gratefully acknowledges the 2021-2022 philanthropic support that has made so much of our work possible.

Most importantly, thank you to our member institutions for their commitment to the UIA's mission—and thank you to the students who inspire this work every day.