Belonging Champions

The word Equity in a circle, surrounded by the words "Community," "Learning," and "Transformation." The circle is labeled "Belonging Champions.

Belonging Champions Program Overview

The Belonging Champions program is made up of faculty communities of transformation centered in love, dialogue, problem solving, and praxis. The program seeks to build relationships between faculty members and explore student success from the dimension of key conditions for thriving, such as belonging. Participants in these communities of transformation have the opportunity to apply easy-lift, high-impact, evidence-based practices shown to improve student belonging and success, to gather real time student feedback on the key conditions for thriving, to explore the larger contexts in which this work occurs, and to empower efforts to support student success in the classroom and beyond. All full-time and part-time faculty teaching at least one course are eligible to apply.


Key Learning Conditions

The Belonging Champions Program is centered on the seven evidence-based learning conditions that have been shown to support more equitable classroom outcomes for all students, as highlighted by the Student Experience Project:

  • Social Belonging
  • Trust and Fairness
  • Institutional Asset Mindset
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Identity Safety
  • Social Connectedness
  • Purpose and Relevance



The expectations for community participants are as follows: 

  • Availability to meet for orientation meetings and weekly community meetings.
  • Willingness to implement evidence-based practices to improve belonging and student success in at least one of your concurrent semester courses. 
  • Use of a validated online survey tool (ASCEND) to gather formative feedback from students that can be used in real time to improve the student experience in your classes. 
  • Commitment to engage as a full member of a Belonging Champions community of transformation, working together to explore and confront difficult issues, sharing ideas and supporting each other in our work. 



Information on Summer and Fall applications coming soon!


Leadership Team

This program was developed through the collaboration of a leadership team, including Denise Bartell, Jenny Marcinkiewicz, Nicole Willey, Eric Taylor, Hayley Arnold, Charmaine Crawford, and Fancisco Torres. The program is modeled on the Equity Champions program designed by the University of Toledo.

For more information, contact one of the following:

“The Belonging Champions program offers an outstanding opportunity to positively impact your students academically and personally. I have personally witnessed the profound transformations it brings about in our students. Participating in this program has heightened my awareness of the compelling research findings that emphasize the pivotal role of belonging in students' academic journey. When students feel part of a supportive and inclusive community, they are more inclined to actively engage in their studies, seek assistance when needed, and persevere through challenges. This sense of belonging cultivates a positive self-image, bolsters motivation, and ultimately results in enhanced academic performance, increased retention rates, and greater fulfillment in their educational pursuit. Investing your time and effort in this program is highly rewarding, as the skills and insights gained can be applied across all your classes, creating a ripple effect of success.” 

Sarah Andreas 


“Any doubts I might have had (I’ll admit to some, not many, but certainly some) regarding a focused approach to reaching students and modifying pedagogy or simply my own classroom behavior quickly subsided as I saw the results in my students. These results are easy to quantify with the ability to see data from Ascend surveys, I have been able to identify areas where I need to focus a bit more to be as inclusive and positive as I thought I was. The community itself is a welcome bright spot – the support, compassion, and understanding from other instructors is particularly valuable. If I can pass any information along to someone considering joining, it is that you will be amazed at how minor changes can have major results, whether tweaking the wording on a syllabus, or feeling open to sharing with students one’s own vulnerability. It is nice for them to see us as fellow humans.” 

Wayne McDonald 


“Being a part of the initial cohort of Belonging Champions has been a positive experience. It has helped me grow professionally since I have reflectively examined my classroom practices in the Belonging Champions structure. There are elements that have been affirmed and others that I had not considered. I have changed some practices and added others. I have become more aware of the student views of college expectations and environment.  Their experiences and conversations have allowed me and their peers to share and become more than people in the same room at a particular time.  The opportunities to share with colleagues have been enlightening. Since there are those of us who are the only instructors in a department at a campus, there are few chances to meet, discuss, and learn from each other.   Knowing that others are in similar situations with similar student groups has helped give a broader perspective to concerns. The easily accessible supplemental materials were useful as I needed them - not necessarily according to the topic of the week. It's great to have ready resources.”

Marty Daniels 


“The Belonging Champions program fosters a sense of camaraderie among the participants that really feels like we’re all striving for similar goals across our various disciplines and classes. We are encouraged to reflect on our own courses and policies to make our classrooms places where students can feel they truly belong and succeed.”

Scott Tobias 


“It has been great working with the KSU regional campus group to transform how I teach! I learned how to make small changes that help welcome and support students by communicating belonging and in turn enhancing their ability. I changed many of my policies to be more flexible and I removed some of the common identified student roadblocks. I hopefully can change student’s attitude about themselves and communicate that they can succeed in my courses. Even minor modifications can change a student’s classroom experience--such important lessons! Changing my Introduction and including my story of struggle with my undergraduate grades on Canvas also made my course more welcoming and approachable. I also added the use of an open access materials in all but one course to help those students, especially on my campus, with financial strain.” 

Kay Amey


“Faculty feel despondent about situations that they can’t control. The normal response is to complain about it- that does help relieve some of the stress, but ultimately it establishes a mindset that undermines the ability to make changes. We can’t control the lives of our students outside the classroom- they come to us as they are, and they deal with all kinds of struggles that we sometimes don’t know about. The program helps identify ways that we can reframe our mindset and establish better classroom behaviors to help our students be successful. We can’t change their home situations or what they learned before they came to us- we can absolutely change our classroom policies to help them be successful. Low self-efficacy undermines success- they don’t think they can do it, so they give up. We enable that mindset instead of helping to combat it. Grit is not something a person has- it’s something that they do. And it’s something that can be learned. Faculty don’t give up when we give a bad test or assignment (or even get a paper rejected)- we revise and resubmit. Why shouldn’t we teach our students what to do when they struggle or fail? Some of the real world has all-or-nothing consequences- but our classrooms don’t. Public sentiment criticizes college as being insular and having unrealistically low standards- even though that’s never been the case, I think we sometimes move too far to compensate. We should be the on-ramp to the ‘real world’ not the gate that keeps them out. Connections and humanity are the areas we struggle with the most- if the students feel a connection with us, they feel a connection to their courses and campuses."

Bryan Jones 


“Being a member of the inaugural Belonging Champions Community of Transformation has immeasurably impacted my teaching. Although I have been committed to trauma-informed teaching for many years now, my work has been mostly on my own, so the structure and the support of this community served to enhance my pedagogy as well as my personal commitment and belonging. Most specifically, I learned to view myself as both a facilitator and a member of my classroom belonging community, as a writing teacher, a writer, and as a first-generation college student who spent her freshman year of college in a state of uncertainty and confusion. I've learned to share my vulnerabilities with my students as a way of fostering their growth mindset, and honestly, my own growth mindset, too.” 

Kristine Harrington 


“Belonging Champions has given me the opportunity to carve out time in my week to think about what I can do to make my course more inclusive, so ALL my students feel like they can grow as learners and succeed in the course. While providing a nurturing environment has always been part of my pedagogy, being in Belonging Champions pushed me to be more intentional about developing strategies that make my students feel like they belong. Small changes can have a significant impact in the classroom; for example, something as basic as explaining why I have certain policies may increase my students’ willingness to follow them and see them as necessary vs. restrictive. The weekly conversations I had with the other participants and the facilitators allowed me to express my concerns regarding the struggles that our students experience, find solutions, and ultimately articulate the principles that guide a more inclusive pedagogy. Additionally, the ASCEND survey showed me how these strategies impacted my students, and I was able to make adjustments throughout the semester. The resources in Canvas, while numerous, are worth the time because they are very practical and can be implemented in the classroom.”  

Ana Wetzl 


“Mathematics is the least favorite subject of many students. As a math professor, I find that it is more challenging to engage students to learn math than to teach math contents. This “Belonging Champion” program is very beneficial and effective. I learned many useful ideas and strategies that I can use to engage students to learn math and help them to fit in the math learning community.  I am very pleased to notice some positive changes from my students in my pilot class for improving student belonging.  I also notice the changes of myself in my teaching mindset about academic rigor, the relationship between instructor and students, etc. For the relationship with students, I see now that the relationship is the partnership. I am just a learning partner of my students, and we work together to lead success. For academic rigor, I am more flexible with deadlines of course work by providing as many opportunities as possible to students who want to take for improve their learning. This “Belonging Champion” program demonstrates an excellent model for how to build a “belonging” community. As a participant, I have gained experience as a student/learner, which help me to understand how students feel when they join a new class and how to fit in the learning community.  The program has successfully fit me in this learning community, and I feel very comfortable and feel strongly that I do belong to this learning community.” 

Min He 

A new cohort will be starting soon!

Photos of Champions

Fall 2023- Inaugural Community of Transformation

  • Katherine Amey, Ashtabula
  • Sarah Andreas, Tuscarawas
  • Ginger Bihn-Coss, Tuscarawas
  • Martha Daniels, Stark
  • Rebecca Frazier, Geauga
  • Kristine Harrington, Salem
  • Min He, Trumbull
  • Bryan Jones, Ashtabula
  • Velvet Landingham, Geauga
  • Wayne McDonald, Stark
  • Scott Tobias, Stark
  • Ana Wetzl, Trumbul

Spring 2024 Champions

Organized by Cohort

  • Molly Wang, Geauga
  • Nicole Willey, Tuscarawas
  • Michelle Bagwell, Stark
  • Alice Colwell, Trumbull
  • Kimberly DePaul, Trumbull
  • Julie Evey, Geauga
  • Maria Pilar Gonzalez Navarro, Tuscarawas
  • Sanhita Gupta, Geauga
  • Ludmila Leontieva, Geauga
  • Molly Mokros, Geauga
  • Kerry Myers, Geauga
  • Dhruba Panthi, Tuscarawas
  • Jamie Spickler, East Liverpool
  • Nader Taha, Trumbull
  • Carrie Tomko, Salem
  • Sarah Andreas, Tuscarawas
  • Ann Abraham, Ashtabula
  • Samantha Bonaduce, Tuscarawas
  • Christina Burnworth, Geauga
  • Kurtis Eisermann, Tuscarawas
  • Natalie Huya, Ashtabula
  • Mahli Xuan Mechenbier, Geauga
  • Heidi Migliore, Tuscarawas
  • Barbara Ozimek, Trumbull
  • Molly Sergi, Geauga
  • Bonnie Shaker, Geauga
  • Lynne Walker, Trumbull
  • Marty Daniels, Stark
  • Jim Seelye, Stark
  • Mary Anne Anderson, Salem
  • Matthew Butler, Ashtabula
  • James Canacci, Trumbull
  • Elizabeth Devore, Ashtabula
  • Don Gerbig, Tuscarawas
  • Kris Harrington, Salem
  • Erin Hollenbaugh, Stark
  • Rob Miller, Tuscarawas
  • Lydia Rose, East Liverpool
  • Robin Shura, Stark
  • Jared Stadden, Geauga
  • Mary Russell, Trumbull
  • Bryan Jones, Ashtabula
  • Meghan Brindley, Tuscarawas
  • Maria Burkholder, Tuscarawas
  • Daniel Dankovich, East Liverpool
  • Thierry Delorme, Ashtabula
  • Marnie Ellis, Ashtabula
  • Benita Fisher, Trumbull
  • Katelyn Frey, Trumbull
  • Aloysius Bathi Kasturiarachi, Stark
  • Leah Meek, Salem
  • Farag Sheren, Salem
  • Shellie Warino, Salem
  • Leslie Heaphy, Stark
  • Scott Tobias, Stark
  • Arron Foster, Stark
  • Marie Gasper-Hulvat, Stark
  • Amanda Hayes, Tuscarawas
  • Roshinee Perera, Tuscarawas
  • Gina Severino, Trumbull
  • Shelly Stefka, Tuscarawas
  • Joe VanFossen, Tuscarawas
  • Ana Wetzl, Trumbull
  • Jessica Leveto, Ashtabula
  • ⁠Jeff Corbett, Geauga
  • Claudia Gomez, Stark
  • Robert Hamilton IV, Stark
  • Mary Hricko, Geauga
  • Pam Lieske, Trumbull
  • Lorene Martin, Salem
  • Deepraj Mukherjee, Stark
  • Corey Pate, Trumbull
  • Vic Perera, Trumbull
  • Mason Shuman, Stark
  • Tsunghui Tu, Salem
  • Eric Taylor, Stark
  • Shelley Marshall, Ashtabula
  • Omid Bagheri, Salem
  • Deepshika Bhati, Stark
  • ⁠Robert Blake, Ashtabula
  • Patrick Dillon, Stark
  • Min He, Trumbull
  • Jessica Larubina, Geauga
  • Eve McPherson, Trumbull
  • Beth-Allyn Osikiewicz, Tuscarawas
  • Melissa Owen, Geauga
  • Marybeth Poder, Stark
  • Dawn Roginski, Salem
  • Daryl Upole, Ashtabula
  • Mary G Wilson, Trumbull