President Chillo with Students


CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. (May 10, 2022) — In January 2022, Thomas More University joined in a pilot initiative introduced by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education (Gardner Institute) and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). The initiative, called the Governing Board Equity in Student Success Project, is an effort to significantly and equitably improve retention, graduation, and employment rates for all students, but especially for those who hail from low-income, rural, and historically marginalized backgrounds. The initiative hopes to tap into the power of higher education governing boards to oversee, envision, and drive equity-focused student success transformation with and through the senior administration.

Following a rigorous selection process, the Commonwealth of Kentucky was invited, and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) accepted, the offer to become a partner in this initiative, opening the door for Thomas More’s participation. Kentucky was selected as the demonstration site because the Commonwealth met specific criteria, including a population of students with high levels of financial need and a large number of rural and BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/People of Color) students. The Commonwealth also has a sophisticated state-wide data sharing process in place among the public and private institutions. All Kentucky degree granting institutions (public/private, 2/4 year) were invited to participate with financial support for the project coming from a generous grant from Ascendium Education Group, a grant making agency committed to helping degree seekers strengthen their opportunity for social mobility.

The commitment for Thomas More’s institutional team, made up of leadership and Board members, is potentially two part and starts with participation in an Academy over the course of the next 2+ years that examines board level policies and practices, and learns about promising national practices both in board level governance and in institutional efforts to improve student success for all students. It is hoped that by enhancing the knowledge and skills of the governing board members of Kentucky’s higher education institutions and senior administrators that these critical leaders build capacity for oversight of institutional initiatives that lead to equitable student success and completion outcomes. “Thomas More University is pleased to join the inaugural (Student Success) Academy on Governing Board Equity in Student Success,” says Molly Smith, Ph.D., provost at Thomas More. “As a member of a team drawn from trustees, academic affairs, student life, and human resources, I feel confident that immersion in strategies to strengthen access and equity as a leadership-level commitment, will lead to impactful advancement of diversity, equity, and belonging on campus. I look forward, with my fellow team members, to engaging with peers on this matter of vital importance to our community, the region, and our nation.”

“This is a unique opportunity for Thomas More University at this critical juncture as we chart the course for our next century,” says Judith A. Marlowe, Ph.D., Chair of the Board of Trustees. “The guiding principle underlying the Academy’s program design intentionally brings university governance and operational leadership together to focus strategically on equity throughout the student experience. It is a novel approach that acknowledges that this collaboration is essential in order to achieve meaningful results that support educational success. It is truly an honor to participate in such an innovative project!”

The second part of the commitment is the Retention Performance Management – Governing Board Focus Process in which a further deeper, student success, performance improvement experience is facilitated by the Gardner Institute for a subset of seven institutions which were involved in the Academy. The Retention Performance Management process engages in an institution-wide self-study of retention data to create and implement an evidenced-based, equity-focused retention plan specific to each institution and requires another 2+ years of work by the institution’s teams. The research findings for the entire project will be presented nationally to inform work in other states and regions.

The Governing Board Equity in Student Success project was introduced in Kentucky at the annual Governing Board Professional Development Conference held virtually on Sept. 14, 2021. Thomas More University was one of the post-secondary institutions recruited last fall and officially invited to join the Academy in 2022. We look forward to the new knowledge and skills learned by Thomas More’s team as they take full advantage of the Academy portion of the project and implement it to best achieve success for not only our students, but as an example for institutions across the U.S. 

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About Thomas More University

For 100 years, Thomas More has created a university for the student who wants to Be More, Do More, Seek More, Win More, Achieve More, and Create More. Since its founding in 1921, Thomas More has provided a mission-driven, liberal arts education that is based in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Students learn to harness the power of human reason to solve problems and discover truth, which allows them to begin the journey to become the person they were created to be. Entering into the second century, it’s time for More. Serving more than 2,000 students, Thomas More aspires to be the premier Catholic university in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, build upon its excellent return on investment (rank #1 among private universities/colleges in Kentucky by MSN Money in 2021 and ranked #2 for long term gain in Kentucky 2022 Georgetown study) and share with this generation the transformative power of the Thomas More experience. To find out more, visit

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