Notre Dame College Receives KeyBank Grant to Start Transformative Sophomore Experience

Notre Dame College has received a distinctive grant to establish an innovative sophomore persistence program modeled after a successful initiative at Ohio State University.

The College has been awarded an $83,000 grant from KeyBank to launch its Sophomore Transformative Experience Program, called STEP. The 18-month pilot project, which is the first of its kind at a liberal arts institution in the state, connects a total of 24 select students with faculty and staff mentors in an effort to improve retention and graduation rates for the Notre Dame second-year students.

Each Notre Dame sophomore in the STEP pilot will work one-on-one with a mentor to earn an individual fellowship to pursue a personal educational project that will take place outside of traditional campus courses and extracurricular activities.

This first cohort of students and their mentors are planning a formal program launch retreat Saturday, February 16, at the College.

Cohort Activities

During the first months of the STEP pilot, the Notre Dame students explore areas of academic engagement, career development, education in financial issues and social integration. They take part in activities both on and off campus, working individually with their mentors and learning together as a cohort.

The Notre Dame students selected for the pilot are scheduled to attend a financial seminar with KeyBank, a performing arts event at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square and a community service program at during the program. They started the program visiting the Lerner Research Institute at the Cleveland Clinic at the end of the fall semester.

Individual Projects

In conjunction with the exploration phase of the project, students will work with their mentors to prepare and submit a proposal for a transformative learning project they will undertake during the summer. Their ventures will involve either arts, internships, leadership, research or service.

Each student will then formally present their proposal to a panel of experts who will award each student up to $1000 to complete their project. In fall 2019, the students will present on their experiences during the special campus STEP expo, which will be similar to a professional conference.

Summer experiences for this first cohort in 2019 are expected to range from broadcast training to culinary classes to music residencies. Upon completion of their projects students can earn an additional stipend to help offset educational expenses in the 2019-2020 school year.

The Notre Dame program targets sophomores who are at risk of persisting to graduation, particularly those who are first generation students and from Cleveland inner-urban suburbs. Students selected for the pilot were nominated by faculty, staff and administrators at the College.

Designated Sophomores

Notre Dame students selected for the initial STEP cohort in 2018-2019 are: Brianna Ali, Darrius Alston, Madalyn Cataldo, Anthony DiDonato, Clayton Eason, Ronny Faddoul, Tyrek Glasco, Logan Hall, Brian Henderson, Bronz Jackson, James Kalan, Aaleyah Little, Meghan Loya, Meliza Martinez, Yana Monaco, Nicole Orlando, Kristen Peace, Adam Riegler, Meghan Ritzinger, Harrison Roberts, Laurin Sampson, Alyssa Soltis, Isaac Soto and Morgan Woosley.

Mentors who will work with the sophomores represent faculty and staff from academic, admissions, athletics and administrative areas at the College.

Model Program

The College’s STEP pilot models a nationally recognized program open to all sophomores that has been developed at Ohio State University, where eligible students who complete the experience have a retention rate of 95 percent and a graduation rate of 88 percent.

While students at institutions throughout the nation typically have Welcome Week orientation activities, First Year Seminar courses and other new student programs as freshmen, many undergraduates do not have access to similar engagement opportunities during their second year to help them persist and complete their bachelor’s degrees.

More Information

To learn more about the Notre Dame STEP pilot program, contact R. Eric Matthews, dean of academic programs and assistant professor of political science and history at the College, at or 216.373.6492.

January 2019

About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master's degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Brian Johnston, chief communications officer, at 216.373.5252 or

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