Ascender Training Sequence

CTN offers three training sessions per year for new and returning faculty and staff; all three trainings are required to complete the professional development sequence.


The foundational institute is an intensive five-day workshop where participants are introduced to the program model.  In this experiential training, participants gain an understanding not only of the mission, model and outcomes of the program but also come away with insight into how our classrooms differ from a traditional class environment, and thus what makes the model so effective.  Throughout the week, faculty, staff and administrators are grouped into small learning communities and spend time reading, writing and collaborating within their campus teams and with those from other colleges. In this way, teaching strategies and lesson content is modeled for instructors while staff and administrators are able to plan for the year ahead and experience the model first-hand.   The summer institute sets college teams up to be successful in the program’s initial stage by focusing on recruitment of mentors and students, event planning, and curriculum design for the linked courses.


The 2-day Fall Institute focuses on strengthening the college teams and giving participants the opportunity to troubleshoot issues they face at this stage in the program.  This institute takes place after site visits have occurred and is always responsive to the needs of the current cohort. Sessions are offered to address issues in retention, team dynamics, event coordination, advising and mentor engagement among other topics.  Component breakout sessions are also offered to provide useful strategies and innovative lessons for instructors in the program so that they can return to their classrooms engaged and ready to finish the semester strong.


The Spring Institute focuses on the components of the model with multiple breakout sessions for Gateway Subjects, Counseling/Advising, and Mentoring that can be used in the second semester of the program or taken over into the following year.  Not only are these components addressed but also other relevant issues such as second year recruitment, retention of the current cohort and Semester 3+ (the crucial period when students have exited out of the academic program but have not yet transferred).  This institute is both a celebration of accomplishments and a space for participants to critically reflect on the program and look ahead at how they might approach implementing the program differently in the year ahead.

What about participants from previous cohorts?

Those from previous years often choose to participate in the institutes as a way of strengthening their current skills, exploring new ideas and approaches, and learning best practices from seasoned practitioners of the program.  Session topics always highlight new strategies and content, so everyone involved has something to gain from attending—both new college teams and those from previous years. Additionally, faculty and staff from previous cohorts are often invited to serve as facilitators for breakout sessions, as leads for small learning groups, and as mentors for the new college teams.

Our Training Has Helped Professors Close the Opportunity Gap

Students taught by CTN-trained faculty earn more degrees and spend less on their education.