UC San Diego and Davenport University Receive ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation
May 21, 2021

ACE is proud to announce that the University of California (UC) San Diego and Davenport University are the recipients of the 2021 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation.

The award was created to recognize institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways and achieved dramatic changes in a relatively brief period. It includes a $10,000 prize.

“UC San Diego and Davenport University are exemplars of innovation and resilience, and their commitment to their students’ success shines through their accomplishments,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “These awards are well-deserved.”

“The past year has presented a new set of challenges in higher education. UC San Diego and Davenport University found creative and productive ways to respond and lead their institutions forward,” said Debra Frey, head of Analytics and Marketing for Tax-Exempt Solutions, Fidelity Investments. “We are pleased to recognize their accomplishments, and we are honored to present them with this year’s award.”

ACE invited nominations and applications for the award from any U.S. college or university eligible for ACE membership, divided into two categories: the first for institutions with student populations of 12,001 and more (UC San Diego), and the second for institutions with student populations of up to 12,000 (Davenport University).

UC San Diego, like every other university, organization, and business last year, was faced with the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Through its transformative, adaptive, and multilayered Return to Learn plan, the university was able to bring students back to campus in a safe and strategic manner. The plan was guided by three pillars: risk mitigation, virus detection, and intervention. The university engaged students early in the planning process. The three-pronged approach, adaptive nature of the plan, and frequent and transparent communication combined to keep positive case rates low compared to regional and national case rates. UC San Diego maintained a median campus-wide infection positivity rate of 0.28 percent throughout the fall 2020 quarter, while San Diego County’s median was 8.1 percent.

UC San Diego increased the number of students returning to campus each subsequent quarter throughout the 2020-2021 academic year and plans to return to full, on-campus operations in the fall.

The Return to Learn plan has served as a model of best practices for other institutions and K-12 school systems regionally and nationally.

“UC San Diego is honored to be recognized by the American Council of Education for the transformative impact of our innovations in managing COVID-19 both on our campus and in our community,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Our collaborative Return to Learn strategy was made possible by the breadth and depth of our faculty’s expertise in immunology, microbiology, public health, and data science. Our instinct to openly share this successful strategy with other organizations is rooted in our vision to be a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public university.”

Davenport University is Michigan’s second-largest, private, non-profit university serving nearly 6,500 students at campuses across the state and online. Its transformational process began nearly a decade ago. At that time, the university decided to institute the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, a framework to improve Davenport's performance and get sustainable outcomes.

As a result, the university has seen significant improvements in student persistence and student retention, with fall-to-fall retention improving by 28 percent in 2021. The satisfaction of Davenport graduates has reached all-time highs, with 2020 graduate satisfaction at 95 percent. The institution’s student graduation rates saw an astonishing leap of 174 percent in just 10 years, aligning Davenport's performance with other top state universities.

In 2020, Davenport became the first university in history to earn the Michigan Performance Excellence State Baldrige Award from the Michigan Performance Excellence (MIPEx). The MIPEx award is the highest honor given to Michigan organizations that demonstrate outstanding performance, leadership, and operational excellence based on the national Baldrige Criteria for performance excellence.

"To receive the American Council on Education and Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation, which represents recognition by one of the most respected organizations in the country is very humbling for our institution,” said Richard J. Pappas, president of Davenport University. “These achievements wouldn’t be possible without the support of Davenport's board of trustees and our incredibly talented faculty and staff who bring our mission, vision, and values to life. But more than that, this recognition is tangible proof of our commitment to achieve the highest level of education and business outcomes for our students.”

ACE will be celebrating the recipients of the Institutional Transformation Award and other 2021 ACE awards online next week with video interviews and more.

About Fidelity Investments

Fidelity’s mission is to inspire better futures and deliver better outcomes for the customers and businesses we serve. With assets under administration of $10.3 trillion, including discretionary assets of $3.9 trillion as of March 31, 2021, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers: helping more than 35 million people invest their own life savings, 22,000 businesses manage employee benefit programs, as well as providing more than 13,500 institutions with investment and technology solutions to invest their own clients’ money. Privately held for 75 years, Fidelity employs more than 47,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit https://www.fidelity.com/about-fidelity/our-company.