The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Model is derived from three decades of published research in higher education, over 180 interviews conducted across several qualitative studies, and the findings of many quantitative analyses that examine the experiences and outcomes of diverse colleges students. It explains the ways in which campus environments shape the experiences and outcomes of diverse student populations in college.

The CECE model acknowledges that external influences (e.g., financial factors, employment, and family influences) and precollege inputs (e.g., academic preparation and academic dispositions at the time of entry) shape college success (e.g., learning, satisfaction, persistence, and degree completion) (Figure 1). However, the focal point of the CECE model emphasizes that college students’ access to culturally engaging campus environments is positively correlated with individual influences (e.g., sense of belonging, academic self-efficacy, motivation, expectation or intent to persist, and performance) on success and an increased probability of succeeding in college. The CECE model posits that undergraduates’ access to culturally engaging campus environments is directly and indirectly (via sense of belonging, academic self-efficacy, motivation, expectation or intent to persist, and performance) related to a greater likelihood of persistence (Figure 2).

Survey & Indicators

The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Survey is designed to measure the 9 CECE indicators that represent the characteristics of optimally inclusive and equitable campus environments. These indicators also denote the 9 elements of environments that allow diverse populations to thrive in college. College and university campuses can use the CECE Survey and these 9 CECE indicators to…

  • Create dialogue that is centered on the things that matter most when serving diverse student populations.
  • Diagnose their campus environments from an inclusion and equity perspective.
  • Identify where these environments can be improved.
  • Develop plans to cultivate more inclusive and equitable environments.
  • Create environments that maximize success among all students regardless of their backgrounds and identities.
Five indicators focus on the ways that campus environments are relevant to the cultural backgrounds and communities of diverse college students:

  1. Cultural Familiarity: Campus spaces for students to connect with faculty, staff, and peers who understand their cultural backgrounds, identities, and experiences.
  2. Culturally Relevant Knowledge: Opportunities for students to learn about their own cultural communities via culturally relevant curricular and co-curricular opportunities.
  3. Cultural Community Service: Opportunities for students to give back to and positively transform their home communities.
  4. Meaningful Cross-Cultural Engagement: Programs and practices that facilitate educationally meaningful cross-cultural interactions among their students that focus on solving real social and political problems.
  5. Cultural Validation: Campus cultures that validate the cultural backgrounds, knowledge, and identities of diverse students.
The remaining four indicators focus on the ways in which support systems take into account and respond to the norms and needs of diverse students:

  1. Collectivist Cultural Orientations: Campuses cultures that emphasize a collectivist, rather than individualistic, cultural orientation that is characterized by teamwork and pursuit of mutual success.
  2. Humanized Educational Environments: Availability of opportunities for students to develop meaningful relationships with faculty and staff members who care about and are committed to their success.
  3. Proactive Philosophies: Philosophies that lead faculty, administrators, and staff to proactively bring important information, opportunities, and support services to students, rather than waiting for students to seek them out or hunt them down on their own.
  4. Holistic Support: Students’ access to at least one faculty or staff member that they are confident will provide the information they need, offer the help they seek, or connect them with the information or support that they require regardless of the problem or issue that they face.


Focal Point of the CECE Model

The degree to which culturally engaging campus environments exist at postsecondary institutions is both directly and indirectly (through their impact on sense of belonging, academic dispositions, and academic performance) associated with success among their diverse student populations.

In sum, the CECE Model suggests that the greater the extent to which institutions foster and maintain culturally engaging campus environments, the more likely their environments will allow their diverse student populations to thrive in college.

Note: The figures and text for this page were adapted from Museus, S. D. (2014). The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Model: A new theory of college success among racially diverse student populations. In M. B. Paulsen (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. New York: Springer.

Note: The CECE Survey also measures several other variables, including demographics (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, family income, parents’ education), precollege factors (e.g., academic preparation), academic dispositions (e.g., motivation, self-efficacy, intent to persist), sense of belonging, academic performance, and learning outcomes.

Contact Us

The National Institute for Transformation and Equity
Center for Postsecondary Research
Indiana University Bloomington
Eigenmann Hall Suite 419
1900 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47406–7512

  • Register for Surveys
  • Surveys at a Glance
  • Pricing & Packages

Join our Mailing List

Stay Connected