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Habits of Mind: Designing Courses for Student Success


Julia M. Gossard & Chris Babits


Utah State University

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Utah State University (USU) Blanding is a non-tribal institution with close to 70% of its student population originating from the Navajo Nation, Dinétah. Located 388 miles southeast of the main campus in Logan, Utah, USU Blanding serves a population of students living in geographically remote areas, including the largest Native American–populated region in the United States. This vast territory—encompassing some 13,300 square miles, which exceeds the combined area of Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—is classified as “frontier.” With a population density of 2.0 persons per square mile and a poverty rate of 33% (as compared to the Utah average of 8.9%; Utah Department of Workforce Services, 2022), students at the elementary and secondary levels across this region face chronic food insecurity, limited access to transportation, early responsibility for sibling childcare, and limited (or no) access to Internet and running water. When basic needs cannot be met, the difficult yet rewarding work of deep learning is often put on the back burner (McGuire, 2018, p. 6). Add to this a higher-than-average teacher turnover rate, combined with regional school districts’ inclination to advance high school seniors who have for various reasons been underserved since elementary school, and you have future college students unprepared for the academic rigor of a university experience.