Butler University, Nearpeer Announce “Belonging Before Arriving” Community of Practice to Improve Student Connection & Well-being

Higher education institutions nationwide will collaborate and improve new student outcomes and reduce loneliness amid national mental health crisis

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Nearpeer, the leading peer-to-peer student platform for universities, today announced a new partnership with Butler University’s Institute for Well-Being  to establish a working Community of Practice for higher education leaders to collaborate on data-driven approaches to creating a foundation for new student success with a focus on intentionally fostering a greater student sense of belonging early in their college journey. The Community of Practice comes at a pivotal time for the U.S. as it faces record levels of youth and young adults reporting anxiety, depression, isolation, and loneliness.

The collaboration will focus its efforts on “Belonging Before Arriving,” to ensure incoming students feel a greater sense of community and connection before they matriculate. This initiative is designed to support higher education leaders in enhancing the new student experience and promoting greater belonging, well-being and inclusion. Through the ongoing work of Butler’s Institute and Nearpeer’s student impact studies, the partners will focus on the “ABCs” of student engagement, which include Authenticity, Belonging, and Connection.

The Community of Practice will examine the Butler Institute’s body of student well-being research and other resources, coupled with Nearpeer’s student impact studies, to identify what works as incoming students engage with institutions, what gaps exist, and opportunities to build on these programs during students’ first year—all to ensure students feel connected to their peers, their campus, and the greater community, as well as the measurable impact these platforms have on student recruiting, retention, and inclusion.

“Incoming college students are eager for opportunities to express their authentic selves and establish lasting connections with peers. As such, institutions should proactively cultivate a sense of belonging even before students arrive on campus,” Frank E. Ross, Vice President for Student Affairs at Butler University, said. “The U.S. Surgeon General’s recent We Are Made to Connect Tour underscored the vital role of peer connections in mitigating loneliness. Recognizing that importance, additional support, especially for incoming students, is essential to ensure their resilience and success, as exemplified by our own students who benefited from the Nearpeer platform.”

The Community of Practice will build on the results Butler has achieved with Nearpeer for its own Fall 2023 entering students, who had more than 60 percent voluntary adoption of Nearpeer. Based on Butler’s student survey of Nearpeer users, 87 percent reported that the platform helped them to present a more genuine version of themselves to their classmates, and 39 percent of students who indicated having social anxiety reported feeling less anxious.

“Fostering connection and belonging before a student’s first term creates a positive momentum that improves the student experience, delivers meaningful gains in enrollment and retention, and reduces pressure on staff,” Dustin Manocha, Founder and CEO of Nearpeer, said. “We’re excited to partner with Butler’s innovative Institute for Well-being to help leaders leverage the insights, practices, and technology to bring this momentum to their own institution, starting with incoming 2024 students.”

The Community of Practice provides collaborative insights that drive effective innovation, yielding visible and measurable outcomes for both students and institutions. Institutions that join the Community of Practice will meet twice a quarter to share insights and best practices to maximize outcomes for students. Once students are engaged on campus, Butler will facilitate its Student Well-Being Institutional Support Survey (SWISS) for each institution to help identify other areas of improvement as well as measure the impact of the recommendations put in place by the Community of Practice. Nearpeer will provide access to its Platform for Belonging™ for incoming and new students at participating institutions, along with comprehensive support services for easy launch and management.

Higher education professionals interested in joining the Community of Practice can visit

To learn more about Butler University’s Institute for Well-being, visit

To learn more about Nearpeer, visit

About Nearpeer
Founded in 2017, Nearpeer helps higher education institutions to improve student enrollment and persistence through its student platform that catalyzes meaningful connections and a sense of belonging throughout the postsecondary journey. Nearpeer’s solutions serve higher education through partnerships with offices of enrollment and student affairs, as well as in service to international students, student government associations, and parents and families. To learn more, visit

About Butler University

Based in Indianapolis—one of the heartland’s largest and most dynamic cities—Butler University is a nationally recognized comprehensive university encompassing six colleges: Arts, Business, Communication, Education, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Approximately 4,500 undergraduate and 1,100 graduate students are enrolled at Butler, representing 48 states, two U.S. territories, and 31 countries. A Butler education is focused on giving students the tools they need to excel personally and professionally, as demonstrated by the University’s 98 percent placement rate within six months of graduation. Butler University is the No. 1 ranked regional university in the Midwest, according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings, in addition to being included in The Princeton Review’s annual “best colleges” guidebook.

Alyssa Miller

SOURCE Nearpeer; Butler University