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Experience Confidence and Enjoyment in Learning

The Experience Confidence and Enjoyment in Learning (ExCEL) program, introduced to the CSUN community in 2006, provides resources to make students aware of some of the psycho-social challenges that may be interfering with their academic success. The goal of the ExCEL program is to help students identify, address, and hopefully overcome these challenges. ExCEL offers a model and strategies to help students gain academic confidence, a greater sense of belonging and tools to access their academic strengths and lived experiences of resiliency and purpose. ExCEL has been presented in a variety of venues at CSUN such as: University 100 courses, Developmental Math courses, and Residential Life, and through a one unit class called EDUC 201: RAISE your GPA. ExCEL is a piece of the solution puzzle which aims to increase retention rates, increase passing rates for courses, and provide resources to those who come to CSUN with a dream and desire to graduate.

ExCEL also offers specialized training and workshops for faculty and staff to help them better motivate and engage our students.

Why do we offer ExCEL?

A significant percentage of college students have a difficult time enjoying their learning opportunities while in college. Many students have experienced "mini" academic traumas before they enter college that reduce their confidence to learn new and difficult material. Recognizing that confidence and enjoyment in learning are two important variables in achieving academic success, ExCEL offers interventions and other presentations to present CSUN students psycho-education on academic motivation, test anxiety, self-efficacy, and academic confidence, as well as information about campus resources.

Learn about ExCEL

Below are the ways you can find out more information about available ExCEL:

  • Watch the ExCEL videos below - These are videos that ExCEL participants find helpful. In the first video, Dr. Stevens explains how experiencing academic confidence and an enjoyment in learning is helpful in the learning experience. The second video is the first of a series demonstrating the sides of professors that students rarely see in the classroom. Enjoy!
  • Read the Self-reflection Guidebooks - The self-reflection guidebooks below are useful resources to take the most out of the videos mentioned above. 
  • Take the "Self-awareness Questionnaire"- The 2-minute questionnaire will help you better understand your potential learning` roadblocks.
  • RAISE Your GPA class (EDUC 201) - Consider enrolling yourself in one of the courses this semester.

ExCEL Videos

Self-Reflection Guidebooks

Two guidebooks are available to accompany the ExCEL video on building Academic Confidence. Each of the guidebooks contains live links to the video.

REFLECTION GUIDEBOOK FOR STUDENTS – This guidebook can be used by students as a reflection exercise after watching the video.

REFLECTION GUIDEBOOK FOR FACULTY AND STAFF - This guidebook can be used by faculty and staff as a reflection exercise after watching the video.

SELFIES VIDEO FACILITATION & REFLECTION GUIDEBOOK - This guidebook can be used by students, faculty, and staff as both a reflection exercise and teaching tool.

Please contact Dr. Mark Stevens at if you have any questions.

ExCEL Intervention Workshops

The Experience Confidence and Enjoyment in Learning (ExCEL) program has developed and implemented workshops about the psycho-social challenges that may be interfering with students’ academic success. The goal of the ExCEL intervention workshops is to help students identify, address, and hopefully overcome these challenges by offering a model and strategies to help students gain academic confidence, a greater sense of belonging and tools to access their academic strengths and lived experiences of resiliency and purpose. The ExCEL intervention workshops presents CSUN students psycho-education on academic motivation, test anxiety, self-efficacy, and academic confidence, as well as information about campus resources.

ExCEL INTERVENTION FACILITATOR GUIDEBOOK - This guidebook can be used implement interventions in CSUN's Developmental Mathematic Courses.

Intervention #1A: “Remember your Purpose”

The goals of the ExCEL Presentation #1A are to increase students sense of academic self-efficacy and to create a preferable view of passing developmental mathematics as an opportunity to learn from mistakes, and to acknowledge that CSUN, along with its professors and staff, wants every student to succeed. Students will identify and foster their purpose of being in college by creating a mindset surrounding hope to succeed. Students will also create an opportunity to identify and present insight of challenges presented in the academic journey to allow students to reflect on possible learned lessons and obstacles faced. To increase motivation, students were asked to identify sources of intrinsic motivation (e.g. desire to make their loved ones proud, completing goals set early on in education) and extrinsic motivation (e.g. earning college diploma, higher wages in career choice). Students will be encouraged to identify members of their family and friends that are rooting for them to finish college.

Intervention #1B: Using Failure as a Source of Inspiration and Direction

The goal of this workshop is to increase students’ self-efficacy by reflecting on their past failures. Students are encouraged to learn from their mistakes, remember their purpose in college, and create a mindset of hope. In the workshop, students reflect on a compilation of quotes about failure, and are asked to reflect on their past experiences to draw motivation to create a change in their scholastic journey. Student are then asked to compose a letter to their future selves, where they reflect on the challenges ahead in the semester, note their strengths, and increased self-efficacy.

Intervention #2: “Test Anxiety”

The goal is to increase insight on how students experience test anxiety, its cause and effects, and to facilitate a creation of effective coping skills for test anxiety. Students were asked to identify symptoms and effects from test anxiety. Presenters provided psycho-education information on anxiety (e.g. Thoughts-feelings-behaviors, fight-or-flight responses, and knowing the difference between poor preparation and test anxiety), and discussed its effects on mathematical abilities. Students will also spend time identifying ways to decrease test anxiety (e.g. finding effective studying skills, deep breathing exercises, test-taking strategies). Students will be encouraged to share their past experiences with test anxiety and identify key differences between times they felt confident and times they felt anxious entering an examination. Lastly, facilitators and students will identify how to deal with test anxiety in the moment and how to prevent test anxiety in the future.

Intervention #3: “Wind Beneath Your Sail & Proud Learning Moment”

The goal is to help students remember and re-discover their internal drive to succeed by instilling hope, and energizing students during a time where they feel worn out (i.e. close to end of semester) by reinforcing help seeking behaviors. Presenters will use a visualization exercise where students will be asked to visualize their experience of attending graduation. Students will also be asked to identify a Proud Learning Moment (PLM), a successfully accomplished task that began with self-doubts. Students will reflect on the doubts they may have experienced, their self-efficacy, sacrifices made, and joy in completing the challenging task. Students will be asked to share PLM with others and reflect on their experience. Students will participate in visualization exercise about graduation, to identify feelings of accomplishment, identify sources of support, and reflect on self-advice for academic motivation.

Self-Assessment Questionnaire

College students have varying levels of confidence and enjoyment in their learning. This usually depends on the subject matter and type of assignment. Awareness that you may have experienced lower levels of confidence and enjoyment in certain subject matters or class assignments is the first step towards finding new ways to approach your academics.

Take this short questionnaire as a way to better understand your potential learning roadblocks.

Check your attitude

I believe that even if I put in the effort I will not do well in the class or the assignment.
I blame the teacher when I am not doing well in a class.
I believe I am not a smart person when it comes to school.
I sometimes or often feel I do not belong in college.
I sometimes or often worry that others will view me as "stupid."
I have given up caring about my grades in a class.
I hate going to the class.

Check your behavior

I wait until the last minute to do the homework in the class.
I don't go to class.
I say that I understand the material even when I do not.
I copy someone else's homework.
I give up easily when the schoolwork is too hard.
I give up easily when the schoolwork is too boring.
I make excuses to others as to why I am not doing well in a certain class.

Check your History

I have viewed myself as a poor student for many years.
I have been told for many years that I am a lazy student.
I have not enjoyed going to class for many years.
I view school as primarily a social event.

Thanks for taking the self-assessment questionnaire. How many boxes did you check? If you have checked more than three boxes, it is very likely you would benefit from ExCEL counseling or the RAISE Your GPA class. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

EDUC 201: RAISE your GPA (1 unit course)

EDUC 201: RAISE Your GPA is a course offered through the Michael D. Eisner College of Education at CSUN. This one-credit course is designed to help students strengthen learning habits, increase academic self-confidence and motivation as well as the ability to set and achieve goals, with the aim of increasing academic persistence. This course is intended for students who are working to get off academic probation and want to prevent disqualification. Additionally, this course will introduce students to the CSUN resources and programs available to support academic success. The course learning objectives will be accomplished with the use of proven learning principles, self-assessments, interactive exercises, hands on practice and weekly writing assignments.

Fall 2023 sections include:

Class #DaysTime














Mo (hybrid)






Mo (online)





REMINDER: No permission number is needed to register. Talk to your academic advisor about whether this might be a good course for you!

Campus Resources

Resources at CSUN

Below are resources that you can utilize as a student at CSUN.

Career Center

The Career Center at CSUN offers career exploration and advisement along with job-search strategies to students and eligible alumni. By providing guidance on choosing a major and advice on how to make decisions, set goals and plan, the Career Center helps students advance on their career paths.

Disability Resources and Educational Services

Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) is guided by the belief that each individual has strengths, abilities and talents. Through student service, training and education programs, DRES furthers the vision of an inclusive society that supports the attainment of academic, professional and personal goals and persons of all abilities.

Educational Opportunity Programs

The Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) at California State University, Northridge designs, administers, and supports programs that deliver access and retention services to CSUN students. EOP provides services to historically low income, educationally disadvantaged, first-generation college students; a population that not only reflects the diversity of CSUN's feeder communities but also the diversity of the University itself.

Learning Resource Center

The Learning Resource Center's (LRC) mission is to enable students to improve their academic performance through a variety of learning programs including workshops, one-on-one and group tutoring, and supplemental instruction classes to develop and strengthen 1) critical thinking skills, 2) study strategies, 3) writing skills, and 4) performance in subject matter courses.

Oviatt Library

The mission of the Oviatt Library is to support the diverse information needs of our academic community through the delivery of relevant library resources and services, partnerships with CSUN faculty and staff in the education of our students, and the development of information competence and research skills that will prepare students for lifelong success in the digital age.

National Center on Deafness

The NCOD provides communication access, leadership opportunities, scholarships and direct communication classes for approximately 150 students who are deaf and hard of hearing each year by offering services such as interpreting, speech-to-text transcription, note taking, tutoring and academic advisement. The NCOD offers information for all prospective and current students and can provide guidance in applying for admission to CSUN.

Testing Center

The mission of the Testing Center is to advance the academic mission of California State University Northridge by facilitating an individual's educational and professional goals while providing a considerate and secure atmosphere for testing. The Testing Center provides high quality testing services to meet the growing needs of our students, faculty, administration and community.

University 100: The Freshman Seminar

The Freshman Seminar (3units, letter-graded) is dedicated to ensuring your college success and motivating your journey towards lifelong learning. The seminar will enable you to develop your own plan for personal, academic, and career success through self-evaluation, application of specific techniques, discussions, field experiences, and traditional classroom exercises. These activities will help you acquire effective study strategies, stimulate your critical and creative thinking skills, practice university-level oral and written expression, establish short-term and long-term goals, become a skilled user of library resources, and learn to manage time more efficiently. You'll find out about the many campus resources available to students and will be actively encouraged to form lasting relationships with your professor and classmates. This is a course about making choices: about setting and meeting your personal, academic, and career goals. University 100 is available for GE credit in Subject Explorations--Lifelong Learning (S4), and for Information Competence (IC) credit.

University Counseling Services

University Counseling Services (UCS) wants you to fulfill your personal and professional dreams and get the most out of your experience at CSUN. UCS offers services such as individual counseling, group and workshops, outreach workshops, the ExCEL individual counseling, crisis/urgent care assistance and peer education programs. We have a remarkable team of psychologists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, pre-doctoral interns, postdoctoral fellows, psychiatric residents and administrative staff. Each team member promises you ethical, respectful and professional care.

Writing Center

We offer individual tutoring to students writing papers in classes in an y discipline, supplemental instruction in first-year composition, workshops on various topics in reading and writing, and many ways to prepare for the UDWPE. At the University Writing Center, we believe that successful writers--beginning or experienced--benefit from discussing their work with an engaged and supportive audience. The Writing Center and Tutor Lab assist student writers by offering individualized feedback on their writing, at any stage of the process, including understanding the assignment, brainstorming, forming a thesis, developing content, organizing ideas, and learning proofreading skills.

Learning Skills Resources

If you'd like to learn a specific skill related to academic enjoyment and success, browse the following resources.

FAQs about ExCEL

For any questions, please contact Dr. Mark Stevens at or (818) 677 2103.