Wabash College Receives Grant

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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Wabash College an $800,000 grant. School officials say the three-year grant will support a residential program that will improve the retention and graduation rates for Wabash students.

April 9, 2015

News Release

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. – Wabash College has received an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the implementation of the Wabash Summer Liberal Arts Immersion (WSLAI) program.

The three-year grant will support a distinctive, four-week, pre-enrollment residential program aimed at improving the retention and graduation rates for students at Wabash College. The program will advance written communication and organizational skills, expand exposure to the benefits of a liberal arts degree, and instill a connection to a supportive campus environment committed to students’ success. A 30-student enrollment is expected each summer.

“We are very excited about this new program and the benefits it will provide for Wabash students and their families,” said Wabash President Gregory Hess. “We are grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its belief and investment in Wabash College and the important work we are doing to educate young men in the liberal arts. We know that the key elements of this program will pay dividends for our students, and will provide a model for other colleges and universities and their efforts to retain and graduate students of all socio-economic means.”

Directed by Wabash faculty, the WSLAI features programming for both students and parents that includes exposure to the liberal arts, a summer immersive experience for participants, and opportunities and resources that are focused on increasing student success. All program expenses will be covered for the participants. Students will also receive a stipend to offset wages potentially earned through summer employment.

“The low graduation rates of young men, especially young men who are first generation college students or students of color, is a growing concern in higher education,” said Dean of the College Scott Feller. “We are pleased to partner with The Mellon Foundation to develop this new program to support the transition to college for students who participate.”

The academic centerpiece will be a for-credit English composition course. The course is an opportunity to improve writing and comprehensive reading skills and to introduce students to the academic rigors of college. The ability to earn college credit early will give students greater academic flexibility in the future.

The program will also feature modules from across the liberal arts, with a focus on the humanities. This will introduce participants to new disciplines in order to expand the understanding of opportunities across a variety of majors and foster early connections to Wabash faculty members.

“Looking at the members of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), those with the highest retention rates also have the highest proportion of students majoring in the humanities,” said Feller. “At Wabash we are especially intrigued by the opportunity to be more intentional about exposing students to the liberal arts, and the humanities in particular. We hope to explore the possibility that increasing participation in the humanities is a way to increase college success for young men.”

Alumni visits, video conferences, and off-campus site visits will further connect liberal arts education to career aspirations by exposing students to an array of career opportunities. WSLAI will culminate with an immersion experience during the summer prior to the students’ sophomore year, which could include summer research, business or community organization internships, or academic immersion learning courses.

An additional WSLAI focus is to connect students to the campus academic support network by designing assignments that engage students with these resources, and the staff, tutors, and peer mentors involved with each. The upperclassmen tutors and peer mentors, many who arrived with similar backgrounds and have found success in their careers at Wabash, will introduce the WSLAI freshmen to the Writing Center, Qualitative Skills Center, and the Student Enrichment Office where the participants will learn time management and study skills.

“This program will give students an invaluable head-start on understanding the expectations and opportunities that come with a Wabash education,” said Psychology Professor and Director of WSLAI Robert Horton. “It will get them thinking early about what they might do after Wabash. Overall, we believe that students will be more successful and satisfied with their College experience if we show them what a Wabash education is, where that education can take them, and who can help them get there.”

Uniquely, WSLAI includes two days of programming for parents as well, featuring special sessions with Wabash faculty and staff in conversations about the value of a liberal arts education, off-campus study, the financial demands of college attendance, counseling, support, and the transition to college.

Wabash will also develop and enhance a range of enrichment activities aimed at improving retention through a focus on the freshman year experience by expanding faculty and staff skills in working with students who are struggling with the transition to college and by furthering on-going work in areas of cultural awareness and competency.

The Dean of the College will extend special invitations to students in late spring. The inaugural four-week WSLAI will begin in July.

Source: Wabash College

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