Wabash Receives $250,000 Retention Grant• January 4, 2011
Wabash has received a $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis (AVD) Foundations for a series of projects aimed at increasing the retention and successful graduation of Wabash students, especially increasing the persistence of African American and Latino men.
“This project is central to one of our most important priorities: empowering Wabash men to be successful at the College and to become leaders in the larger world upon graduation,” said Wabash President Patrick White.
Historically, Wabash retains 87 percent of its students from the freshman to sophomore year, and 68 percent graduate within four years. However, both retention measures vary by ethnicity and African American and Latino students fall well below those percentages.
Gary A. Phillips, Dean of the College at Wabash, believes that the AVD grant, which is part of the College's Challenge of Excellence, will allow Wabash to develop retention programs that will be of benefit to all Wabash students.
“Although one can never predict with certainty whether a particular student will succeed or not at Wabash, the experience of many institutions that are addressing student retention issues and our own internal analysis suggest that some factors are knowable, and there are steps Wabash can take to increase the probability that students, regardless of ethnicity, can persist through to graduation,” said Dean Phillips.
Data gleaned from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education (WNSLAE) indicates that student engagement at Wabash is not experienced uniformly across all student groups. African-American and Latino students earn lower grades and fewer credits, which directly result in increased attrition and lower graduate rates.
Wabash National Study data also indicate that the single best predictor of whether or not a student returns to the College for his sophomore year is the student’s report of “faculty interest in teaching and student development,” a scale which assesses students’ perceptions of faculty interest in their overall development — not just academic performance.
“Our goal is to create a distinctive Wabash model for improving engagement, one that will consider the fact that we have an all-male student body, that we are a small institution with fewer professional student service staff members compared to other campuses, and that the Wabash ethos of student success can be improved for each and every student if faculty and staff improve engagement practices inside and outside the classroom,” DeanPhillips said.
More than two years in the planning, the award from AVD will support the College’s ongoing student retention efforts, including implementation of an Early Alert System; a comprehensive review of the student advisement system; funding faculty advisement workshop training; and the establishment a student-to-student peer mentoring program.
Grant funds will support teaching and learning workshops focused on retention of at-risk and first generation students, and student-alumni mentoring activities (dovetailing with work already begun with a $50,000 CIC/Walmart College Success Awards grant from the Walmart Foundation and the Council of Independent Colleges).
Heather Hines, the Coordinator of Student Engagement and Retention, will lead in the implementation of the grant, as will the College’s Retention Committee and the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies.
“One of the key points of Wabash’s strategic plan calls for us to focus on the question of how Wabash will continue to attract, retain, and graduate young men who will make the most out of Wabash and who will make a difference in the larger world,” added President Pat White. “Wabash generally has a strong and even admirable retention rate. But as with so many good aspects of Wabash, we are convinced we can do better.”
“While the grant application was the result of many persons’ labor, Nancy Doemel deserves special credit and our collective thanks for the role she played in the process,” said Dean Phillips. “Nancy has been the College’s institutional face to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and a passionate advocate for greater institutional attention to student persistence issues.”
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In the photos: President White and alumni Jim Kerr and Antoine Carpenter take part in last fall's orientation for alumni mentors.