On January 9 WMU President Dr. Edward Montgomery, announced a new initiative that will have a big impact on University life when it goes into effect in the fall of 2018.
Success @ WMU is coming, a campus wide endeavour aimed at broadening and enhancing the success already demonstrated by learning communities across campus. This program will provide all incoming students with the opportunity to be involved with a learning community that is tailored to their specific major, as well as give students access to a Peer Academic Leader (PAL) who will help them adjust academically, socially, and culturally to university life.
“We have something totally new that represents real opportunities to say to our students we care about you, we want to engage you, we want to make you feel like part of a community in a variety of different ways and these initiatives will have an impact on our retention, will have an impact on our graduation, and will enhance our ability to attract students, so to me that’s the exciting part about what we’re going to be doing,” President Montgomery said. “Campus will be different because of what we’re doing in the fall, and it will be stronger because of it.”
The process went underway in fall of 2017 when faculty, staff, and groups around campus were asked to submit proposals for ideas that would fulfill three goals. The first goal being to increase student success, by maximizing the retention and graduation rates. The second goal was to secure more funding from a wide variety of sources. The third goal was aimed at making WMU an institution of choice, not just for students, but for faculty and outside partners such as government institutions and businesses throughout the state.
Over 60 proposals were submitted and then reviewed to select ones that would combine academic and student affairs in a way that would be unique to WMU. Of the 60 proposals, 12 were combined to form Success @ WMU. This initiative is being funded by the Transformational Initiatives Fund, a resource created by Dr. Montgomery that reserved over a million dollars through the Central Campus Administration to fund improvements to the university.
“This is important enough,” Dr. Montgomery says, “if we want to change the face of the campus to take a small but significant chunk of money and devote it to catalyzing ideas and creativity.”
Success @ WMU is primarily aimed at helping incoming students adjust more easily to the new experiences and stresses of college life. The initiative will expand on learning communities that already exist on campus and in the residence halls, and it will provide students with resources that will improve academic performance and provide them with a greater sense of belonging. For the learning communities that already exist, the retention rates of students involved in them is 10 to 15 percent higher than those for the student body as whole so being engaged in this way will dramatically improve the experience for incoming students.
In addition, the initiative will provide a number of on-campus jobs to students, which has also shown to improve retention and graduation rates for students who are employed by the university. Success @ WMU is making an effort to involve the faculty and staff from the various departments in their respective communities so as to provide students with additional resources should they find that they are struggling with a particular subject. The initiative has established a goal to reach 5,500 students next semester.
Success @ WMU hopes to combat any apprehension incoming students have by giving freshmen and transfer students the help they need to make it through their first year here at Western.
“In many cases they’ve never been away from their family, they’ve never been to Kalamazoo, you’re going from high school to a university setting which is very different, you have to manage life and academics and it’s hard.” Dr. Montgomery says, “There are many things that make that group of students particularly vulnerable. The more we can do to make them feel like part of a community, the more we can make them feel connected to the institutions, then when things don’t go perfectly they still stick with it and fight through. That means that at the end of the day the time, and the effort, and the resources that you, as a student, and your family have invested in your college education you get something.”
This initiative is still in the planning stages, being only a week old, but the process is underway and they will go into effect in fall of 2018. “All 60 of those proposals represented efforts by our community to improve our community,” Dr. Montgomery says, “So I think there’s great value in us as an institution in saying we can, we are, we do have ideas of how we can keep making Western a great place, and how we can take it to the next level.”