We know that some of our students are not achieving their goals at WSU. In response, Student Life and Development (SLD) staff members have initiated two important pilot programs to shrink our achievement gaps. Utilizing grant funding, three orientation instructors created programming specifically for first-generation students. They have been identifying and supporting first-generation students through a new website, informational panel discussions, and a survival skills workshop offered just prior to finals. We are proud that 238 of the 400 students in the December 2013 class were the first in their families to graduate.
A second pilot program that establishes success coaches is part of a broader completion plan at WSU. We know that our underrepresented minority students complete their degree at a lower rate than other students do. Beginning in the fall, 15 SLD professionals volunteered to coach three or four students. After a training session, the coaches reached out to 60 first-year students who are underrepresented minorities. The success coaches worked to establish a relationship with the students and connect them with support services. They monitored student progress and communicated regularly with them. Forty students met with their success coach. At the end of the semester, students that met with a coach had a higher completion rate and were more likely to be in good standing than non-participants and a control group. Given the success of these pilot programs, we will be looking for ways to expand them next year.