Pathways program wins UW System grant to help students

    September 26, 2012

    Buoyed by a successful pilot program, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has won nearly half a million dollars to help underperforming students succeed.

    The award, a UW System Growth Agenda for Wisconsin grant, will provide $479,506 over two years for the Pathways for Success program.

    Started in fall 2010, Pathways for Success is an academic support system for students at risk of failure. Many participants are first-generation or minority students with lower-than-average ACT scores and high school GPAs of 2.75 or lower.

    "Part of our mission is to be accessible to a wide range of students," said Beverly Kopper, provost. "When you step on this campus, we do everything we can to help you be successful. We offer transformative experiences for students, and this program is symbolic of that."

    Students in the Pathways pilot program were required to attend study sessions, participate in mandatory group meetings and meet with their academic adviser three times a semester.

    Kopper said there were noted improvements in retention and academic success. This program increased by 11 percent the number of students enrolled in basic math who returned the following year.

    Pathways won the 2011 Ann Lydecker Educational Diversity Award from the Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action and the Office of State Employment Relations.

    With the help of the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin grant, the expanded Pathways program will offer additional instruction in mathematics and writing, connections with peer mentors, direct academic advising and career planning, shared classes, and first-year interest groups.

    "Many of these students haven't decided on a major yet, so they'll work more closely with our academic advisers to find a field of study that fits their skills and abilities," said Matt Aschenbrener, vice chancellor for enrollment and retention.

    In addition, as many as 30 student mentors, called path leaders, will assist with study groups.

    "These are academic role models who we hope can help influence peer culture and pass on good study habits," said Richard McGregory, assistant vice chancellor for multicultural affairs and student success. "They are much closer in age than our staff, so they offer more relatable experiences for the students they're helping."

    McGregory and Aschenbrener co-authored the grant application. They credit the strong collaboration across campus -- from faculty members to students -- for the success of the pilot program and the opportunity to expand it.

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