Worcester State University has secured a $233,417 Vision Project Performance Grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was the largest grant awarded under the Vision Project initiative. The grant will fund the WSU project, “The Most Important Person on Campus: Data-Driven Collaborative Approaches to Improve Advising, Retention and College Completion of At-Risk Students,”
“I applaud the team that put this student-centered proposal together,” said WSU President Barry Maloney. “The student truly is the most important person on our campus and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure their success.” The proposal WSU submitted was tied to the university’s strategic plan and builds on current retention efforts already underway. “This Vision Performance Incentive grant will make a very real difference to our students,” said Maloney. The WSU team that worked on crafting the proposal includes: Sharon S. McDonald, Bonnie Orcutt, Mary Jo Marion, Marcela Uribe Jennings, Maureen Shamgochian, Linda Crocker, Patricia Marshall, Jayne McGinn, Andrea Bilics, Elaine Tateronis, Lori Dawson, Carol Lerch, Julie Kazarian, Sibyl Brownlee, Robin Quill and Charles Cullum.
This award from the Vision Performance Incentive Fund will provide the resources to support activities that will improve readiness programs; expand retention and advising and create high-impact practices that align academics with “real-world” employment, such as:
- Expanded Graduate Level Programs: WSU and Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) will collaborate to develop new professional development opportunities for instructors who wish to teach in Early College High School (ECHS) Programs. ECHP programs are designed for high school students who take courses for college credit under dual enrollment agreements. This initiative will enhance classroom effectiveness of ECHP instructors through the creation of a graduate course(s) in the M.Ed. program at WSU.
- Expanded A.I.D. Programming: WSU plans to extend the duration of the Alternatives for Individual Development (A.I.D.) program from the current support during the first year through the students’ second year. Year two will include consistent academic assistance, individualized/group tutoring, financial counseling, and cultural enrichment activities. Improving second year transition will significantly help students to strengthen the skills learned in year one and to continue to improve them on their own.
- Retention Improvement Project: Building upon current efforts by the Academic Success Center (ASC), retention improvement activities will include expanded staffing, creation of a drop-in advising service, cross-campus advising, new collection and dissemination of data, improved evaluation methods, creation of professional development workshops, and technology acquisitions.
- Transfer Improvement Program: Aimed at improving transfer paths, faculty and administrators from QCC and WSU will collaborate to form a Faculty Articulation Collaborative Team (FACT). Building upon the Central Links initiative, FACT will re-start critical dialogues with a focus on business program alignment and mathematics course equivalencies. FACT will also create a database easily accessible to students and faculty from both institutions for advising and planning. This collaborative project, supported by both Presidents, will begin in the fall and be ongoing.
- Collaborative Retention/Advising Initiative: In collaboration with Fitchburg State University, WSU will share resources to strengthen each institution’s educational goals through year-round joint meetings. Sharing common retention concerns and campus based action plans will yield mutual benefits.
- The WSU Teaching Corps Program (TCP): An innovative project of the Latino Education Institute (LEI) at WSU, this pilot program will replicate a national model that engages LEI students as members of a unique teaching corps. Collaborating with local elementary schools in Worcester, TCP members will serve as Latino role models trained in literacy and conflict resolution. TCP members will also develop real-life experience as teachers in an urban setting.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Higher Education endorsed the Vision Project in order to produce the best-educated citizenry and workforce in the nation. It focuses on five key areas: college preparation, college completion, student learning, workforce alignment and elimination of disparities. The Vision Project states:
“Massachusetts is engaged in a fierce competition with other states and nations for talent, investment and jobs. The state’s primary assets in this competition are the overall educational level of our people and our workforce and the inventiveness and competence of the creative individuals and organizational leaders who drive our innovation-dependent, knowledge-based economy.”