Wittenberg University Awarded College Success Grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation
Springfield, Ohio - Wittenberg University recently received a $194,445 College Success grant from Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Spearheaded by Interim Provost Mary Jo Zembar, professor of psychology, and Jon Duraj, associate dean of students for student success and retention, the grant will enhance the level of support and resources provided to students, including allowing Wittenberg to hire three first-year success advisors. Two have already joined the campus community, and Duraj expects the third to be on campus shortly.
"These advisors will work closely with students to identify any and all barriers to success," Duraj said. "They will develop relationships, follow-up and make sure that these students connect on campus and navigate the experience effectively."
Founders of the Wittenberg's Center for Student Success, Zembar and Duraj have been working for several years to understand the success equation in college.
"What we know from both psychological and student development research is that we must apply a more holistic approach to student success, one that considers the body, mind, stress, homesickness, and finances, among other factors," Zembar explained.
Recently interviewed by local National Public Radio affiliate WYSO about the funding, Zembar and Duraj see their role as facilitators and even decoders, asking an array of questions to get at the heart of any potential roadblocks to success.
"What was their high school experience like, what was their home experience like, what are they doing outside of the classroom here at Wittenberg?" Duraj told WYSO. "What are their goals - short term, long-term, career, vocational goals - that they have as they enter college and how do we really help get them started on the right foot?"
Research shows that students who are placed on academic probation during their freshman year are up to 82 percent less likely to graduate in five years than those who aren't. This is especially true for students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and students who are first in their families to attend college.
"I often tell our community that if we admit students, then it is a moral imperative to help them succeed," said Wittenberg President Laurie M. Joyner, who has championed the implementation of a student success model at Wittenberg since her arrival in July 2012. "I am confident that the College Success grant will contribute greatly to our collective efforts on this front as we help students discover their passion and purpose."
"Moving students toward greater opportunity in life benefits us all," added Richard D. George, Great Lakes' president and chief executive officer. "We fund programs that understand the root cause of what holds students back, and take bold steps to overcome these obstacles. We look forward to seeing the impact Wittenberg can have on helping more students graduate and achieve their full potential."
A nationally ranked university for the liberal arts and sciences affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wittenberg University has repeatedly been ranked throughout the years by the Princeton Review for the quality of its teaching and faculty, including 11th in the nation for "Best Classroom Experience" and 15th in the category "Professors Get High Marks" in the 2011 edition of Princeton's annual Best Colleges guide. Most recently, Wittenberg earned the No. 4 spot in the category of "Most Accessible Professors."
Great Lakes College Success grants, totaling $2.7 million, were awarded to 19 two- and four-year colleges, universities, and community and technical colleges across Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. A total of 5,280 students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and students who are first in their families to attend college will benefit from support services during the 2014-2015 academic year. This grant is just one way Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates works to achieve its goal of helping more students benefit from their investment in higher education, and graduate ready to reach their full potential.