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Student Success: something we all can get behind

WAICU’s mission is “working together for educational opportunity.” Sometimes people are surprised that private colleges – which are, after all, competitors – want to work together. The “secret” is that Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities are distinctive, but they share a common interest in putting students first; they truly care about what is best for their students.

When students find the institution that is the best fit for them, we want them to thrive in that environment. WAICU members collaborate on cost-saving programs, so that institutions can invest more in academics and student aid. We also advocate together for policies that have a positive impact on all students. I want to share with you a new collaborative venture.

Despite snow, wind, freezing rain, and cold, WAICU members gathered at Cardinal Stritch University on Saturday, February 23 for a workshop: “Scaling Student Success: Best Practices for Developing Strong Foundations in English and Math for ALL Students.”

Seventy-four registered, so they could share best practices to help students challenged by English and math to get the help they need and still graduate on time.

An advisory task force composed of Dr. Moreen Carvan, Marian University; Dr. Wendy A. Weaver, Mount Mary University; Dr. Tracy Stewart, Viterbo University; and Ms. Kathy Paul of WAICU planned the workshop. Teams from Bellin College, Marian University, Mount Mary University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, and Wisconsin Lutheran College shared their model initiatives of evidence-based scaling practices for student success. Through formal presentations and a breakout session, these teams discussed the challenges, rewards, lessons-learned, and future opportunities for their respective models.

Prior to the workshop, registrants completed in-depth pre-event work at their home campus regarding their individual and team insights and intentions for learning and action. During the workshop, registrants met as campus teams to document their notes and impressions and begin planning scaling practices for their own colleges and universities.

This workshop is only the first step in a three-year period of collaborative learning. The project is supported by a travel grant from the Education Commission of the States and by WAICU members themselves. The work will continue beyond the workshop. This spring, participating colleges and universities will submit their initial plans for scaling a project to the WAICU advisory task force for feedback. Teams will then use the remainder of the academic year to plan for fall implementation of scalable practices.

The participants braved the elements and gave up their Saturday in February, not because they had to, but because they care. The weather did keep some away. We are working to “catch them up.”

WAICU presented the workshop as part of our involvement in Strong Start to Finish (SSTF), an initiative of the Education Commission of the States. SSTF staff have expressed their admiration for WAICU members’ ability to work together towards educational opportunity, and we could not be prouder.

Sincerely, Rolf Wegenke, Ph.D.