Return to Program Profiles College of St. Scholastica

A Summer Launch or bridge program introduced first-generation students at the College of St. Scholastica to the challenges of college through a two-day, residential program held just before classes began in late August. In the first year, Project WISE (Walmart Initiative for Success in Education) welcomed 33 participants, and in the second 103, all of whom signed a contract that explained the expectations of the project. The launch program included break-out sessions, administration of the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey, and seminars on a variety of topics relevant to college success. The effort was led by faculty members who were themselves first-generation students, and in the second year they were joined by student mentors who participated in the program the prior year.
 
During the academic year, all WISE students worked with a faculty mentor, received early career assessment and counseling, and received support from a trained upper-division, first-generation student who helped them with study skills and served as an academic resource.  A Student/Mentor Dinner was held in October to introduce students to the faculty mentors, and the spring semester began with a pizza party where faculty mentors shared their own experiences as first-generation students.
 
Participants also were invited to participate in a community service day, attend two cultural events as guests of the program, and attend an ice cream social where participants learned about “Learner-Centered Mentoring.” The activities for the year closed with a year-end dinner discussion and evaluation.
 
Electronic learning devices—digital recorders and scientific and graphic calculators—were purchased and held at the front desk of the residence hall for check-out by the program participants.
 
The program also funded outreach efforts to provide support to the parents of WISE students, including a dinner with their student during the summer launch, a reception at Homecoming/Family Weekend, and periodic newsletters.
 
Funding also was provided to enable the admissions staff to increase recruitment visits to high schools, career fairs, native reservations, and community agencies.
 
WISE implemented a weekly WISE study night for two hours in the second year.
 
Finally, a book stipend was provided to all participants in both years of the program, including the student mentors ($300 per semester).


Program Outcomes

Two program goals were increased retention and improved academic performance by participants. At the end of the first year, the average GPA of WISE students was 2.97 and the retention rate was 80 percent, a rate in keeping with the first-to-second-year average for all students over the past five years. During the second year the average fall semester GPA for all WISE students was 3.04 versus 3.11 for the whole class, reflecting improved academic performance over expectations. Spring semester GPA was 3.08 versus 3.13.
 
The college also experienced improved admission rates in one targeted campus population, Native Americans.


Program Updates

The WISE Program built upon a number of services already provided by St. Scholastica to its first-generation and low-income students. Following WISE, the trained faculty mentors continued to be available to first-generation students.  The two-day summer bridge was discontinued, but a week-long orientation is available to students in the First-Year Development Program. Also, the college was funded with a TRIO program by the Federal government that supports 175 low-income and first-generation students.