Return to Program Profiles Wabash College

The CIC/Walmart College Success Awards grant allowed Wabash to implement the Generation-to-Generation: Improving Retention of First Generation College Students at Wabash College program that consisted of an Early Alert System (EASy) pilot program, and a Generation-to-Generation (G2G) Alumni-Student Mentoring program.
 
EASy was introduced to provide an online reporting and tracking system for faculty and staff to report in a timely and coordinated way a student who is having some kind of difficulty that could potentially interfere with his or her success. A coordinator of student engagement and retention was appointed in 2010 and served as the information gatekeeper and staff “first responder” who made initial contacts with students and informed advisors, faculty, coaches, the dean of students, health services, and others, as appropriate, of issues of importance.
 
The program goal was to identify struggling students within the first two weeks of the semester and to intervene and assist as needed. In the majority of cases, early alerts were one-time events. Students were seen or contacted by phone or email, issues of concern were identified, and students were connected directly with the appropriate staff or faculty person with no further follow-up required. In other cases, however, the early alerts enabled the college to identify students with chronic issues who continued to require coordinated and ongoing support. This system also is enabling the development of a data-driven profile that will help the college to understand the variables related to success at Wabash.

Complementing the EASy coordinated data gathering effort is the G2G Alumni-Student Mentoring Program. The program’s roots lie in head basketball coach and alumnus Antoine Carpenter’s initiative to create a mentoring program linking African American graduates with past affiliation with the college’s Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies to newly matriculated African American students. Building upon Coach Carpenter’s work, the G2G program was expanded to include first-generation students.
 
The program began with an alumni-student mentor workshop, a one-day event that provided mentors and mentees an opportunity to meet and learn together how to maintain the relationship and make it successful. Over two years, the program also organized ten spring community internships and ten summer internships with mentor sponsorships.


Program Outcomes

There was a 38 percent decrease in the number of students declared academically ineligible to return to the college during the 2011–2012 academic year compared to the 2010–2011 academic year. During the 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 academic years a total of 222 students received alerts, and of them 65 were first-generation, 28 African American, and 10 Hispanic students. The second year figures represent an 11 percent decrease over 2010–2011. Thus, there was improved academic performance.
 
Increasingly, more faculty and staff are using EASy as a way to bring coordinated effort to bear on students in need. EASy has proven to be a valuable institutional tool that can quickly identify students who are off to a shaky college start or who are not suitably engaged.
 
The pilot Generation to Generation (G2G) Alumni-Student Mentoring Program began with 12 students in fall 2010 and was expanded to serve an additional 15 students during the 2011–2012 academic year. Altogether, the G2G program served 27 first-generation college students (75 percent of whom are African American or Hispanic—the targeted campus population) during the two-year period. Students were matched with Wabash College alumni mentors, 50 percent of whom were first-generation college students themselves. Surveys at the conclusion of the pilot demonstrated that the system didn’t work very well for half of the mentors/mentees, primarily due to conflicting schedules and inattention over time.
 
One outcome of the mentoring program was the internships in the spring and summer for the students in the program. These experiences resulted in improved career awareness and real experience.
 
As a result of these programs, nine of the 12 students (75 percent) in the fall 2010 cohort returned to the college in fall 2011, and 10 of 15 (66 percent) in the fall 2011 cohort returned fall 2012. Over the two years of the G2G program, the freshman-to-sophomore return rate for all African American and Hispanic students was 70.3 percent. Because the student pool size is small and the retention drop for African American students occurs mainly in the junior and senior years, the persistence effect for minority students in the program versus those not in the program remains to be determined. The college will know more by tracking persistence patterns in the program and non-program cohorts from sophomore-to-junior and junior-to-senior years.


Program Updates

The EASy program continues to gain traction with faculty and staff. The Alumni-Student Mentoring Program has not continued.