True Grit

Washburn University is one of eight colleges and universities nationwide being honored by University Business magazine in its Winter 2016 Models of Excellence recognition program. Sponsored by CASHNet, the Models of Excellence program recognizes innovative approaches to encouraging and nurturing student success on campus. In Washburn’s case, that innovative approach is the Ichabod Success Institute.

Alan Bearman, dean of university libraries and the Center for Student Success and Retention, knows firsthand that a college education is transformational. Growing up in east London, the son of two hard-working custodians, he was the first in his family to go to college.

“Imagine, going from a custodian to a dean. It is the American dream, a dream made possible by a college education,” Bearman said. “A college education is an investment that can forever change a family tree. This is what Washburn is all about – non nobis solum, not for ourselves alone.”

Drawing on Washburn’s heritage of open access and a nationally recognized program for first-generation students at Georgia State University, Bearman and a host of Washburn faculty and staff introduced the Ichabod Success Institute this past summer. The Institute is an innovative, two-year program designed to help first-time, direct-from-high-school students succeed at Washburn. The program focuses on students from underrepresented groups – minorities, first-generation and low-income families.

The goal? To provide the support and resources necessary to help these students succeed, to change their lives forever.

“These students have the potential to succeed,” Bearman said. “They have grit and determination. We believe the Ichabod Success Institute will give them every opportunity to get a college education.  That will change their lives forever.”

 

Arlene Quintana

Arlene QuintanaWith a maturity that belies her 18 years, Arlene Quintana has tackled her first semester at Washburn with a fierce determination to succeed. As a member of the inaugural class of the Ichabod Success Institute, Quintana is a first-generation, bilingual student whose dream is to become a pediatric nurse.

“I want to be a pediatric nurse so I can help people,” Quintana said in her soft-spoken voice. “I’ve always known I wanted more than a job. I want a career, and being bilingual, I think I can really have an impact as a nurse.”

Growing up in a single-parent household with two younger siblings, Quintana immersed herself in her studies at Topeka West High School, balancing academics with extracurricular activities, helping care for her siblings and taking 14 hours of advanced placement courses – including college algebra. With those 14 hours under her belt, an additional six hours of credit from the summer program and her current load of 13 hours, she will complete her first semester with 33 hours toward her degree.

“I like all of my classes,” Quintana said. “Anatomy is the hardest, but I like it so I study a lot. I spend of a lot of time in Mabee to stay up with homework.”

Quintana, like many other Washburn students, has an on-campus job and an off-campus job to help pay her expenses. Another balancing act she has managed so far.

 

Brandon Moreno

Brandon Moreno grew up in a hard-working family. His parents speak mostly Spanish. Moreno himself is bilingual. Like Quintana, he too is a first-generation student. He dreams of becoming a doctor.

Moreno’s parents, like Quintana’s mom, are very supportive of him going to college, but having never gone themselves, they can’t help him know what to expect and where to go for advice.

Moreno credits the intensive five-week summer stint on campus as key to navigating the complicated path of pursuing a college education. His experience on campus during the summer gave him the self-confidence he needs to succeed. The three peer educators – Jennie Lieurance, junior; Natasha Martinez, junior; and Jack Van Dam, senior – played a big role on that front.

“The peer educators were so optimistic,” he said. “They kept saying ‘Nothing can stop you. It’s easy to overcome obstacles, if you keep pushing forward.’ That really impressed me.

“I don’t always know where I fit in. I want to go to events, but I see big groups of kids, and I’m too shy to go up and talk to them. So, I text other kids in the Institute, and we go as group. That’s really helped all of us make more connections on campus.”

As Moreno wraps up his first semester with class load of 15 hours, he has been surprised at how invested his professors are in their students’ success.

 “I didn’t expect the professors to be so open, so supportive, “Moreno said. “I felt like our high school teachers painted a different picture and told us we would be on our own when we entered college. That’s just not the case at Washburn.”

 

Connections

For Moreno and Quintana – and many of the other 18 Institute students – connections are what it’s all about. Connections with each other. Connections with faculty. Connections with their individual mentors.

“After the first awkward week of living together in the Living Learning Center, we started feeling more like a family,” Quintana said of the summer on-site residency. “Now, when I am stressed out, I have someone to go to, someone to talk to.”

Moreno echoes that sentiment, noting that this core group of friends study together, help each other with difficult classes and lend emotional support when one of them is struggling.

Brandon Moreno and Tim PetersonAnother connection proving to be just as valuable is the relationship each of them is developing with their professional mentors. For Moreno, that person is Tim Peterson, retired dean of academic outreach. (Pictured Left)

“We get together and talk – about a lot of things,” Moreno said. “Tim encourages me to get involved. He pushes me to step out of my comfort zone. He knew I was really interested in the elections, and he pushed me to go to the debate watches in Mabee. Having him as a mentor is really great since he knows so much about Washburn.”

Peterson is equally excited about having the opportunity to get to know Moreno.

“Brandon is great,” Peterson said. “He’s focused and knows what he wants to do. My job is to help him stay the course and not get distracted by life events and other challenges. Besides, this is just plain fun.”

Ashley Toyne, bsn ’06, a nurse manager at Stormont Vail Health, Topeka, Kansas, is Quintana’s mentor. She, like Peterson, knows staying focused and not getting discouraged is key to finishing a college degree. She knows having that extra support can go a long way.

“Arlene and I have a lot in common,” Toyne said. “Like Arlene, I was old for my age when I started college. I knew I wanted to do nursing from an early age, but I didn’t know what to expect from college. Looking back, I realize how helpful it would have been as a first-generation student myself to have had a mentor, someone who could cheer me on and keep me on course.”

When approached to be a mentor in the program, Peterson jumped at the chance.

“Ironically, when I was on campus and facilitated one of the Leadership Washburn groups in developing a continuous improvement project, it was a first-generation program, much like the Ichabod success Institute,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see this come to fruition. It’s long overdue.”

While Toyne agrees the program is helpful, she sees it from another perspective as well.

“Being mentors to students like Arlene says we as nurse managers – as hiring managers – care,” Toyne said. “We are invested in their growth. We want to make sure they have the right heart, the right skills to be good nurses, good health care providers.  It’s a way to give back to the community we care so much about.”

The Ichabod Success Institute

  • An innovative, two-year program that helps first-time, direct-from-high-school students transition to Washburn University
  • A collaborative effort with Topeka-area high school social workers and counselors to recruit students from minority, first-generation and low-income families
  • Five-week summer residential program
  • Completed six hours of college credit
  • Peer educators
  • Individual mentors
  • Tutors
  • Workshops on time management, study skills
  • Social and networking events including career exploration and civic engagement opportunities
  • Job shadowing

For more information or to volunteer as a mentor, contact James Barraclough, director of undergraduate success initiatives, at james.barraclough@washburn.edu or by phone at 785.670.1378.

 

How you can help

Finances are one of the primary barriers to these students receiving a college education. While the Ichabod success Institute helps these students apply for Pell grants and student loans, there is a tremendous need for scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition and other expenses.

Scholarships for these students mean an opportunity to come to Washburn and, with the support of the program, overcome life obstacles and graduate – thus the name Ichabod Opportunity Scholarship fund.

For more information, contact us.