Participation needed for institutional transformation effort

Contact: Jeanne Baron

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University is creating professional learning communities that focus on improving persistence toward graduation for all undergraduate students, particularly low-income students.

The learning communities are being set up through the Broncos FIRST program, which is being implemented by the new Center for Research on Instructional Change, a University-level research center that conducts and supports interdisciplinary research aimed at promoting transformative change in postsecondary education.

Broncos FIRST is looking to connect all of WMU's disparate initiatives aimed at student success and turn them into one strong and successful effort. The effort is getting support from a more than $3.2 million grant that the University received in 2014 from the U.S. Department of Education's First in the World Grant program. 

First in the World Grant 

Co-directing the WMU grant project are Dr. Andrea Beach, a professor of education leadership, research and technology, and Dr. Charles Henderson, a professor of physics with a joint appointment in the Mallinson Institute for Science Education.

The two wrote the University's grant proposal, and theirs was the only proposal from a Michigan institution to be funded in the First in the World Grant program's initial funding cycle.

That federal grant seeks to create and validate, through ongoing research, student success programs that can tackle the problem of low rates of degree completion. The goal is to create programs that other universities can adopt, knowing there is sound research data behind the strategies embraced and replicated.

Broncos FIRST program

Learning community applications for the 2015-16 academic year are being accepted through Friday, July 24. All administrators and faculty and staff members who are researching or studying or who have an interest in student persistence are encouraged to apply.

"You're invited to be a part of WMU's institutional change," Beach says. "Actualizing student success requires integrated institutional transformation involving the whole campus."

Participants will make a two-year commitment to the project and meet with their groups twice a month during the academic year.

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"At WMU, we strive to put students first in everything we do," Beach adds. "We want to meet students where they are and help them discover their path to success. We have the opportunity to be a national leader in student retention and success."

For more information about Broncos FIRST or a learning community application, visit