Two WMU researchers answer invitation to visit White House

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of Monica Liggins-Abrams and Andrea Beach.

From left: Liggins-Abrams and Beach

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two Western Michigan University researchers visited the White House April 4 for an event that spotlighted a grant program funding work they are doing to develop new ways to increase the degree completion of first-generation, underrepresented and low-income student populations. 

Dr. Andrea Beach and Monica Liggins-Abrams were in Washington for the annual meeting of research principals for efforts nationwide that are being funded by the U.S. Department of Education's First in the World Program. WMU's was the only research effort in Michigan funded in that program's initial round of support announced in 2014.

Through the First in the World Program, WMU received $3.2 million to spend four years developing a culture of degree completion and success. The WMU effort uses mentoring relationships for first-year students to transform WMU's culture and structures to be more supportive of student persistence and lead to degree completion.

Beach, who co-directs WMU's grant project with Liggins-Abrams and Physics Professor Dr. Charles Henderson, says attendees at this week's conference were able to see some of their work spotlighted at the White House event and hear from such administration leaders as Roberto Rodriguez, deputy assistant to the president for education, and U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell.

WMU President John M. Dunn attended a similar White House event in 2014, when a College Opportunity Day of Action signaled the launch of the First in the World grant projects around the country. That event was attended as well by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.

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