Wallace State selected to participate in nationwide ‘Caring Campus Initiative’

Photo from WSCC

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Wallace State Community College in Hanceville is one of 10 community colleges across the U.S. ready to begin work with the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) to incorporate the “Caring Campus Initiative” into its student success efforts for the Spring 2020 semester.

Supported by IEBC coaching and guidance, professional staff teams at Wallace State will engage in work developing specific behavioral commitments, helping staff to better connect with, and support, students to help them reach their educational goals.

“This initiative is a natural next step in our evolution to provide superior customer service for a holistic student experience, with wraparound services that address not only education but the many contributing factors that influence student success,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics.

“As a result of our work in this area, Wallace State has opened a food pantry to address hunger among students, made free mental health services available to students on campus, established a center for career and workforce development, including a work wardrobe where students can find clothes for interviewing, implemented success coaching, established a Veteran’s meeting area, and worked with the Wallace State Future Foundation to make emergency funds available for essential needs like transportation. We look forward to continuing to advance our college as a Caring Campus,” Karolewics said.

Funded through a $1 million grant from Ascendium Education Group, one of the nation’s leading higher education philanthropies, the objective of IEBCs Caring Campus program is to increase student retention and success in community colleges by creating and cultivating Caring Campus environments through the intentional inclusion of all staff in student success efforts.

Under the grant, IEBC will work with 20 colleges across the U.S. including Wallace State. Each campus agrees to participate in the Caring Campus Initiative, a coaching-based approach ensuring all staff play a role in enabling students to achieve success. The first 10 colleges were selected and began work in 2019. The second group of 10 colleges now joins the effort.

“Who do students meet first on campus? It’s the staff,” said IEBC President and CEO Dr. Brad Phillips. “With Caring Campus, they encounter a warm, welcoming, friendly environment with staff professionals who are glad they’re there.”

The Caring Campus approach covers a semester of intensive work with IEBC coaches who meet with staff teams, returning every three weeks.

“You have to go back to your department, share what’s happened, and then get feedback,” said Phillips. “This is what starts the next meeting. ‘What did we learn? What do we need to change?’ They involve colleagues and supervisors. It’s an intensive process.”

“Caring Campus will allow staff members the opportunity to reflect on all the ways we care about students and how it is displayed. But it will also allow for thoughtful conversation, with the help of an IEBC coach, to think about what we could be doing to make our campus more caring. This truly excites me,” said Wallace State Dean of Students Dr. Ryan Smith.

“Caring Campus is designed to leverage and enhance a college’s existing student success efforts, with little to no cost to the institution to implement these interventions,” explained Phillips. “Smiles don’t cost anything. Asking a student his or her name doesn’t cost anything. You don’t have to buy software, or build a building.

“Our Ascendium-funded program is tapping an underutilized resource for colleges. Staff will be forever changed in the way they see their role as they are integrated into student success efforts,” continued Phillips. “What happens: staff satisfaction goes up because they are making connections with students and their colleagues, connections that would have otherwise not been made.”

Research has documented students leaving college because they do not feel connected to the institution. Caring Campus recognizes and leverages the value of connectedness for increasing the likelihood that students will continue towards, and succeed in attaining, their educational goals.

Staff interaction with students can set the stage for successful enrollment, persistence, and completion. It is particularly important for students from historically underserved populations, students less familiar with college, non-majority students, students from low-income households, and first-generation students to feel welcome and that they belong in college.

For more information about Wallace State and the many services available to students, visit www.wallacestate.edu.  Wallace State will hold an open house for prospective students and others interested in learning more about the college’s programs on Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 4:30-7:30 p.m., beginning in the Student Center.  Tours of programs and sessions on admissions, financial aid, transfer, dual enrollment and more will be available, along with free Chick-fil-A for those who RSVP by Feb. 21.  Visit www.wallacestate.edu/openhouse to register.

IEBC is a nationally-recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to helping education stakeholders — K-12 school systems, community colleges, universities, em­ployers and others — use data, collab­oration and coaching to make informed decisions and craft solutions that improve practice and dramatically increase student success through our innovative approach. Learn more about IEBC at www.iebcnow.org.

Ascendium Education Group (formerly Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates) is the nation’s largest federal student loan guarantor, a leading postsecondary education philanthropy and a provider of student success services for postsecondary institutions. Ascendium, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, provides information, tools and counseling to help millions of borrowers nationwide avoid default and keep the door to re-enrollment open. Ascendium’s philanthropic mission is to elevate opportunities and outcomes for learners from low-income backgrounds so they can better achieve postsecondary educational and career success. To learn more, visit ascendiumeducation.org.