ITTA BENA, Miss.—Students attending Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) will benefit from a five-year $200,000 grant commitment from the Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) to support college retention, persistence, and completion through the Improving Mississippi’s Persistence and Completion Together (IMPACT) initiative.
WHEF is an endowed Mississippi non-profit organization that has focused its efforts on promoting increased postsecondary access among underrepresented students for nearly 25 years, and more recently, expanded its mission to also support increased credential completion within the state.
“The need to support students and to improve the rates of college completion among Mississippians has always existed. But, in light of COVID, the need has never been greater and more pressing,” said WHEF President and CEO Jim McHale.
“According to Georgetown University, it is estimated that 65% of all jobs require some kind of postsecondary education. Currently, Mississippi sits at 45.2%. In order to improve the lives of Mississippians, to support Mississippi’s economic recovery, and to competitively position our state within a global economy, there is a critical need to not only have more students enroll in college, but to have them successfully complete their degree or credential.”
Grant selection was a part of a competitive request for proposals.
MVSU’s project, “The Road to Success: Retention, Persistence, Graduation (RPG)”, is designed to improve academic out-comes for a yearly minimum of 50 at-risk, particularly first-generation, low-income minority students. To this end, RPG will provide students with intensive, intrusive targeted services geared toward successful college completion.
Included among these services are regularly scheduled academic advising and counseling, face-to-face and online mandatory tutorial sessions and career counseling. The project has, at its core, coordination and integration of tutorial into MVSU’s First- and Second-Year Experience programs, as well as gateway courses.
The tutorial services are designed as an umbrella collective, which prevents the duplication of services, while maximizing student usage throughout the academic term rather than around test time. Students will participate in individualized and small group sessions that offer flexibility but require at least two (2) hours of weekly attendance.
“We are elated to partner with the Woodward Hines Education Foundation to enhance the support and resources available to MVSU students,” said MVSU President Dr. Jerryl Briggs, Sr. “We know that a college degree is transformative not only for the lives of our students but their families as well. Through funding from the Woodward Hines Education Foundation, we will be able to assist students with educational barriers to ensure their academic and personal success. I am certain that Dr. (Kathie) Stromile Golden and her team will develop innovative and impactful programs that will resonate with our students."
In addition to the grant funding, WHEF will underwrite biennial IMPACT convenings for all Mississippi public baccalaureate institutions, with the goal of creating a state-specific, facilitated community of practice for the exchange of findings, insights, and ideas; in addition, WHEF plans to provide coordinated access to high-quality professional development opportunities for institutional faculty and staff, innovations in data collection and usage, as well as platforms for peer learning.
“In addition to providing financial resources to individual schools, we hope to create a learning community where generative conversations about college success can happen,” said WHEF Program Officer and IMPACT Project Lead Shanell Watson. “Although each Mississippi institution has its own unique challenges and opportunities, they are also working to solve the same problems. Our goal with the IMPACT initiative is to provide a place where our universities can share with and learn from one another, for the betterment of all our students.”