Student success in the news

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Center for Latino/a & Latin American Studies’ 48th Anniversary Awards Dinner

Professor Jorge Chinea, Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies director at wayne state university joined “Spotlight on the News” host Chuck Stokes to talk about the center’s 48th Anniversary Awards Dinner scheduled on Friday Sept. 13 at the El Kiosko Banquet Hall in Detroit. “Every year we try to hold an event to raise funds for the center, so we try to coincide it with the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage Month,” Chinea said. “We also try to recognize the great work that is being done by members of the community.”
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Wayne State’s DetroitEd411 service gives instant access to higher education resources

Got a question about post-secondary education that you need answered right away? With Wayne State University’s newest information service, DetroitEd411, you can access information and resources about vocational training, financial aid, GED opportunities, child care and the like via Facebook Messenger. A collaboration between Wayne State and the Detroit Regional Chamber, DetroitEd411 is meant to support adult learners and promote college attainment and career readiness in Detroit. Search for the service on Messenger and be introduced to Spirit, an innovative blend of artificial intelligence and supervised machine learning, ready to answer all your questions, day or night. “One of the best things about using this adaptive technology is that we’re able to meet people wherever they are and answer questions in real time, without judgment,” says Dawn Medley, Wayne State’s vice president of enrollment management. “The amount of information Spirit is able to provide is limitless, and the database of answers and resources will only continue to grow, adapt and expand as more people take advantage of DetroitEd411.”
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Arkansas colleges differ in handling of debts

Arkansas' public universities have millions of dollars in student accounts receivable, which is money owed to them by current or former students for various expenses. The schools commonly address the debt by withholding transcripts from students. Where schools differ is in how much debt they allow students to amass before denying those students course enrollments. At Henderson State University, where a budget shortfall and news of as much as $10 million in accounts receivable drew concern from trustees and others this summer, students were allowed to each accumulate up to $4,800 in debt and continue to register for classes. Such leeway is not the norm at the state's public universities, where schools sometimes prohibit students from registering if they have any past-due account balances. Dealing with the debts can be tricky for a school that wants to recoup its expenses but not prevent students from completing their educations and later being able to pay them back. Some schools have seen the value in helping students pay off those debts. At Wayne State University, the school paid up to $1,500 to students who stopped going to classes because of their account balances, according to an Institute for Higher Education Policy report. They were able to enroll in the fall of 2018, and nine of the 56 who enrolled graduated shortly after. The school reported generating more than $200,000 in net revenue through this spring from the initiative.
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A Wayne State University Theater Ensemble Performs Original Play in Scotland

Exploring topics such as race, gender, sexuality, and mental health, members of the Freedom Players — an ensemble formed out of Wayne State University’s Black Theater and Dance Program — went no holds barred this month when they performed their honest and original play, I Am, at the Scotland-based Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The trip marked the first time WSU students have attended the month-long, city-wide celebration, and their play was one of more than 50,000 performances showcased during the festival’s run. Following their experience across the Atlantic Ocean, Hour Detroit spoke with Billicia Hines, artistic director of the Black Theatre and Dance Collective at WSU, about the decision to attend this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, how it felt to bring their heartfelt work to an international audience, and the unforgettable impression this experience has had on the young Freedom Players.                                                    
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DTE Energy Foundation awards $100k to Wayne State’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies

The DTE Energy Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Wayne State University Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies to support its Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). Designed to improve retention and graduation rates, SEP is a college-readiness program that helps incoming first-generation and underrepresented college students acquire the key “hard” and “soft” skills needed to smoothly transition to rigorous university-level coursework. Structured as an intensive, eight-week immersion in mathematics, English composition, oral communications and cultural studies, the SEP courses and complementary learning exercises are widely regarded as pivotal to a successful academic experience. The grant, which will enable the center to continue to offer SEP over the next four years, greatly advances the university’s strategic plans to recruit, retain and graduate a diverse pool of students who will become leaders in their professions and in local communities. The program has a demonstrated record of laying a solid foundation for their competitive performance in a wide array of courses, especially those in the STEM fields. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that the foundation has deposited on our organization’s ability to continue to assist students pursuing a cutting-edge academic degree at Wayne State University,” said Jorge L. Chinea, director of the center.
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Universities across Michigan attract Chaldean students with an inclination for business

Looking at Alaa Kishmish’s current career trajectory, one would never guess that the business major on the cusp of graduating was once pursuing a career in anything other than business. With a refined acumen for all things business, Kishmish, 24, is looking at graduating in December 2019 from the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University with a bachelor’s in business administration. The switch from pharmacy to business came after he took on a part time bank teller position at a local bank in Sterling Heights. In his post as a teller Kishmish’s passion for business presented itself and in turn, flourished. “My journey at Wayne State has been extremely rewarding. I have had the opportunity to meet and connect with so many different people that I would not have otherwise met,” he explained. “Some of my closest friends, colleagues, and people I network with I met through the school of business. I would not have been able to do any of this if I had not been at Wayne State; it has provided me with several opportunities.”
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Could dropouts be the solution to the education crisis?

The vice president for applied research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Julie Ajinkya explained many of the underlying causes students dropout or face difficulty coming back to school have to do with the lack of affordable education. “The reasons students drop out are almost always financially related,” Ajinkya says. “Even the personal reasons people cite are financially related, like not being able to find affordable childcare, or transportation to actually be able to take your classes.” In addition to overseeing Degrees When Due, a free program designed to help institutions build their own capacity to help bring dropouts back, Ajinkya and IHEP have also analyzed another program for dropouts, Warrior Way Back, an initiative out of Wayne State University, that uses incremental debt forgiveness as incentive for dropouts. 
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The new battlefront in food insecurity fight

Food insecurity, defined as being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, is currently a situation that 12.3 percent of U.S. households experience. It's defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. However, David Strauss, Wayne State University dean of students, says, “It's not just food – it's all basic needs. With the increasing costs of tuition for college, it's food, shelter, clothing.” Strauss said on the Wayne State campus he has seen an increase in student food insecurity in the last decade. “We weren't talking about this 10 years ago. We weren't talking about food insecurity, homelessness, basic needs challenges. Everyone was always having food drives for Gleaners (Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan,) but that was for other people. Now we're having department food drives for our students.” Strauss and other administrators at area schools of higher education emphasize the reason food insecurity and hunger is such a major issue – and pressing talking point – is because it can be a direct impediment to student success. “If we look at student success, and we focus on student success and graduation, our number one goal is to get them across the finish line – and if we cannot get them nourishment, we can't help them succeed and cross the finish line,” Strauss explained. “If students aren't eating, they're going to class, working part or full-time jobs, they're operating on fumes,” noted Raneisha Williams Fox, coordinator of student wellness at Wayne State University and the W Pantry, Wayne State's food pantry, which during the 2018-2019 school year gave out more than 8,000 pounds of food. It opened in April 2017. “In a week we'll see 25 to 28 students, and between 80 and 100 students monthly. Since we've opened we've serviced 1,500 students, and we've given out more than 20,000 pounds of food.”
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Wayne State's Hunter Brown goes in fifth round to Astros

Wayne State right-hander Hunter Brown saw the pre-Major League Baseball projections, that had him a top-100 prospect. But he tried not to get caught up in that as one pick after another went by, first Monday night, then mid-day Tuesday. The patience paid off when the Houston Astros took him in the fifth round. "Honestly, you know, you wait your whole life, as long as you play baseball starting in Little League, to hopefully sit there and hear your name called," Brown said. "And you see your name go up on the screen. It's a pretty exciting feeling. It's nothing like you've ever felt. It was awesome." Brown, 20, was taken with the 166th pick in the draft. Interestingly, Wayne State's best showing in the draft was another right-hander, Anthony Bass, who was selected in 2008 — with the 165th pick. "So he went one ahead, huh?" Brown said, laughing. "We were trying to find out what pick he went. We knew he went in the fifth round. Anthony's great, he's had a big-league career. And he's been kind of a mentor to me, this year especially. So, hey, 165 or 166, or anything range, it's awesome." Bass, 31, is in his eighth season in the major leagues, now with the Seattle Mariners. But over the offseason, during a fall scout day on campus and during Bass' annual camp at Wayne State, he made sure to pass along his cell number to Wayne State coach Ryan Kelley — to give to Brown.
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Wayne Law students honored by National Lawyers Guild

Two Wayne State University Law School students have been named student honorees by the Michigan and Detroit Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Cait De Mott Grady of Ithaca, New York, and Phillip Keller of Frankenmuth, received the honor at the chapter’s 82nd Anniversary Dinner on May 11. Both students graduated Monday, May 13. While at Wayne Law, De Mott Grady was a member of the executive board of Wayne Law’s NLG chapter, a member of the Student Board of Governors and was a junior member on the Mock Trial National Team for the American Association of Justice for the winter semester. In 2018, she was elected student national vice president of the NLG. De Mott Grady is a champion for public interest law. She has interned with the Juvenile Lifer Unit at the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and has worked for Wayne Law’s Criminal Appellate Practice Clinic and Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic.
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IHEP summit spotlights financial struggles of low-income, working-class students

Achieving equity for low-income students in post-secondary education requires getting down to the nitty-gritty of what they need, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy provided a forum for that with a summit featuring game-changing institutional leaders — including WSU Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Dawn Medley — the release of a special report and in-person perspectives of students who have overcome major finance-related obstacles on their way to a degree. With student-sensitive efforts such as generous emergency funds and a debt-forgiveness initiative, Wayne State University has been a national leader in providing financial and emotional support to low-income and working-class students. “It’s letting them know that you don’t just see them, but you hear them,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management. “Schools keep putting burden of success on the back of the student. You really have to listen to your students and what they need if you are going to clean up the water and change the system.”
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Using AI to help students learn "how to college"

Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management, wrote a piece about Wayne State’s innovative use of a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) tool – also known as “chatbot.” Medley wrote: “The chatbot, developed by AdmitHub, helps prospective students successfully apply to and enroll in a college or university by answering their questions through text and mobile messaging. Marrying AI with a conversational tone, our chatbot – named “W the Warrior,” after our mascot – helped boost enrollment by 14.6 percent, including an 18 percent increase in first-generation students and a 13 percent increase in Pell-eligible students.” Medley points out that in-person guidance and nudges are as vital as ever, but the chatbot has afforded more time to focus on important interactions. “At Wayne State, we have discovered that there is no silver bullet to helping our students learn “how to college.” But we now know about several solutions that can work in tandem to help our students succeed. Success is not just about how students learn in the classroom. It’s also about how students interact with the institution.
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Wayne State University is improving its graduation rates

Last year, the six-year completion rate for all students was 47 percent. For first generation students, it’s up to 37 percent. And now, 22 percent of African-Americans get their degree from Wayne State. Monica Brockmeyer, senior associate provost for student success, says the school has made progress, but not enough. “We at Wayne State still have large educational disparities around race and ethnicity, around income status, around first generation.” Brockmeyer says they set a goal of getting 50 percent of their students to graduate from Wayne State six years. “We set that goal because at the time it seemed like a really even unimaginably attainable goal,” she said. But now that they’re close to 50 percent, Brockmeyer thinks the school will hit its goal early this year.
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Mother of 8 to graduate from Wayne State with engineering degree

Najat Machiche is a wife, working mom of eight kids and is now graduating with an engineering degree from Wayne State University.  “I go to work, I drop off the kids at school, I come from work, I go exercising, I take my kids to do activities, I cook for my kids,” she said describing a typical day. Najat has been going to Wayne State University to achieve her life-long dream of getting an electrical engineering degree. “It’s my second chance here," she said. She’s a working mom who decided to go back to school five years ago when her father came to visit from Morocco, where her entire family still live. 
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Michigan has 1.6M college dropouts. Debt forgiveness may lure them back

Statewide, nearly a quarter of adults over the age of 25, 1.6 million, have “some college” but no degree, according to the U.S. Census. Lakeshia King was among them until taking advantage of  “Warrior Way Back,” a Wayne State program that started last year to forgive up to $1,500 in past due tuition. Henry Ford College and Oakland University are set to announce Tuesday that they will join Wayne State in a cooperative agreement to offer college debt forgiveness incentives. Any student who takes advantage of up to $1,500 in debt forgiveness would be able to transfer between the colleges. The initiative is part of an effort announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and supported by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce to improve the state’s post-secondary education attainment rate from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2030. The partnership is an extension of the Wayne State program and debt forgiveness that Henry Ford started offering six years ago.