Gift expands reach of key DEI programs

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Several programs that are pivotal in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students at Washington State University Pullman are receiving a financial boost from an anonymous corporate donor.

The $40,000 gift will strengthen and expand the reach of the Compass Mentor Program, Undocumented Student Center, and three student recruiting conferences: Shaping High School Asian Pacific Islanders for the Next Generation (SHAPING), Children of Aztlan Sharing Higher Education (CASHE), and Visionaries Inspiring Black Empowered Students (VIBES).

Kim Holapa, senior associate vice chancellor for strategic initiatives in Student Affairs, said the donor shares WSU’s commitment to helping historically marginalized students achieve higher education and wants to support these specific programs because they are having an impact on student success and have the capacity to grow.

“Having a diverse and educated workforce benefits everyone,” Holapa said. “The donor recognized the difference these programs are having on student success, and they wanted to be a part of that effort.”

Student Recruitment Conferences

SHAPING, CASHE, and VIBES are organized by WSU students and are designed to help high school students develop a culture of leadership and become empowered with a belief they can attain their educational goals. The conferences have engaged over 11,000 high school and WSU students since 1996.

With the recent ruling by the Supreme Court banning the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions at colleges and universities, Holapa said it is imperative that programs such as the recruitment conferences receive support from the community.

“The recruitment conferences are one way WSU demonstrates its commitment to these student communities, and they have and will play a key role in helping to diversify the student body and bring strong student leaders to WSU,” Holapa said. “It is important that we continue to strengthen and expand them in the years to come.”

Brian Shuffield, executive director of Student Engagement Services, said the $5,000 each conference will receive as part of the gift will go a long way toward helping with major expenditures such as bus rentals and hotel rooms.

“This donation comes at a time when costs associated with these events are increasing at a rapid pace,” Shuffield said. “It is fantastic and allows our students to keep doing what they’re doing to encourage high school students to go to college.”

Compass Mentor Program

The Compass Mentor Program uses a peer-to-peer model designed to facilitate the successful transition and retention of first-year students of color, as well as students affiliated with the Access Center, LGBTQ+ Center, and the Undocumented Student Center. It serves over 1,400 students each year. 

Stephen Bischoff, director of Multicultural Student Services, is still finalizing how the $15,000 allocation will be used, but said it could boost mentor scholarships, support more outreach efforts, and possibly help implement a new leadership conference for program participants.

“We have a lot of things we can do with this money, and we want to be thoughtful about how we use it,” Bischoff said. “It is a sizeable gift and I’m very excited about it.”

Undocumented Student Center 

The Undocumented Student Center supports the academic and personal success of undocumented students across the WSU system through Spanish-language orientations, workshops, immigration consultations, and leadership development opportunities. The center also facilitates trainings for WSU faculty and staff that encourage dialogue with and increase awareness of undocumented students.

“As we see our community of undocumented students grow and become more comfortable with being recognized, the programs in this center are critical for their success,” Holapa said. “The $10,000 allocation will help strengthen and expand upon these efforts.” 

Holapa and Shuffield said these and other DEI programs in Student Affairs have received strong interest from both private and corporate donors largely because of the impact they have on incoming and current WSU students.

“These programs are all about building equity and providing opportunity for students from marginalized communities,” Shuffield said. “They are great programs to support because they empower students and show them what’s possible in higher education.”

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