La Bienvenida drives student success at WSU

Incoming students participate in the La Bienvenida 2023 New Coug Orientation program.
Incoming students participate in the La Bienvenida 2023 New Coug Orientation program, Saturday, May 20, 2023, at the CUB Auditorium in Pullman (photo by WSU Photo Services).

A big part of Washington State University’s success in enrolling more students of Hispanic and Latino origin is La Bienvenida. 

This Spanish-language orientation brings in students, their parents, caregivers and siblings, to learn about the college experience on three WSU campuses. 

Participants tour campuses and eat in dining halls, and on the residential campus in Pullman, they stay overnight in the residence halls. They learn about financial aid and can discuss their financial aid letter with a bilingual specialist. They hear about medical and counseling services, transportation, student access card, and about student resources and programs for college success. Families of current WSU students sit on panels for parent and caregiver Q&A sessions. Immigration attorneys are available for one-on-one consultations. 

La Bienvenida served about 200 students and nearly 500 family members this year across three WSU campuses. 

“Most of our Latine students are first-gen,” said Marcela Pattinson, director of Undocumented Initiatives and La Bienvenida at WSU. “As a first-gen student you don’t know what you don’t know. This is an opportunity to visualize and experience the college journey.” 

La Bienvenida is free, and fulfills the new student orientation requirement. But it’s not just an orientation — La Bienvenida sets the foundation for a successful first-year experience, which is a strong predictor of college success. In the class of 2016, for example, 90% of students who participated in La Bienvenida continued on in college, versus 68% of other students of color.

This past summer, WSU invited other Washington colleges and universities to join La Bienvenida on the Pullman campus, so that they can replicate the program on their campuses. Pattinson has been invited to present on La Bienvenida at conferences across the country. 

“Parent engagement is huge in the Latine culture, with decision-making by the family,” she said. “For parent engagement, La Bienvenida is a showcase program.” 

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