Thomas W. Durso
Washburn University

Two years—not a few weeks during the summer prior to freshman year; not their first semester. Two years.

Unlike many bridge programs, the Ichabod Success Institute (ISI) at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, supports first-generation, low-socioeconomic-status students from their first few pre-college days through their sophomore year.

The length of the program—named for Ichabod Washburn, an early benefactor of the school—is no accident. It’s the result of numerous conversations with local high school personnel, who said students needed longer, more continuous contact to succeed.

Support includes organized events, a mentorship program and an online mastery-based curriculum designed to eliminate the need for remedial education.

“This group of students is allowing us to assist them in a way that maybe would not occur if we did not put that two-year role into play,” says Alan Bearman, dean of university libraries and the Center for Student Success and Retention.

Collection and assessment of data are priorities at the institute. Administrators track student performance against that of a comparison group in academic and nonacademic areas, including grade point average, timely graduation, and on-campus employment and involvement.

Additionally, qualitative surveys at the end of each semester allow ISI students to reflect on how their program experiences affect their academic and personal success.

“We don’t have enough resources to do everything we need to do, so to make good decisions we are almost wholly dependent on data,” Bearman says.

Perhaps the most telling piece of data: Only one-quarter of the students who took ISI classes over the summer indicated the intention to attend Washburn for the fall—yet all of them ended up enrolling. And all of the students who began the institute completed the entire program.

“We envisioned that of the students who came to the summer portion, if things went well 70 percent of them would be full-time students in the fall semester,” says Bearman. “We’re hitting 100 percent.”

Success Data Point

  • 3.85: Collective GPA earned by Ichabod Success Institute students in their first two courses completed last summer