UW President Dr. Bob Sternberg (UW Photo)

University of Wyoming Hoping to Reach, Support More Students

University of Wyoming students will have access to expanded academic, financial and mentoring services starting in the fall of 2014.

Additionally, the university is adjusting its policies to encourage more students to attend UW and to better serve the needs of students who don’t meet current admission guidelines.

A new initiative called UW LASSO — the Learning and Student Success Opportunity center — will coordinate academic, financial and mentoring services to increase student retention and graduation rates. UW LASSO will provide services of various kinds to enhance skills required for academic and life success. It will be open to all students at UW but will focus especially on students in their first year.

The changes are being made to help UW better fulfill its land-grant responsibility to recruit, retain and graduate Wyoming citizens, UW President Bob Sternberg says.

“Admitting students with the ability to succeed is important, but standardized tests administered at the high school level are only one tool to measure students’ potential,” Sternberg says. “The university will use other ways to assess creativity, critical thinking, common sense, wisdom and ethical leadership capabilities of incoming students, and we will do everything we can to help them succeed.”

UW’s admission policy assures acceptance for students with a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher, an ACT score of at least 21, and completion of required coursework. Those who don’t meet those guidelines but have a minimum high school GPA of 2.5 may still be admitted “with support,” and about 300 freshman students per year do so. Most of those students are served through UW’s Synergy program, in which they are organized into small groups and take general education classes together, receiving help from peer mentors and others.

Students who aren’t enrolled through assured admission or admission with support have had the opportunity to seek admission by directly contacting the admission office and having their credentials and their exceptional circumstances reviewed for possible admission. From now on, such applicants also will submit one page of writing in response to essay questions, and an admissions committee will assess the essays for analytical, creative, practical and other leadership skills. The students still will be asked to submit their high school grades, test scores and completed coursework for course placement and scholarship consideration. UW also will evaluate their extracurricular and work-related experiences, as well as any project or portfolio work they submit.

The essays will be used, in conjunction with other credentials, to determine how best to serve the students, says Vice President for Student Affairs Sara Axelson.

“We intend to extend interventions to all populations of students, particularly the most vulnerable,” Axelson says. “Many students who don’t meet current admission requirements are intelligent and capable of succeeding in college, if they receive the support they need.”

UW will offer a choice between two questions each year for use on the essay. The questions, which are being developed now, will be similar to these:

– “What is the most important lesson you have learned in your life? How have you applied it to your life?”

– “What extracurricular activity have you learned the most from? What did you do in the activity, what did you learn from it, and how have you applied it, or will you apply it, in your life?”

– “What have you done in your life that has most helped other people? How has it helped them? What would you do differently if you had to do it again?”

Sternberg says the revised admission protocols will help UW better fulfill its mission of educating the next generation of active citizens and ethical leaders who will make a positive, meaningful and enduring difference to the world.

“Standardized tests and GPAs measure important academic skills, but the scores do not measure the crucial characteristics of ethical leaders,” he says. “These changes move the university toward a focus on the broad characteristics of active citizenship and ethical leadership, and in recognizing that students with lower test scores can flourish through education and help make the world a better place. In the end, as a land-grant institution, we are most interested not in input credentials at the time of entrance, but rather in the value UW can add through the educational experience the university provides.”