Remembering Kasi Jones, former Orientation Programs director
The greatest challenge for the Student Success team was the loss of our dear friend and most excellent colleague, Kasi Jones, who passed away on July 6, 2018, after fighting a two-year battle with cancer. Certainly she did great work in her 10 years as director of Orientation Programs, and her professional legacy is well established.
But Kasi was also a bright, powerful and benevolent force to be reckoned with. All of you who knew Kasi, however slightly, certainly understand that her impact was far greater than the sum of her work. We continue to celebrate the life that she lived and the lasting mark she left on countless students, along with the rest of her Purdue family.
DRC sends sign language interpreter overseas to support inclusive study abroad experience
As Purdue aims to increase cultural exchange opportunities, the University’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) continues to support students with disabilities, whether on campus or abroad. That’s why the DRC hired Leanne Baumeler, a nationally certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, to accompany a Purdue student on the trip so that engineering student Kali Lacy, who was born deaf, could fully engage with the other Purdue students, as well as local residents who couldn’t sign.
Deaf Can Coffee is a social enterprise that empowers young Jamaicans who are deaf by helping them become leaders in their careers and communities through vocational rehabilitation. The organization’s staff oversee each stage of the product, from plant to bean to hand-crafted latte. The EPICS team created an app-based menu with coffee images and correlating signed language and GIFs to support interactions between deaf staff and hearing customers.
But perhaps one of the most notable examples of translation and collaboration occurred outside of the planned app project. The Purdue students learned that staff had been unable to use their car’s navigation system because the dashboard readouts were in Mandarin Chinese. It just so happened that one of the Purdue students could read them, so he translated the menu characters into spoken English for Baumeler, who signed the instructions to the staff. Together, through this process, they reset the car’s language preferences.
According to Baumeler, it was a fitting metaphor for the entire trip.
“Language facilitation was key to the richness of Kali’s experience, as well as the hearing members of the EPICS team,” Baumeler says. “I think it was a big part of the cultural exposure, not just Jamaican culture, but deaf culture in Jamaica. Without the DRC supporting someone who’s in both worlds, students would have missed a rich part of that experience.”
Alumnus credits 'credit by exam' for college comeback
Mere days from receiving his diploma, Purdue senior Hayden Cole Smith reflected on how close he came to walking away from Purdue without a degree.
Smith, who graduated from Purdue in May 2018 with a degree in English and minor in Critical Disability Studies, experienced an assault off campus and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.
“I kept withdrawing from classes and getting more and more behind. I kept telling myself, ‘This will be the semester I’ll get my act together,’ and then I’d become overwhelmed with stress and anxiety and would withdraw again,” Smith said. “I did that for three semesters. I was at the end of my grace period of being eligible for financial aid. I remember feeling like maybe I should walk away for good and just go get a job somewhere.”
Then, Smith’s plot changed. He heard about the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), which allows students to earn credit based on knowledge acquired through experience or independent study. And study he did, day and night, for weeks on end.
Smith registered for seven CLEP exams, administered by the Purdue Testing Center in Schleman Hall, Room B42. He earned CLEP credit for psychology, sociology, biology, English literature, history, and more – on top of taking three summer courses. In one fell but strenuous swoop of a summer, Smith made up nearly all of the credit he had missed.
Perhaps this was the true plot shift, because this was the point when Smith took on a minor in Critical Disability Studies.
“If I had not been able to knock out all those miscellaneous requirements needed to stick around at Purdue, I wouldn’t have been able to get involved in disability studies,” Smith said. “It totally changed my life, the career I’m anticipating for myself, potential grad school programs, and how I see myself as a deaf person.”
Smith says the Purdue Testing Center might be a good option for students who have a chronic illness or other disability that interferes with regular class attendance.
“I think about access and accessibility a lot because I am deaf. For example, a big concern for me was having classes in large lecture halls because it was too difficult for me to hear the professor through all the background noise,” Smith said. “If a classroom environment is disabling for a student, or if a student has a chronic illness that interferes with regular class attendance, they should know that the Purdue Testing Center provides alternative and potentially more accessible ways of working toward their degree.”
HORIZONS STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES
In 2018, Horizons Student Support Services: A TRIO Program celebrated its 40th year of serving first-generation and low-income students. As the program continues its legacy of supporting and motivating students toward the successful completion of their post secondary education, we also believe that our ability to provide high quality service could not be possible without campus support and assistance.
During the Horizons 40th Anniversary Celebration, which took place in November 2018, program staff recognized and honored previous Horizons Directors, in addition to the tremendous faculty members and mentors who enrich Horizon students’ first-year experience.
Horizons student petitions legislators to continue federal funding for TRIO programs
Purdue student Shenetha Shepherd sat at a table in Washington D.C., poring over notes about a proposed bill that threatened federally funded TRIO programs. The next day, Shepherd would stand in front of members of Congress and advocate on behalf of Purdue’s TRIO program, Horizons – she wanted to be ready.
As it turned out, what legislators found most compelling was Shepherd’s own story.
She came to Purdue in 2014, the first in her family to go to college. At the Council for Opportunity in Education’s 2018 Annual Policy Seminar, Shepherd told several members of congress that at first she struggled to navigate the higher education system, but soon found a “home away from home” in Horizons Student Support Services.
Horizons helps first-generation and low-income students overcome social, cultural and academic barriers to success in higher education. Students in the program receive career counseling, academic support, and leadership opportunities from specialized staff, at no cost to the student.
The program served more than 340 Purdue scholars in 2016-17, with 95 percent persisting from one academic year to the beginning of the next academic year, and 96 percent continuing in good academic standing.
“Horizons is my favorite thing about Purdue,” Shepherd says. “When you’re really struggling and don’t know where to go, you can come here and get the help you need. If you talk to Horizons students, they will tell you how the program helped them stay in college, how it saved their lives. That’s why I went to D.C. to share my story – these programs are so necessary, and I want them to continue.”
PURDUE PROMISE & SCHOLARCORPS
Coaching, targeted support helps low-income students succeed
Purdue Promise, a four-year program at Purdue offering additional financial assistance and one-on-one coaching for eligible Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars, has been paving the way for almost a decade for students facing socioeconomic challenges to receive an education. New data, based on the latest university census and preliminary data from the Division of Financial Aid, reveals that the program’s latest graduates now have a higher graduation rate than the rest of the student body at Purdue.
Out of 292 Purdue Promise students who started in the fall of 2014, almost 63 percent of them have graduated in four years compared with just over 60 percent of the Purdue student body as a whole. In addition, 60 percent of Purdue Promise students are graduating with no debt – and those with debt average $7,000. Other Indiana undergraduates with debt average more than $24,000.
Teresa Lubbers, commissioner of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, which oversees the state’s 21st Century Scholars program, says, “Purdue Promise is a highly effective, model program for 21st Century Scholars. It proves that the right combination of support services and financial aid can ensure that students complete their degrees in a timely and affordable way and move on to a rewarding career.”
Statewide, 21st Century Scholars who entered college in 2013 have a 42 percent on-time graduation rate. At Purdue, that rate is 56 percent.
Purdue Promise’s graduates are a testament to how the program has been successful over the years.
Keeley Stingel came to Purdue in 2009 with a 21st Century Scholars award to pay her tuition. At the time, the graduation rate of Purdue’s 21st Century Scholars was 10 to 11 percentage points behind the standard four-year graduation rate. While she met all of the academic requirements to get into Purdue as an undergraduate, she still doubted her ability to complete a degree at Purdue.
“Poverty was a jacket I could not take off,” Stingel says. “My dad was in and out of jail, and I’d never known a life where a woman, my mom, was not solely responsible for the well-being of the family. During my first year of Purdue, I met my oldest half-sister and saw her two times before she committed suicide. Then my brother moved out of my mom’s house, and my mom and two younger sisters became homeless while I was away at school.”
Purdue Promise was created the same year to provide additional support to 21st Century Scholars. Stingel says the program helped her earn a college degree that was her “ticket out of poverty.” Today, Stingel has a master’s degree and is the executive director for the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana. She also serves on the advisory board of 21st Century Scholars.
Purdue Promise students are more likely to be underrepresented minorities, females, former foster youth or from single-parent households compared with the rest of the student body at Purdue. The family income of 21st Century Scholars is 75 percent lower than the average student who applies for financial aid in Indiana. Again, all Purdue Promise students are 21st Century Scholars.
The program has more than 1,200 students, and each student works with a coach throughout their four years at Purdue. Coaches monitor the students’ progress, help them find resources, and address issues that may affect their success and financial aid eligibility.
Michelle Ashcraft, director of Purdue Promise, piloted the coaching model in 2013. Since then, Purdue Promise students’ four-year graduation rate has increased by more than 25 percentage points in comparison to Purdue’s overall increase of 13 percentage points. Ashcraft says the one-on-one coaching has been the most significant factor to the improved retention and graduation rates. Coaches receive 116 hours of training their first year and typically have degrees in higher education, student affairs, social work or counseling. Ashcraft says the diverse backgrounds of the coaches allow them to help students not only academically, but also with the range of issues that students might bring with them.
“What has been interesting is that these academic gains have allowed us to start changing the perspective and dialogue about low-income and first-generation students,” Ashcraft says. “In spite of whatever their pre-college circumstances may have been, their family backgrounds, their demographics, or any doubts that may be placed on them for who they were and where they came from, they continue to rise to high expectations Purdue sets for their education and to achieve significant goals and dreams.”
Green Zone training walks staff, faculty through military-connected student experience
About 10 years ago, when Corey Linkel was just getting started as an academic advisor at Purdue, he had a meeting with a student veteran that felt like a success at the time.
Later, after Linkel came to know the student better, the student admitted to having a different experience.
“He told me he had felt disappointed after our initial meeting, that he felt isolated and disconnected and didn’t feel like he was getting out of the advising appointment what he needed,” Linkel says. “That experience caused me to pause and rethink things. It made me realize that our military-connected students have needs that I didn’t understand as well as I needed to, and it made me want to do more to support them.”
Linkel never forgot the experience. In fall 2018, he saw an opportunity to participate in Green Zone training. The training provides Purdue faculty and staff participants with the understanding and tools necessary to better serve the roughly 400 veteran and military students on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. A nod to the heavily fortified zone in the center of Baghdad, Iraq, “Green Zone” refers to a location recognized by veterans as a safe place.
Linkel, who now serves as associate director of undergraduate programs for the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, says anyone on campus who works with students should consider attending an upcoming session.
“Being aware of veteran students’ needs better prepares me to work with any student who has more going on than what’s visibly on the surface, whether a student may be experiencing things such as PTSD, anxiety, or other unseen disabilities,” Linkel says. “The more I educate myself, the more I realize there’s so much more out there to learn. I encourage everyone to get the training, be supportive, and be an ally.”