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$2.4 Million Lilly Grant Allowing Wabash to Address State-Wide Problems in Higher Education

by Rob Herzog

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n November of 1996, Lilly Endowment awarded Wabash $2.4 million as part of its Special Initiative on Private Higher Education in Indiana to implement College-designed programs to address several state-wide educational problems. One surprising statistic Lilly noted in its invitation to Wabash to create a grant was that Indiana ranks 47th out of 50 states in the percentage of residents over 25 years old with baccalaureate degrees. The Special Initiative also seeks to address the fact that Hoosiers who do attend college drop out in large numbers, while students who do graduate from Indiana schools frequently leave the state for employment, creating an educational "brain drain."

The $2.4 million award, which will fund the College programs for five years, capped a year of planning by a grant development team at Wabash headed by President Andy Ford and Nancy Doemel, the current associate director of development. The three programs developed by the team are:

  • LIFE (Lilly Initiative for Education), a collaborative program with Pike Township in Indianapolis and South Montgomery district in Montgomery County to increase the go-to-college rate. Students will be placed on a college preparatory track that may include summer programs at Wabash and tutoring by Wabash students. Thirty students from each grade in each junior and senior high will participate. Jamie Watson, coordinator of the collaborative effort, says the partnership will focus on students who would be the first generation in a family to graduate from a four-year college.
  • In initiative to increase the retention rate at Wabash from 79% to 85% by 2001, highlighted by finishing the Patch Leadership and Challenge Course to offer opportunities for students who may come to Wabash with low test scores or are receiving poor grades. The Office of Career Services is also developing several internships to "assist students who live in a community which does not provide adequate summer employment opportunities," according Robin Pebworth, Director of Career Services.
  • A program to keep more Wabash graduates in Indiana, highlighted by creating 25 summer internships related to Indiana business and industry which could lead to permanent employment.

Several changes are taking place on campus as a result of the award. Stan Walker '66, director of alumni affairs, has been tapped to oversee the administration of the grant.

"Through the grant from Lilly," Walker explains, "our endeavor is to enable Indiana to be ranked first among the 50 states when it comes to the number of citizens with four year college degrees, and have those graduates work and live in Indiana."

To cover Walker's alumni duties, new alumni affairs positions have been filled by Eugene Anderson '83 and Roy Sexton '95. Michael Cunningham '91 has been hired to head up the internship program as the associate director of career services.