$50,000 Walmart-CIC Grant Benefits First-Generation Students


Lebanon, Ill. — A $50,000 Walmart College Success Award enables McKendree University to expand its programs and support significantly for first-generation college students at its Lebanon campus and beyond.

The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Walmart Foundation awarded substantial grants this week to 30 non-profit private institutions that represent a wide range of approaches to working with first-generation students. McKendree is one of 10 CIC member institutions that received $50,000 awards for projects that are smaller or more experimental in nature. Twenty other institutions received $100,000 grants. All award winners have undergraduate enrollments of at least 30 percent first-generation students among their most recent freshman classes.

“McKendree Firsts,” a two-year project to begin in July, combines academic, personal and financial support in a holistic approach to educating and supporting first-generation students. It strengthens and formalizes tutoring and online services available to traditional students and extends them to non-traditional adult learners, particularly those in rural communities and on military bases. “McKendree Firsts” will also create 10 new scholarships.

The university hopes to build on the impressive accomplishments of its Student Success Initiative to improve retention and graduation rates among first-generation students.

“Two key areas of success that have led to our rise in retention rates are increased faculty interaction and greater financial assistance,” said Dr. Brenda Boudreau, professor of English and project director. “This project will allow us to target additional tutoring and scholarship support to first-generation students who often need just a little extra boost to succeed.”

All McKendree students currently have access to highly qualified tutors, both in person and online. Through “McKendree Firsts,” the university will expand its Academic Support Center by hiring more faculty and qualified student tutors—particularly those who were first-generation students themselves. It will also fully fund the expansion of its Writing Center by adding a new Coordinator of First-Generation Student Success.

While many of the university’s first-generation students traditionally come from high-need secondary schools, others are non-traditional adult learners who live in rural Southern Illinois communities. The Accelerated Instruction with McKendree (AiM) program offers the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration in five rural communities: Flora, Kaskaskia, Mt. Vernon, Carterville and Red Bud. Degree programs are also offered to active and veteran military service members at Scott Air Force Base and the Radcliff, Ky., campus near Fort Knox; and to adults through e-learning programs.

To better accommodate these students, the university will expand its academic support services into an online tutoring environment by creating a “McKendree Firsts” web site and network. The purchase of additional software will increase capabilities for web conferencing, teleconferencing, videoconferencingand social networking.

Finally, McKendree will award ten new $1,000 “Walmart and the Council of Independent Colleges’ McKendree Firsts Scholarships” to first-generation students based upon academic merit and financial need.