In September, West Virginia Wesleyan College received a $10 million Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP). The program helps eligible institutions of higher education to become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability.
The grant, which is distributed over a five-year period, requires Wesleyan to add five staff positions in order to accommodate the award’s initiatives. Wesleyan has currently filled four of the five new positions: Cynthia Brissey as teaching and learning center coordinator, Alison Clausen as Title III and student success coordinator, Shauna Jones ’92, MFA ’13 as first-year student academic advisor, and Jill Okes ’09 as experiential learning coordinator. The final position, Instructional Technology Specialist, will be filled in January.
Brissey currently serves as an instructor of biology and laboratory coordinator for the biology department at Wesleyan. She has previous work in academic support and student support services at Salem International University. Brissey received her MS in biology from West Virginia University and BS in biology from Salem International University (formerly Salem College).
“I am looking forward to making the great things we do at Wesleyan even better,” commented Brissey.
Clausen served as Associate Athletic Director for Athletic Services/Director of Compliance and Academic Services at Wesleyan since 2011. Prior to coming to Wesleyan, she served as Academic Advisor and Student Development intern at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Clausen received her MS in Exercise and Sport Science from Ithaca College and graduated summa cum laude from Hamline University with a BA in Biology and Psychology.
“I am very excited and humbled to be a part of the Title III team and eager to get to work making a difference in the learning and engagement of our students,” stated Clausen. “It is an exciting time on campus, and I am looking forward to serving the College in this role.”
Jones currently serves as Credentials Analyst/Academic Advisor at Wesleyan where she serves as the Board of Trustees Staff Council Chair. She previously served as a School Counselor for the West Virginia Department of Education at both the WV Children’s Home School and Elkins Mountain School. Jones is a published writer and received her MFA in creative writing from Wesleyan in 2013. She completed her MA in counseling from West Virginia University and BA in psychology from Wesleyan.
“As a first-generation college student, I am thrilled to serve as the First Year Academic Advisor and pay forward the encouragement and support I received from my mentors,” stated Jones. “We are building a solid Student Support Center team that will impact our students, our institution, and our world.”
Okes, who currently serves as Assistant Director of Admission at Wesleyan, previously served as the Administrative Assistant within the Intensive English Communication Program at The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). Prior to that, Okes, worked both as Administrative Support Staff and Community Reach intern in the Office of Student Activities at Penn State. She has experience in marketing and, post-graduation from Wesleyan, coordinated the AmeriCorps VISTA program at the Upshur Cooperative Parish House in Buckhannon. Okes received her MEd in higher education from Penn State and BA in English-Creative Writing from Wesleyan.
“I am thrilled to be working with the Title III Leadership Team,” commented Okes. “This grant is an opportunity to make a transformative college experience even greater with new educational resources and enhancements to holistic learning. As the Experiential Learning Coordinator, I am excited to work first-hand with our college students on how to be more successful leaders, to apply their curricular knowledge to personal experiences while serving as interns, discovering new cultures abroad, or engaging in service within a community.”
The positions are new additions to campus to help meet the goals and objectives of the Title III program leading to improved retention and graduation rates. The program is designed to improve strategies for student engagement and success at West Virginia Wesleyan College and consists of two components:
development and implementation of enhanced academic services, courses, and programs to increase student engagement, retention and persistence to graduation for first-time, full-time students; and development and implementation of a teaching and learning center to support faculty through open source resources, faculty development and cross-discipline activities to better meet the educational needs of first-generation, minority or underprepared students.
Clausen began her new position this month, while the remaining leadership team will begin in January.