Wildcat Scholars Program Shows Results

Eric Amsel
Associate Provost: Academic Programs and Assessment

Nov. 7, 2017

In May of 2016, the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) offered each institution up to $75,000 to create new initiatives to address the Regents’ strategic goals of affordable participation and timely completion.

Weber State University created the Wildcat Scholars program, which was designed to apply what we knew about factors supporting student success to WSU’s most vulnerable students.

By August 2016, the Wildcat Scholars program team (Eric Amsel, Adrienne Andrews, Dan Bedford, Katharine French-Fuller, Amy Huntington, Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski, Angela McLean, Ashley Owens, Jessica Oyler, Colleen Packer, Brett Perozzi, and Barb Trask) contacted dozens of students from the Ogden area to be Wildcat Scholars. We looked for students who:

  • Had applied and been accepted to Weber State but had yet to enroll
  • Had been placed in developmental mathematics

Twelve students accepted the invitation. They were given scholarships, required to enroll full-time, offered opportunities to work on campus, and enrolled in specially designed fall and spring courses.


The fall Social Science General Education Honors class was designed to strengthen students’ identity as good students, deep learners, concerned citizens and committed Wildcats. Faculty and staff served as guest lecturers to help them understand readings about activities central to being successful students: engaging, reflecting, regulating, planning and leading.

Students had to implement suggestions from the readings and blog their experiences, commenting on each others’ blogs. They also wrote more formal papers and offered peer-review commentary on each others’ papers. Another central activity of the course was that students tutored elementary school students as they were tutored in mathematics by an online system called ALEKS.

The spring class was suggested by the 12 students, who requested a course about being an adult. The Adulting 101 class was a mixture of students reading about emerging adulthood, reflecting on and applying those readings in journals and papers, and engaging in such activities as writing their self-narratives and learning about getting a car loan or mortgage. They were instructed, advised, tutored and mentored about how to design their life.

Video: 2016 Wildcat Scholars Showcase


The academic performance of the 12 Wildcat Scholars was compared to a matched group of 16 students who were invited but declined to be scholars. Compared to matched control students, Wildcat Scholars had higher:

  • Math placement in spring than fall (66% vs. 6%)
  • First-semester GPAs (2.63 vs. 1.84)
  • Fall-to-spring persistence (100% vs. 61%)
  • First-year cumulative GPA (2.47 vs. 1.97)
  • Fall-to-fall retention rate (67% vs. 44%).

Looking Ahead

The program’s focus on students’ assets instead of their deficits, and recognition of their potential, proved powerful in improving student outcomes.

We shared what we learned about how to support our most vulnerable students so they can thrive with 20 faculty members this past spring in an inclusive excellence retreat. The Wildcat Scholars program has been expanded for the 2017-2018 academic year, and there is a grant to expand the program and the inclusive excellence training in 2018-2019.  

Do you have questions or comments about this article? Please contact Eric Amsel at eamsel@weber.edu.