Our Mission and Moving Forward

Rachael Heard, M.A., Worcester Polytechnic Institute / The Center / March 31, 2021

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a small, private, research institution located in Worcester, Massachusetts that serves approximately 5,000 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students. Here on the hill, we strive to create an environment that fosters inclusion and provides access to all students, especially our first-generation student population. As our first-gen population grew, we recognized a need for increased support structures. Many individuals across campus dove into planning programs and outlining initiatives, but much of this work was unorganized and siloed.

We then became a First-Gen Forward institution in 2020. With the help of our cohort, our first-generation work became collaborative across campus. It shifted from individuals working alone to a group of over 30 offices and departments working together towards our overall goals.

One of these goals was clearly defining our mission for supporting our first-generation student population and the importance of this work. The team is actively gathering feedback on the mission and is excited to roll out a final mission this August. It is important to the team working on the mission that people from many different divisions across campus give input to the creation of the mission statement.

With the help of our [First-gen Forward] cohort, our first-gen work became collaborative across campus.

We also aimed to bring many voices together to take part in this work through the creation of first-generation success committees. Each committee serves and supports a specific aspect of our overall initiative. These committees include the Innovations Residential Community, First-Gen Events, First-Gen Fellows, Upper Class Peer Mentors, Parents & Champions Support, and of course our First-Gen Forward Cohort committee.

While this past year has been difficult on so many levels, one of our wins has to do with our residential community. We are happy that our Innovations Residential Community was successfully facilitating student connections, providing academic insight, and hosting multiple programs either in person or virtually. We have heard from many students from the community that they are very excited to remain involved this upcoming year.

As we reflect and think ahead, it is clear our cross-divisional and university-wide collaborations have allowed us to set the foundation for sustainable support during this past year. We look forward to deepening that sustainable support as we continue this work in the future.

For more information on Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s approach, please visit their website here.