UMSL formalizes partnership with Wyman to support students from disadvantaged circumstances

UMSL-Wyman Partnership

Interim Chancellor Kristin Sobolik holds up a partnership agreement after she and (from left) Natissia Small, Alan Byrd and Wyman President and CEO Claire Wyneken signed it last week at the Millennium Student Center. The agreement lays out a framework for supporting students from the Wyman Leaders program who choose to attend UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis continually strives to create an inclusive environment and is committed to supporting students of every background so they can succeed.

To enhance its efforts, UMSL has established a formal partnership with Wyman, a St. Louis-based nonprofit working to empower teens from economically disadvantaged circumstances to lead successful lives and build strong communities.

Interim Chancellor and Provost Kristin Sobolik, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Alan Byrd and Assistant Provost for Access and Academic Support Natissia Small joined Wyman President and CEO Claire Wyneken to sign the agreement last week.

“Wyman’s vision and mission align very closely with our vision and mission at UMSL,” Byrd said. “We are both committed to transforming lives and changing communities, so this partnership will only enhance both of our efforts to strengthen systems that create equitable and transformative opportunities for students.”

Byrd has gotten to know Allison Williams, Wyman’s senior vice president for programs, over the past five years while the two served as co-chairs of St. Louis Graduates.

Over the past year, they began discussing a partnership between their two organizations. UMSL becomes the fourth post-secondary institution to establish such an agreement with Wyman.

“Our longest post-secondary partnership has been with Missouri State University, where we are entering our 11th year,” Williams said. “We’ve also developed great partnerships with Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Central Missouri, and we think it’s important to have a partnership in our own backyard, especially for students who are interested in staying in the St. Louis region or for students who need to transfer back.”

Under the agreement signed last week, Wyman will ensure students from its Wyman Leaders program learn about and make connections to UMSL throughout high school and as they consider post-secondary options.

The Leaders program, created in 2002, provides immersive summer experiences and support throughout the school year for more than 600 area students from underserved communities, primarily in the city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jefferson County. The majority of the students are Pell Grant-eligible when they apply to college.

Wyman begins working with them in the summer before eighth grade and continues to support them over the next decade as they navigate high school, transition to college and ultimately graduate and move successfully into adulthood.

The program is anchored in research about what works to best support young people and help them achieve educational success, develop leadership skills and form healthy behaviors and relationships.

Through its agreement with UMSL, Wyman will work to support the academic success of students from the Leaders program who enroll at the university. It will provide them with post-secondary coaches to help them navigate the challenges of college. Wyman coaches will work closely with UMSL’s support staff to monitor their academic and social well-being, planning interventions to support their success and work through barriers.

UMSL, in turn, will give extra attention to students even before they arrive on campus as freshmen or transfers. The university will send admissions representatives to transition events for Wyman Leaders, helping potential students navigate the application processes for both admissions and financial aid, and will host Leaders and their families for an annual personalized visit day.

It will also provide Wyman Leaders who enroll at UMSL with a $1,000 Community Partnership Scholarship that is stackable with other institutional aid and will be renewable annually as long as students complete 24 credit hours per year and maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher.

“We think these partnerships matter deeply as we form a team with each student to support their journey of persistence and eventually degree attainment,” Williams said. “I think, first and foremost, it’s because relationships matter. When we have these university partnerships, the university relationships and connections become an extension of the students experience with Wyman.

“Those relationships and that partnership with the university help us make sure students are able to navigate through and around barriers more quickly and efficiently.”

UMSL is exploring partnerships with other local youth-serving organizations following the university’s strategic goal to enhance community engagement.

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