CWU News

CWU joins new Ready to Rise student development partnership

Recent studies have come to the conclusion that students of color and those from low-income families remain underrepresented in higher education. Students from such backgrounds who do enroll often fail to stay in school, for a variety of academic, cultural, and economic reasons, including the fact that many do not have support from friends or family members familiar with college life.

“Like anybody else who’s ‘shopping’ for an institution, they’re looking for ways to connect,” said Keith Champagne, Central Washington University associate dean of student development. “They always ask, 'What’s here for me at Central?'"

To help answer that question, CWU has initiated a new partnership with a program called Ready to Rise. Made possible through a grant from College Spark Washington, Ready to Rise is a collaboration with Tacoma-based nonprofit Degrees of Change, local leadership foundations in three Washington state communities—the Yakima Valley, Tacoma, and Clark County—and select colleges and universities, including CWU. The ambitious goal is to serve 1,000 underrepresented college students in Washington over the next five years.

CWU will provide leadership development, student support, and successful modeling of how to succeed in college for young people interested in pursuing and obtaining their degrees.

“The goal is for them to enroll, successfully complete their academic program—in whatever field they choose—and then to return home to serve and lead within in their individual communities,” added Champagne.
Nalani Linder, who directs Ready to Rise, noted, “For our communities to thrive in the future, we need to develop these diverse networks of homegrown leaders who love their hometowns and are committed to building vibrant communities. We want to see the development of effective leaders, who can—and do—work together to get things done.”

A total of 120 Yakima Valley, Clark County, and Tacoma area students will be involved in the program in its first year.

“This gives up another partnership with the Yakima Valley—we’re invested in that community,” Champagne pointed out. “It also gives us additional insight—and in-roads—for recruiting more students from diverse populations. I think it’s a great partnership, as it connects with our vision, mission, and philosophy as an institution.”

Program participants receive $500 Ready to Rise stipends the summer before they enroll in college, along with training in leadership, time-management, financial literacy, and related information. They will also be paired with a peer mentor the first year of the program, and then will serve as a one later in their college careers. Internships and networking opportunities with leaders and organization in participants’ home communities will further prepare those enrolled in the program.

“Through their shared values and training, and a variety of organized activities, participants are expected to bond around a common vision,” Linder explained.

The new partnership furthers CWU’s goal to become “the destination for all men of color seeking a quality best-buy education in an environment that supports academic excellence.”

Champagne added, “I always like to tell students of color, ‘The whole campus is your campus.’ Once they understand the overall university is there for them, first and foremost, then we can explain what specific academic or extracurricular programs they might want to attach to.”
CWU’s goal is to also have its overall student body develop cross-culturally and multi-culturally through academic programs, such as and Africana and Black Studies, and Latino and Latin American Studies; and with the help of support services, including the College Assistance Migrant Program, National TRiO Student Support Services Program, McNair Scholars Program; and through service and social engagement opportunities including Brother 2 Brother, SISTERS, the Male Success Initiative, Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, and its Chavez-King Leadership Institute for Social Change.

“Our diversity initiatives are a little different from some other institutions,” Champagne pointed out. “We’re very inclusive and we want our programs to be for students of color and to be open to every student who shares similar values. Our ultimate goal is to connect all of our students as a way to educate them for a diverse, global, technological society, so—when they’re out in that world—they can have an impact.”

Which can include help students, including students of color and low-income backgrounds, further their education after graduating from CWU.
“We have a number of students, in the Brother 2 Brother program for example, who are applying for law school, for graduate school, and for PhD programs,” Champagne points out. “We want them to understand how they will develop academically and professionally, and determine what life will look like after Central.”

In 2016, CWU was one of just two schools in the state—and 14 across the country—to be recognized as a “national role model” for its commitment to diversity by Minority Access, Inc., a national organization that honors diversity in academic access and achievement.

In addition, for the last two years, CWU has also received the prestigious INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. Presented annually by INSIGHT Into Diversity, the nation’s largest and longest-running diversity-focused higher education magazine. It is based on initiatives, programs and outreach, student recruitment, retention and completion; along with faculty and staff hiring practices.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,

February 23, 2017

Photo: courtesy Northwest Leadership Foundation (