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WellsLink Honored as ‘Model of Excellence’ by University Business Magazine
The WellsLink Leadership Program is among 17 initiatives nationwide being honored by University Business magazine in its Winter 2015 Models of Excellence recognition program. WellsLink, managed by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, was honored as a “Model of Excellence” for its role in supporting first-year students of color through academic, social and cultural enrichment activities and services. The Models of Excellence program, sponsored by Higher One, recognizes innovative approaches to encouraging and nurturing student success on campus.
“This award not only recognizes the hard work of our WellsLink team, but brings attention to a special group of students here at Syracuse University,” says James K. Duah-Agyeman, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “We are very proud of the legacy of our WellsLink Scholars and what they have accomplished on campus and beyond.”
Recognizing a need for additional student support services, the WellsLink Leadership Program got its start in 2003 under the leadership of Duah-Agyeman and Paul M. Buckley.
“Syracuse University has always had a number of University and state and federally funded support programs available to some students of color to help them bridge the gap between high school and college and be successful in college,” explains Huey Hsiao, associate director in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. “However, there were still many students of color who did not qualify for these programs that could benefit from support. These were the students for whom the WellsLink Leadership Program was developed.”
The program is named after Barry L. Wells, inaugural coordinator of the University’s Office of Minority Affairs, former senior vice president and dean of Student Affairs, and currently a special assistant to Chancellor Kent Syverud. The program’s goals were, and continue to be, to increase retention of students of color and to help them connect with each other and with the University’s resources.
“Personally, I’m humbled that the Office of Multicultural Affairs decided to pay tribute to me by associating my name with this outstanding program because of my commitment to our students throughout my career,” says Wells. “The outcomes of the WellsLink Leadership Program are exemplary. Not only are our students being retained above the all-University rate, but they are also graduating at an exceptional rate while pursuing both academic excellence and leadership roles on this campus and beyond. This program has become a national model for other colleges and universities to emulate if they are truly committed to diversity, excellence and eliminating the disparity of graduation rates between students of color and majority students.”
This year, the WellsLink Leadership Program has 66 student participants. These students spend time throughout the academic year participating in programming and working with peer leaders (mentors). Participants and peer leaders are also supported by academic consultants, who are comprised of Hsiao and graduate students. While the program has changed from the first incarnation 12 years ago, the mission and traditions of the program remain the same. The program adapts based on the students’ feedback and experiences as well. For example, the tradition of the Sunday Foundations Seminars continues, as it is the best time for students to get together, but the former lecture format has changed for many of the seminars to small group discussions, based on students’ feedback. Also, the program has focused on more community-building opportunities, such as replacing the movie night with a day on the Outdoor Challenge Course on campus.
“The WellsLink Leadership Program is a prime example of the critical impact peer mentoring and staff support can make on a student’s experience at Syracuse University,” says Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, senior vice president and dean of Student Affairs. “The WellsLink staff and student team have designed a program that creates community, builds connection and provides support to promote student success, all things we embody in Student Affairs. I congratulate all the staff and students involved on this well-deserved honor.”