Updated Washburn experience to transform incoming freshmen

Travis Perry

While the Transformational Experience was passed by the Faculty Senate last semester, this semester actions will be taken to implement the new program.

The Transformational Experience will require all incoming freshman, as well as transfer students with less than 64 hours to choose from joining in a project, a community service effort, a leadership effort, or to study abroad. Once this has been completed, they will then reflect on how it has enriched and changed them and then make a presentation on it.

“At this point what we’re focusing on is how we work with students to advise them about what they need to do, when they need to do it, and so on,” said Ron Wasserstein, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Washburn.

While many of these opportunities are already offered to some students at Washburn, Wasserstein wants to see these chances available to every student who enrolls. Currently work is underway on a webpage to allow students to communicate their information on the Transformational Experience to the university much in the same way they might enroll in classes or declare a major online.

Wasserstein also said that there are few universities that have implemented such a program, most of which are smaller, private schools. Even then, most only offer one of the four programs being set into motion at Washburn.

“There are a few small universities that are now requiring all or most of their students to have some sort of study abroad experience, but I know of no university that has a program similar to this one where every student has to do one of these four things, or even anything that’s very similar to it. This is a unique program as far as I can tell,” said Wasserstein.

“What we’ve observed about students who participate in one of these activities is that they end up at a place at the end of their undergraduate education that’s way ahead of the typical student. There is an element of maturity, an element of personal, and professional, and intellectual sophistication that comes from being deeply involved in one of these kinds of experiences. So the end goal that we’re looking for is a student body where everybody gets that much farther ahead as a result of these experiences,” said Wasserstein.

Yet another group that will be affected by the Transformational Experience will be future non-traditional students.

“I have the highest regard for non-traditional students, because I think it’s difficult to get a degree while holding down a full-time job or possibly while taking care of a family. I think our non-traditional students will rise to meet this requirement just the same way that they rise to meet all the other requirements. Washburn will work very hard with students to match them with activities that will make sense for them, given the other complexities of their lives,” said Wasserstein.

“Like any other idea, there are some people that are a little nervous or concerned, but the vast majority of faculty and students that I’ve talked to are excited about what it means for education at Washburn. Not only on the effect on the quality of and the academic environment that it will create, but on the perception of a Washburn education as well,” said Wasserstein.