‘One-of-a-kind’ WTE program passes 10 year mark

Business students from left, Maureen Dombrow, Matthew Hicks and Liberty Beecham pose with Topeka Metro Bikes. These students won the “Best Undergraduate Paper Award” from American Accounting Association in 2017.  

Emily Unruh


According to the International Institute for Management Development’s annual list of world competitiveness in 2015, the U.S. topped the rankings, making it the most competitive country in the world. It is becoming increasingly apparent that it takes more than a degree to get an edge. USA Today writes that “grades matter… however a well-rounded college experience (with good grades) is the optimal approach to land the interview you want- and be offered a job as an outcome of that process.” Employers and the public are looking for more experience, more involvement and communicators that are more competent.


Washburn University formed Washburn Transformational Experience to provide students opportunities outside of the classroom to better prepare them to follow their dreams.


Now 10 years after the program began, WTE continues to leave a lasting impact on student’s lives.


WTE’s mission statement says, “It is expected that the student’s experience will yield a greater understanding of the world around them and how one might utilize his or her unique skills and abilities to affect positive change.”


With four WTE areas, community service, international education, leadership and scholarly or creative, students are able to complete one or more projects/trips and work to fulfill their dream. Mike Russell, scholarly or creative WTE area director and director of marketing and assessment, says the WTE gives student that competitive edge.


“One of the many advantages to students completing a WTE is that it can enhance student’s chances of getting a job after graduation or being accepted into a graduate program,” Russell said.


Students have the opportunity to travel abroad, to plan leadership activities,and to participate in community service projects among other things.


“Students know the world is competitive and the WTE shows students did more than take classes. The WTE is a one-of-a-kind program,” Russell said.


WTE is one of Washburn’s signature programs and is comparatively unique to other school programs. One of many things that makes WTE distinct is the financial support that Washburn provides for students wanting to complete an international education or scholarly creative WTE. WTE can help students pay for their projects, such as studying abroad. Michael Gleason, director of the Leadership Institute, oversees many leadership WTEs.


“After completing the experience, [students] have an enhanced understanding of how they can use their strengths and abilities to positively influence the world around them,” Gleason said.


When completing the leadership WTE, students are required to complete a change project, which involves putting their leadership skills in action, and reflecting on that experience using leadership frameworks gained through an academic study of leadership according to Gleason.


Many faculty members and members of Washburn administration are involved in the WTE process and work hard to ensure the success of WTE.


“We know this is so important and we so strongly want you to succeed that we are going to provide money so you can do something extraordinary,” Russell said.


Every year, more students are becoming involved in WTE projects, often in multiple areas. Russell said that students report that after completing a WTE project, they have grown as an individual, reciprocated the importance of this program as a part of their education and have made a positive transformation. 


In 2017, WTE celebrated its 10th year and going into their second decade, WTE and the numerous members involved continue to work hard and expect more success out of this unique student focused program.