Experiences, relationships make WWCC one of best

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Friendly, welcoming, open, and caring. These are the words used by students to describe their first experiences with Walla Walla Community College during their New Student Orientation session this summer.

At the conclusion of each orientation session, students are asked to provide feedback on how the process went for them. Overwhelmingly, students respond by telling us how welcome and cared for they feel.

Last spring, WWCC was awarded the honor of being the Top Community College in the nation by the Aspen Institute. That honor was based on extensive research into WWCC’s student success rates, the employment of graduates, the number of transfers to baccalaureate institutions, and the ability to serve minority populations.

While all of those things are incredibly important to a student’s college success, most current WWCC students will tell you they believe WWCC is the top in the nation because of the daily experiences with their peers, instructors, and staff and the relationships they have developed with those people.

WWCC is a place of immense diversity both in our students and educational programs. Like any educational institute, it has processes that must be completed in order to begin classes.

However, WWCC has made it possible for students to complete each of those things nearly any time and any place. The application for admission is available online 24/7, placement testing is offered on campus every day that WWCC’s doors are open this summer, and New Student Orientation is offered on campus and online.

The academic year will begin on Sept. 23 with about 4,500 students taking classes on the Walla Walla campus or online. Students will continue to enroll in classes all the way up to the start of the quarter.

Prior to the academic year beginning, all faculty and staff will be involved in a two-day in-service that is devoted to student success. During the in-service, we will launch our Achieving the Dream initiative.

Achieving the Dream is the nation’s most comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success in higher education history. While most universities take these in-service dates to provide administrative updates, WWCC will be striving to become even better.

The mission of Walla Walla Community College is to inspire students to discover their potential and achieve their goals. WWCC maintains student success at the core of its mission, vision, goals, and in all of its practices.

President Steve VanAusdle often talks about removing barriers. He wants students to have every opportunity for success and open access to our college. Any student who wants to be a part of WWCC can and does have the opportunity to do so.

It is never too late to get started and we are glad to help. We have staff available specifically to help students who may not know what they want to study and for students who may be very motivated but do not know how to fund their education.

Personally, I am passionate about WWCC and the opportunities it can provide not only because I work there, but because it shaped my own path. Twelve years ago, I was approaching the time to decide what to do after high school. I enjoyed school and wanted to go to college, but had no plan for what to study or what kind of career I wanted.

My parents encouraged me to look into Running Start at WWCC because of the financial benefit of tuition-free classes. I was hesitant, but decided I would try one course.

I stepped through the doors of WWCC as an incredibly nervous Running Start student and into a general psychology course. Within a week of starting that course, I managed to develop relationships with three WWCC staff members who devoted hours of their time to helping me decide what career path would best suit my interests and abilities and then in turn, what colleges or universities would be best suited to get me there.

I now work with two of those people and feel I will be in their debt forever for helping me find my path. It is the relationships that are developed that make WWCC so special.

Anyone can begin making those relationships and start down the path to academic success today — and we hope you do!

Melissa Harrison is director of marketing and public information officer at Walla Walla Community College.

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