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Office of Academic Engagement

Learning as a journey for WSU student veteran

December 5th, 2023
Wounded U.S. Army combat veteran Joseph Malan spent eight months in therapy in 2021, re-learning how to walk, read, and write. Following a year in the Washington National Guard, he enrolled for fall 2023 as a pre-nursing student at Washington State University Pullman. As he completed his first semester, he is confident he is in the right place and thankful for the educational opportunities and new community he’s enjoying.

“I’ve been given certain challenges in my life so far, but I’m getting my self back and working to be whole again, and I believe WSU is the place to be now on my journey,” he said.


Faculty sought for summer Cougs Rise, Dare to Dream programs

May 2nd, 2023
Washington State University faculty and graduate students are invited to apply to teach in late June and July for Cougs Rise Summer Program and Dare to Dream. While the schedule and content of courses can be quite flexible, expertise in a field and enthusiasm for WSU and prospective and incoming first-year students is required.

“The summer, temporary teachers will be essential members of the teams, and will play a vital role in introducing college-level academics to eager and diverse populations,” said Randall Bennett, director of College Access and Transition Programs, in the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE).

OAE Staff and Students Celebrated at DAESA Award event 2023

April 13th, 2023
PULLMAN, Wash.—Nine staff members and students from the Washington State University Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) were spotlighted for their accomplishments at an April 13, 2023 awards event hosted by the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA), part of the provost’s office.

“We’re very proud of all of our OAE members who received special recognition at the annual celebration,” said Michael Highfill, OAE executive director and interim assistant vice provost.

April is Financial Literacy Month April

April 3rd 2023
Everything from loans to credit to personal priorities will be explored at five April events when Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) offers Financial Literacy Month activities.

“We are partnering with BECU and WSU Student Financial Services (SFS) to bring information, resources, and experts to WSU students, faculty, and staff all month long,” said Maja Gillespie, director of OAE’s College Affordability Programs.


December 20 2022
We have the pleasure of announcing Oscar Martinez, Lead Coordinator of Veterans SSS from the Office of Academic Engagement as a Crimson Spirit Award recipient.

Oscar is the Coordinator Lead for Veterans SSS and Passport Program, enhancing academic engagement and success for student Veterans from limited income households, first generation backgrounds, those with disabilities, former foster youth, and unaccompanied homeless youth.

WSU FAFSA-WASFA Fest Oct. 12-13 helps students seeking financial aid

October 10th 2022
Washington State University students are encouraged to learn about the detailed processes involved to apply for financial aid at the seventh annual “FAFSA-WASFA Fest” on the afternoons of Oct. 12 and 13.

The event is from 3:00-5:30 p.m. each day, with student peer experts and staff available in the Commons Student Center Room 210 on the WSU Pullman campus, as well as virtually via Zoom.


June 30 2022
Thirty-two high schoolers from central Washington migrant families will take virtual math or science classes at Washington State University this week, kicking off a unique state-funded, six-month pilot program to promote their academic success.

“We are honored that the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) selected WSU to receive the $260,095 grant for this program, and our student mentors are excited for the opportunity to work with the Dare to Dream students from now through fall semester,” said Ray Acuña-Luna, director of College Access and Transition Programs..


April 19 2022
Washington State University President Kirk Schulz recognized 62 individuals and organizations for their outstanding leadership and service to the university and the community during the President’s Award for Leadership ceremony on April 19 in the Compton Union Building.


April 2022
Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) presented its Staff Excellence Award for 2022 to Oscar Martinez, the coordinator of its Veterans Student Support Services (SSS) program.

The award recognizes the OAE team member whose exceptional contributions over the past year have advanced student success, and who exemplifies the characteristic spirit of its community. Martinez was celebrated at the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA) awards event in April. OAE is part of DAESA.


October 18-22 2021
Washington State University’s Transfer Center for Policy and Resources has scheduled a week of workshops, presentations, and engaging activities for students during National Transfer Student Week, Oct. 18-22.

“Thousands of current and prospective WSU undergraduates are transfer students, and the week’s events aim to raise their profile, offer them intentional support and resources, and acknowledge what they bring to WSU,” said Waylon Safranski, transfer center director..


October 13-14, 2021
The Washington State University Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) will hold on Oct. 13-14 help sessions virtually by Zoom and in-person in Commons Building 210 for all students across the WSU system seeking to file federal and state forms for student financial aid.


September 3 2021
Wearing white virtual reality headsets, high schoolers from across the state will connect this fall to Washington State University students—not to play 3D games but to develop academic skills and build the confidence necessary to succeed in college.


WSU OAE, HBM host college cooking class

May 11, 2021
Plates and bowls of deliciousness plus an introduction to college-level science, if you are a lucky high-schooler who attended a virtual cooking class hosted by Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) and the School of Hospitality Business Management (HBM).

WSU News Article | OAE News Article

Ray Acuna-Luna and Lauren Doll

Lauren Doll is Student Employee of the Year

April 7, 2021
Washington State University senior Lauren Doll has been selected to receive the institution’s annual Student Employee of the Year award, according to an announcement by the Academic Success and Career Services (ASCC) office.


Financial Literacy Month

April 2021
Established in the US in 2004, Financial literacy month strives to raise awareness and engage individuals in their financial well-being.
Financial Wellness is a life-long journey; Cougar Money Matters is here to ease the process!

Join us for multiple events during the month of April—engage in your financial understanding and enter to win prizes.
Each event you attend will earn you one raffle ticket! There will be multiple drawing each week, and the grand prize drawing the last week is a $100 gift card to the Bookie!

Website | Events |Article

Second annual WSU Veteran and Military-Affiliated Students’ Symposium

March 23, 2021
A student panel, faculty-staff workshop, health roundtable, keynote address, new student success programming, and a virtual art exhibit are among the highlights of the second annual Veteran and Military-Affiliated Students’ Symposium as Washington State University set for 9:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tues., March 23.


Golden Wheat lit by the setting sun

WSU Trio Programs

Feb 26, 2020
WSU is home to 15 TRIO programs that strive to support students’ success, and 6 of those are managed by the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE). In fall 2020, OAE received a $4 million, five-year grant that funds 3 TRIO programs–the ongoing ATLAS program (recently renamed Teacher Prep), plus two new ones for STEM and veteran students.

Website | Article

Director of College Access Programs Ray Acuna Luna photo in front of Chinook

WSU administrator explains college access to Spanish-speaking families

Feb 4, 2021
Washington State University Director of College Access Programs Ray Acuña-Luna delivered three presentations to the Mexican Consulate in Seattle in January to inform prospective students and their families about the value of a college education.

“Personally, I have long recognized that education is an important key to success, and that the possibilities associated with college could be discussed in Spanish-speaking families as a way to improve one’s future possibilities,” said Acuña-Luna. One of the aspects of his work in the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) includes reaching out to regional high school students to help them on their path to WSU.


Jordan Frost: First Generation Alumni Excellence Award 2020

Jordan Frost honored with inaugural First‑Generation Alumni Excellence Award

Dec 17, 2020
Former student body president and student regent and current Washington educator Jordan Frost received Washington State University’s inaugural First-Generation Alumni Excellence Award, presented by the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE).

First-generation students are those whose parents did not graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree. Frost earned two degrees at WSU—a B.A. in history in 2018, and a Master in Teaching in 2019. While an undergraduate in Pullman, he was elected and served as head of the Associated Students of Washington State University; as a graduate student, he was selected to serve on the college’s Board of Regents.


Panel to discuss how syllabi impact academic success of first-generation students

Nov 4, 2020
Most first-generation students have to navigate college on their own and sometimes universities are not prepared to deal with their specific needs.

Amy Nusbaum, assistant professor at Heritage University, said she and her co-authors Anna Plemons and Samantha Swindell will be panelists for the event “Supporting the Academic Achievement of First-Gen Students” at 3 p.m. Nov. 6 via Zoom.

The panel will discuss their newly published paper, “Kindness at First Sight: The Role of Syllabi in Impression Formation,” which focuses on how syllabus design impacts the academic success of first-generation students.


Celebrate First Generation Pin on Man in Mask

First Generation Celebration

November 2-9, 2020
For the past four years, institutions from across the nation have celebrated first-generation students, faculty, and staff on November 8 to highlight the important contributions made within the campus communities. At many institutions, November 8 events have grown to week-long, or even month-long celebrations. Washington State University is joining the national effort to celebrate the accomplishments and legacy of first-gen individuals across the WSU-System. Specially, Washington State University would like to showcase ways in which first gen individuals have achieved academic success, and how others have supported the academic achievement of first gen students. Through these events, we want to celebrate but also provide best practices for students, faculty and staff to foster academic achievement for first-gen individuals.

Website | Article



October 7, 2020 | November 19, 2020
The Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) is hosting their 5th Annual FAFSA Fest. At this event, OAE staff members will assist Pullman undergraduate students in completing their FAFSAs and WSU General Scholarship applications. Held October, 7th 2020, and November 19th 2020.

WSU News | DEASA Events | Tri-Cities Reporter


August 10, 2020
Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) has received word from the U.S. Dept. of Education (DOE) that it is awarding three student support services (SSS) grants to benefit veterans, STEM students, and future teachers at the university.

Article | Veterans SSS | STEM SSS | Teacher Prep SSS

Sun Beaming Through Clouds, lighting Palouse Hills

How to talk about racism 101: a crash course/Born a Crime

July 29, 2020
How to talk about racism 101: a crash course/Born a Crime is an introductory course in having courageous conversations about racism, politics and social justice in today’s America. In this workshop we unpack the definitions of racism and how to spot the systems where racism is hardest at work, we discuss impact and intention and why there is still actually room for grace and compassion with those we vehemently disagree with. We also cover when to call-in, call-out, and when to cancel. Finally, we open up the floor to use Trevor Noah’s Bestseller Born a Crime as a catalyst to open the floor up for class discussion around the presentation and the book.

Event Listing

Cougs Rise staff members continue to help high school students during pandemic

July 16, 2020
The Cougs Rise summer programs moved online due to COVID-19, but staff members are trying to create a student experience closest to the one they would have had in person.

Ray Acuna-Luna, project director of Cougs Rise, an initiative that helps low-income and first-generation students transition into college, said there are two different courses that target students in their high school journey: Coug Tracks and the Bridge Program.


Kelly and student in Zoom Call


July 14, 2020
The Crimson Community Grants (CCG) fund at Washington State University provided a half million dollars to nearly 800 low-income students statewide to help meet educational and related expenses during a spring semester impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Michael Highfill, executive director of the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE).“We are pleased to be able to offer meaningful assistance at this difficult time for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at all campuses, and to be a resource they can turn to in this unique period,” said Highfill. The CCG is managed by the OAE, part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement in the Office of the WSU Provost and Executive Vice President.


Portrait of Cesar Munguia

Cesar Munguia receives 2020 Crimson Spirit Recognition

June 25, 2020
Cesar Munguia, student services coordinator/advisor 2 for Cougs Rise in the Office of Academic Engagement, received 2020 Crimson Spirit recognition.


Portrait of Noah Sanchez

WSU Student Employee of the Year Noah Sanchez takes statewide title

May 5, 2020
Construction management major Noah Sanchez was barely adjusting to being named Washington State University Student Employee of the Year when another honor came his way—selection for the same title but at the statewide level.

“To wrap up student employee appreciation week, we would like to congratulate, Noah Sanchez, the 2020 student employee of the year! Thank you for everything you do at Cougs Rise! #studentemployeeappreciation #WSU #GoCougs

— WSU Office of Academic Engagement (@WSUOAE) April 17, 2020

WSU Insider Article | Daily Evergreen Article

Grant provides service-learning opportunities for first-generation students

April 9, 2020
First-generation students at Washington State University will have more opportunities to participate in community service-learning thanks to a grant awarded to the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), a program in the Division of Student Affairs.

Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) awarded the CCE a one-year, $3,750 Innovation Grant that will allow it to strengthen partnerships with five WSU programs serving about 500 first-generation students. The CCE will plan, coordinate and lead 90 service-learning projects for students in those programs.


Zoom Workshops Spring 2020

April 2020
Series of Workshops presented by College Access Programs from the Office of academic Enagements
Students must register for a workshop to receive the link to the Zoom session. It was free to register, all students are welcome to attend.

Article | Website (list of events & speakers)

Student Working at a Desk from Home


April 2020
Things may feel out-of-control right now. You may be facing a lot of unknowns and disruptions. Try to be patient with yourself, your classmates, and your instructors during this time. Take care of your wellbeing first. Making a plan and adjusting your studying may help you feel even a little sense of control. While more of your coursework and teamwork have to be online and remote, here are a few resources to keep you organized, engaged, and connected:

Website & Resources | Student Guide PDF

Cougs Rise staff members continue to help high school students during pandemic

February 21, 2020
Looking back, Araseli Solorio said she would have appreciated having courses that inform students about different types of loans during her days as a college student.

“There was no resources at the time,” Solorio, Cougs Rise project coordinator, said.

Preparing and involving parents in their student’s transition from high school to college, she said, is one of the ways Cougs Rise tries to help those who are considering college.



February 2, 2020
Academics are an integral part of the agenda for Cougs Rise students headed to Orlando and Chicago over Spring Break.

The 16 students going to Florida will visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and collaborate with students and staff at the University of Central Florida. Another 20 students are bound for Chicago, where they’ll visit the University of Chicago, take part in academic workshops and tour the Chicago Architecture Center.

For the majority of the participants – low-income students whose parents did not complete college – the trips will also provide invaluable lessons in planning, logistics and navigation.



January 29, 2020
A distinguished group of people and programs from across the Washington State University system were recently honored with Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Service Awards during the Annual MLK Celebration on the Pullman campus.


Cougar Money Matters and iGrad Launch

January 28, 2020
Coug Money Matters is the Washington State University financial literacy and wellness program. Through a variety of tools, we offer information and guidance to students regarding a number of money topics. Our goal is to help students be better prepared to manage their finances now and in the future.

Website | Admissions Newsletter (1) | Admissions Newsletter (2) | BECU Partnership | Spokane CCM

Fafsa fest 2019

FAFSA Fest 2019

October 14, 2019 | November 12, 2019
The Office of Academic Engagement is hosting their 4th Annual FAFSA Fest – a FAFSA and WSU General Scholarship assistance and completion event for Pullman undergraduate students. Two separate events are slated for Monday, Oct. 14th, 3pm – 6pm and Tuesday November 12, 4pm – 7pm. Both of the events will take place in The Commons, Room 210 and food will be provided


Students and parents walk down Stadium Way.

Cougs Rise Summer Programs 2019

August 8, 2019
Cougs Rise Summer Programs serve a diverse community of high-achieving and ambitious students with a transformative educational experience at a world class institution. Scholars are introduced to the structure and rigor of the university, provided with opportunities to foster meaningful academic and social connections, and empowering them to take ownership of their academic journey.

Website | Provost Article

Cougs Rise bridges the gap for high school students

August 5, 2019
The anxiety students face when walking into a college classroom for the first time can be paralyzing.

Cougs Rise is erasing those barriers to success for dozens of students this summer through transitional programming that gives them a taste of college life and helps them build a strong support network before they embark on their post-high school journeys.



Fall 2019
A collaborative effort between the Carson Center for Student Success and Cougs Rise, a WSU college preparedness program housed in the Office of Academic Engagement, will boost first-generation, low-income high school students’ chances at earning a college degree.


Financial Wellness Fair

April 9, 2019
Vendors will cover topics such as building credit, budgeting, investing, ID Theft, buying your first car or home, personal finance, retirement options, understanding loan debt and repaying your loans.

Vendors include AccessLex, Homestreet, Numerica, Sallie Mae, STCU, US Bank, Washington Federal, Washington Trust Bank, Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, Wells Fargo, WSECU, Student Financial Services, and Handshake.

Event Listing | Article | Cougar Money Matters

OAE Week of Events

April 2019
JOIN THE NEW OFFICE OF ACADEMIC ENGAGEMENT (OAE) as we celebrate and advance Washington State University’s commitment to student success!

HTML Email


May 15, 2018
The Office of the Provost’s Student Success Initiatives are transforming students and expanding opportunities in support of our land grant mission.

Commons Hall on the Pullman campus is undergoing a transformation of its own. Built in 1924, Commons was the fifth building on Pullman’s campus, and Student Success Initiatives is working to return the space to its original student-centered purpose.


STEM programming bolstered

November 5, 2018
The Cougs Rise college transition program received an additional $120,000 to support early faculty interaction with incoming first-year students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

WSU News | The Daily Evergreen


November 1, 2018
The Cougs Rise college transition program received an additional $120,000 in funding to support early faculty interaction with incoming first-year students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.


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October 6, 2017
The Cougs Rise bridge program is off the ground, with a newly hired director and another $1.32 million in funding recently announced.

Ray Acuña-Luna will serve as director of the program, which provides support for 180 low-income and first-generation students from five Washington high schools planning to attend Washington State University. Acuña-Luna joins Cougs Rise after serving as academic coordinator and retention specialist for WSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program. He’s served in various capacities at WSU since 2010.



June 6, 2017
Washington State University is set to launch Cougs Rise, a unique high school-to-college bridge program, thanks to two grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Cougs Rise is the latest Student Success Initiative out of the Office of the Provost. The grants, totaling $2.6 over five years, will fund the program, which is designed for incoming first-year students who are low-income and/or first-generation. Cougs Rise will serve at least 120 students each year and will build on existing partnerships with five high schools in Washington: Bremerton, Hudson’s Bay (Vancouver), Rogers (Spokane), University (Spokane Valley), and Wenatchee.


Mock Interview

Teacher Prep: Mock Interviews: 2016


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Test Prep

Teacher Prep WEST-B Test Prep: 2016


Test Prep Info