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Washington State University Office of the Provost

OFFICE OF ACADEMIC ENGAGEMENT Research and Theory

Our Foundation

The Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) was developed to support undergraduate student engagement in learning and involvement in the highly impactful experiences of our campus community. Engagement (or the physical and mental energy one invests) in their academics is a leading indicator of overall student success, and while it is a simple concept, it has complex determinants. For instance, student financial factors can limit engagement, as can considerations associated with being the first in their family to attend college (needing to develop a sense of belonging and/or believe in ability); behaviors and learning strategies associated with academic success can impact engagement, as can a student’s skill and disposition at working within a diverse environment. We develop externally funded programs and initiatives that focus on the development of a student’s belief in their ability and sense of belonging in the WSU community. This requires program design that incorporates student involvement in an inclusive campus environment, rather than providing services in isolation by one office or entity. Research has demonstrated that this approach not only has a positive impact on retention, but more importantly, better prepares a student for long-term success. We have three principles that drive program development:

  1. Our programs and initiatives are evidence-based and evidence-generating. Operating at a critical intersection of research and practice allows us to utilize theory and implement promising practices to identify impactful solutions for scale.
  2. Our efforts are student centered, serving those most in need of support and fostering engagement in a multitude of resources across and beyond the institution.
  3. Our services are collaborative by design, utilizing student service expertise from across the institution as well as student input.

As an Academic Affairs unit, faculty involvement is a strength and critical to services and assessment, yet we also aim to be a primary collaborator with Student Affairs in matters of student life (i.e. health and wellness, residence life, civic engagement). Although our programs and initiatives vary in purpose and student population, we have adopted the following constructs from Astin’s Theory of Involvement and UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute as universal outcomes to measure and improve. We don’t solely rely upon continued enrollment because it is possible to support enrollment while isolating a student and hindering broader, more meaningful development. By measuring cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes in which student engagement is a necessary component, programs have a positive impact on retention as a consequence, but more importantly, are transformational.

Habits of Mind: A measure of the behaviors and traits associated with academic success.
Academic Self Concept: A measure of students’ belief about their abilities and confidence in academic environments.
Social Self-Concept: A measure of students’ beliefs about their abilities and confidence in social situations.
Pluralistic Orientation: Skills and dispositions appropriate for living and working in a diverse society.
Social Agency: The extent to which students value involvement as a personal goal.
Likelihood of College Involvement: Student expectations about their involvement in college life.

Our Results

Our initiatives advance the dialogue, strategy and action concerning student success at Washington State University, leveraging external support and utilizing expertise from across the institution in order to demonstrate promising practices. Check back here soon for reports on and outcomes of our programs and initiatives as well as academic engagement metrics for Washington State University.

Washington State University