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First-year Focus

Washburn earns national recognition for student mentoring

James Barraclough and Paul Mismaque in the library

Paul Mismaque was born and raised in France. Inspired by the exchange student year he took in high school, he began his search for a college in the United States that would eventually become his home away from home. That college and home is Washburn University.

Mismaque enrolled in The Washburn Experience, also called WU 101, in the fall of 2016. His support system included a faculty mentor, academic advisor, librarian and two peer educators – students who work in the First Year Experience program. A year later, Mismaque himself was a peer educator, and today he is one of two senior peer educators who are leaders in the program.

“I decided to become a peer educator to help Washburn students succeed, as some of my mentors helped me during my first year,” said Mismaque, who is studying marketing and economics.

The National Association of Student Personnel Administrators recognized Mismaque in April as a regional Outstanding Peer Educator for 2018. Also recognized was James Barraclough, director of undergraduate initiatives for the Washburn University Center for Student Success and Retention, who received a regional award for Outstanding Peer Education Advisor. Barraclough is one of Mismaque’s mentors.

“Paul has a rare combination of compassion, drive and intelligence, and it has been a pleasure to work with him,” Barraclough said. “He helped coordinate our 70 active peer educators, planned and led meetings and assisted with our training program for new peer educators.”

In addition to the peer education awards, NASPA also recognized Washburn by naming the University a First Forward institution. This designation recognizes institutions demonstrating a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.

“This recognition is a true testament to our student-centered mission,” Barraclough said. “Colleagues across our campus have embraced meeting the needs of our students, and this designation will allow us to deepen our knowledge base for supporting first-generation students.”

Washburn considers more than 40 percent of students first-generation, meaning neither of their parents/legal guardians completed a bachelor’s degree, regardless of siblings and other relatives. The first-generation retention specialist, the First-Generation Mentoring Program, the Ichabod Success Institute and a first-generation student section of WU 101 help build a cohort of support for those students.

“The First Year Experience program has helped me become a better leader and person,” Mismaque said. “It is important to feel welcome, and Washburn really values that.”

The Ichabod magazine fall 2020

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2020 fall edition online and look for it in mailboxes in October.

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