WKU project to serve displaced students among first NASH Catalyst Fund Awards

WKU(Mohammad Ahmad)
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 2:30 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Western Kentucky University’s Resilient Refugee Program, an initiative to serve displaced students in the Bowling Green community, was among the first round of Catalyst Fund awards announced by the National Association of System Heads (NASH).

The newly established NASH Catalyst Fund encourages broad engagement of NASH members in sharing promising practices that lead to equitable student success outcomes that are scalable within and across public higher education systems.

With a refugee resettlement center located in Bowling Green, WKU is uniquely poised to enroll large numbers of displaced students eligible for the Kentucky Innovative Scholarship Pilot Program into undergraduate programs.

“Bowling Green has welcomed ‘displaced persons’ into our community from around the world for 40 years. We have one of the highest per capita refugee populations in the USA,” said Dr. John Sunnygard, WKU’s Associate Provost for Global Learning and International Affairs. “As people who were displaced from their homes by war, violence, oppression, and disaster came to become Americans, they have worked in our industries, built businesses and created opportunities for other Americans.”

To provide preparation and ongoing service to this population, WKU is launching the Resilient Refugee Program. This initiative combines three successful WKU programs -- Summer Scholars, International Pathway to Academic Success (IPAS), and Global Learning Ambassadors -- to provide displaced students with access to personalized support navigating the complexities of life at an American university.

“Western Kentucky University is proud to provide a safe space and education to displaced individuals to support their ambitions to become businesspeople, health professionals, engineers, teachers and more,” Sunnygard said. “We have as much to learn from our new students as we have to offer them. The Navigator and ECAR programs are ways in which we can both serve and grow. It is a great honor to receive this national support to help build new lives for new Americans and continue to support all members of our community.”

NASH has also selected WKU to host an Every Campus A Refuge - ECAR training on April 25.

The first round of NASH Catalyst Fund awards are aimed at recognizing hotspots of best practices that demonstrate interventions that are already underway and proving to be successful with the potential to have a catalytic impact in meeting NASH’s measurable goals.

The Cohort I Catalyst Fund awardees included the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education’s Transfer Process Improvement project.

Through participation in the NASH Improvement Community on Transfer, CPE has worked with Western Kentucky University and Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College to identify obstacles to the in-state vertical transfer process and to implement short-term, reactive changes to address those obstacles.

CPE plans to implement this rapid improvement process with additional sets of partners, which would include one regional university and at least one feeder community college.

“As an incubator of best practices, NASH is proud to have launched our innovative Catalyst Fund,” said Dr. Nancy Zimpher, director of the Power of Systems at NASH. “Its impact will be far reaching but the concept is simple: through pooled philanthropic support, NASH is recognizing and incentivizing the development of systems’ big ideas that, once proven to work, have the potential to be scaled not only within systems but at peer systems across the country.”

Through continued support, the Catalyst Fund will support member systems in advancing promising practices in pursuit of equitable student success. For information on recipients, RRI’s request for proposals, or applications for the Catalyst Fund, visit www.nash.edu/catalyst-fund/.