Weber State University has secured two grants from the U.S. Department of Education for $2.2 million to help improve educational programs and retain vulnerable students.

Strengthening Institutional Programs — Wildcat Scholars

The largest of the two grants, $2.18 million, will fund WSU’s Wildcat Scholars. The program supports students who need to take both developmental math and developmental English —  Dev-Dev students — in completing a college education. Associate Provost Eric Amsel wrote the Strengthening Institutional Programs grant, which was awarded Sept. 30.

Eric Amsel

 Weber State is an open-enrollment university, which accepts all students. Some arrive needing developmental math and English education. Students receive placement in math and English based on a combination of their high school GPA and ACT scores, or through placement testing. Students in developmental math or English often must complete two or three courses in each subject before they are eligible to take college-level courses for credit. Dev-Dev students face the obstacle of having to complete developmental courses for both subjects. Roughly 56 percent of Dev-Dev students drop out during their first year in college.

Amsel and other members of WSU’s administration, faculty and staff created Wildcat Scholars to help improve the retention and graduation rates of Dev-Dev students. Students in the Wildcat Scholars program participate in courses designed to help them develop deep learning strategies while working to complete their math and English requirements.

“When I heard about the Wildcat Scholars program, it sounded like the extra support I needed,” said Caroline Rodriguez, a 2017-18 Wildcat Scholars participant. “The program has really helped school become a lot easier.”

To support their deep learning in math, students complete online tutoring that improves their math placement. In addition, those students volunteer as math tutors for the Ogden community. English requirements are filled through a unique course that combines developmental English and English 1010 into a single, six-credit course.

“The Wildcat Scholars program recognizes that students arrive with assets that they can leverage to be successful,” Amsel said. “But they need supports to learn how to use those assets to be successful in college. They don’t need to be held back; they need to move forward.”

The Strengthening Institutional Programs grant will help expand the Wildcat Scholars curriculum. Until receiving the grant, funding for Wildcat Scholars has been through an $80,000 grant from the Utah System of Higher Education and by reallocating university resources.

“The important thing about the grant is that it’s trying to change the experiences of these students when they arrive on campus,” Amsel said. “They offer a unique and valuable perspective to the campus. Supporting them, getting them ready to be deep learners and good students is tremendously important.”

To view a short video about the Wildcat Scholars program, visit

Craig Bergeson

Strengthening Commercial-Emphasis Foreign Language Programs

Department of Foreign Languages was awarded a Department of Education Title IV grant for $165,000. Funds will be used to improve the university’s business language program. Department chair Craig Bergeson wrote the proposal and will serve as the project director.

“We will use the funds to provide training and course materials for several faculty members to design and/or revise language-for-business courses,” Bergeson said. “This will elevate courses to teach the language skills business and industry need from their employees.”

Funding from the grant will also allow Weber State to offer more sections of language for business. Additionally, the university will be able to expand other programs in foreign language, such as the new bachelor of arts in Spanish translation and the new foreign language internship program.