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Falcon Promise program continues to improve campus

October 11, 2012

The Falcon Promise, approved by the UW-River Falls Student Senate in spring of 2011, is living up to its goals of increasing student retention and success and enhancing the learning environment at UWRF.

There are four main initiatives in which the funds from the Falcon Promise are being invested. They include: tutoring, undergraduate research opportunities, increased student scholarships and enhanced learning spaces.

The two initiatives that are already the most apparent are student scholarships and enhanced learning spaces.

“The impact of the Falcon Promise is already evident.  Students have likely noticed one or more of the 13 learning spaces that have been upgraded in Kleinpell Fine Arts, Centennial Science Hall or North Hall,” said Chancellor Dean Van Galen in an email.

New and better technology has been installed and upgrades have been made to desks and other furniture in the 13 different classrooms. The idea is that both students and professors will be able to benefit from all of the changes made, and the classrooms will be spaces that are conducive to 21st century teaching and learning.

Many of the professors who teach in the newly updated classrooms are very pleased with the upgrades. Matthew Meyer, adjunct professor of philosophy, really appreciates the technology available to him in room B107 in KFA.

“I really like the projector system because it is so user friendly and the new desks that can easily be rolled around make group work a lot easier and less time consuming. It is simple to just turn around and get in groups and then put the room back together when you are done.”

All of the enhanced learning spaces have signs posted outside their doors with the Falcon Promise logo to show students exactly where their differential tuition money is going.

The increased student scholarship initiative of the Falcon Promise includes a program called Falcon Scholars Challenge. This semester is the first that the program has been implemented. Scholarships were given to 80 new freshmen, selected as the first Falcon Scholars this year, at the amount of $1,000 each. The scholars will receive $1,000 in their sophomore, junior and senior year as well, provided that they maintain a minimum 2.75 GPA.

As financial need is one of the criteria for selecting Falcon Scholars, many of the scholars are very grateful to be receiving some help in paying for their education.

“Being a Falcon Scholar means a lot to me. I am the first generation to go to college, and to be financially supported by anyone is truly a blessing,” Falcon Scholar Matthew Pechacek said.

One aspect of the program is that the scholars may receive $2,000 in their junior or senior year to study abroad or to participate in undergraduate research. This opens up opportunities for these students to have experiences that they may not have otherwise had due to financial restrictions.

Falcon Scholars Karley Schad and Sara Sanderson both would like to study abroad in their junior or senior year, and they explained that they can actually think about and plan for an experience abroad now that they will receive $2,000 to go.

Van Galen explained that the Falcon Scholars program depends on the UWRF Foundation’s ability to raise $800,000 in scholarship support over the next four years.  After a year, over $625,000 has been gifted, including the $400,000 Albrecht’s challenge grant, and the success enabled UWRF to select this year’s 80 Falcon Scholars.

As the Falcon Promise is a differential tuition initiative, it means that it is largely funded directly through student dollars. The program requires an increase of $88 per student, per year, in differential tuition. After the four year plan, approximately $554,440 will be generated depending on future student enrollment.

As the University will match the student commitment dollar for dollar in the enhanced learning spaces initiative, it really is a partnership between the University and its students.

“I believe that the Falcon Promise is off to a great start.  The program demonstrates the commitment that our students have to the University and the value they place on experiences that enhance the success of our student body,” said Van Galen. “It is another reminder that UW-River Falls is a great place to study, learn, work, and succeed.”