University of Wisconsin-La Crosse |

Multicultural Student Services

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  • Retention efforts

    What is Retention?

    Student persistence and retention are both terms commonly used in higher education, that are often used interchangeably to describe the active status of a student continually moving from semester to semester until graduation. 

    Here in the Office of Multicultural Student Services, we place a high priority on helping students persist to graduation and completion of their education, through various retention programs. 

    There are numerous ways we engage our students to maintain focus on their commitment to college:

    The Early Academic Initiative

    The first year of college sets the foundation for success, and is a critical factor in the retention of our students. Our office promotes a position of active and informative communication through our Prism and Strive and Thrive Newsletters, as well as emails containing imperative information such as academic deadlines, employment opportunities, scholarships, and special events.

    Our staff also connects with as many students as possible, to establish solid relationships, and aide them in both academic and personal advisement, as well as financial guidance throughout their time at UW-La Crosse. Students receive periodic information regarding academic deadlines, scholarship and employment opportunities, and special programs sponsored by OMSS and collaborating offices.

    • Many students also work with our staff members on a regular basis to receive academic, financial, and personal advising.
    • Staff members contact their students and share the services of the office and other campus resources.
    • The rapport built during this first year has been for most a positive experience that develops over the student’s years at UWL.

    Peer Tutoring Program

    The OMSS free Peer Tutoring program was designed and developed to meet the needs of students who are not achieving success through large group tutoring at the Murphy Library Learning Center. It also serves as a means of employment for some of our older students. This service is by in-person request only, after a student has connected with their instructor. OMSS tutoring is done on an individual and small group basis. Forms to request a tutor can be filled out online and our coordinator Richard Sims will contact the student once a match has been made.

    If you are interested in becoming a peer tutor, read below to see if you meet the qualifications:

    • Receive a minimum grade of A/B in the course in which you would like to tutor.
    • Have specific knowledge of the content area.
    • Currently be in Good Academic Standing.
    • Reliable, Patient, Responsible, and Positive.
    • Be a second semester freshmen, or upper classmen.

    ** The Peer Tutoring program is always looking for qualified tutors

    For Students Who Want to Become Tutors:

    For Students Requesting Tutors:

    For more information on obtaining a peer tutor or becoming a peer tutor, please visit our office at 1101 Centennial Hall or call 608.785.8225.

    Inclusive Excellence Residence Life Scholarship Program

    The Inclusive Excellence Residence Life Scholars Partnership Program is committed to helping prepare first year multicultural students in their acclimation to the UW-La Crosse campus. The program was designed to provide new students with an established connection to the Office of Multicultural Student Services (OMSS), Office of Residence Life (ORL), and the greater UW-La Crosse campus community.

    Students will have the opportunity to build relationships across campus through the guidance of program advisors, peer mentors, and being an active participant within their residence hall. It is our goal that those involved with this program will become familiar with on campus resources, and be exposed to leadership and involvement opportunities campus wide.

    First year students receive the scholarship through an application process undertaken in the spring before their first semester of college. In exchange for involvement and leadership with Multicultural Student Services and the Office of Residence Life students receive a scholarship to cover the cost of a traditional residence hall room for their first full academic year.

    Students can apply to be mentors with the program their Sophomore and Junior years if they had previously been in the program as a first year student. Mentor’s also receive the scholarship in exchange for mentoring a first year student in addition to the leadership and involvement requirements mentioned above.

    Questions about the Inclusive Excellence Residence Life Scholarship Program can be directed to Angela Birrittella: 608-785-8228 or

    UW-La Crosse EAGLE Alert

    The UWL Early Alert program was designed to boost student retention and graduation rates through faculty-student communication about academic progress. Any student on campus can receive feedback; it could be positive or negative, and even serve as a means for a way to have an instructor recommend a student for leadership positions or scholarships.

    For the purpose of our office, we focus on any student that has self-identified as multicultural, is a new freshmen, a new transfer student, or currently receiving a Grade Point Average (GPA) below a 2.5. The reasons we focus on anyone with lower than a 2.5 GPA is that most UW-La Crosse majors require a 2.5 or higher to fulfill their graduation requirements. When a student received an Alert from a professor, good or bad, our office will reach out to a student to congratulate them on a job well done, or invite them in for a meeting to create an academic success plan designed to best fit their needs.

    The Eagle Alert system has the potential to be an extremely effective system if everyone involved is committed to its success. Students who are struggling, but are too intimidated to speak to their professors about their performance, will be able to receive some online feedback about where they are specifically in need of assistance, and hopefully reach out back to the professor to start an informed conversation to better understand the coursework. However, if a student is still uncomfortable speaking to a professor, they will have the opportunity to come in and speak with a member of the Multicultural Student Services staff, or they could even go to their faculty advisor for additional advice. Overall, the main goal of this program is to ensure a student is on track to graduate and has been given the resources and established the relationships necessary to succeed.

    Early alerts can help a student raise a grade before the last day to drop, as well as allow them to make informed decisions on if they should or should not drop a class. It can open doors to better relationships between students and faculty, and is one way we can check in with our students about their 4 year graduation plan.

    History Behind Eagle Alert and Early Warning Inteventions

    The Office of Multicultural Student Services has had a process going on in the office for over 20 years called GPR, or Grade Progress Report. If a student self-identified as multicultural (Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, South East Asian, etc…), was a new freshman, new transfer student, or getting below a 2.5 grade point average (most majors require a 2.5 of higher to fulfill major requirements for graduation) - they would have a letter sent to their professors asking for feedback about the student's performance. Once it was received, it was then shared with the student via an in person meeting or a phone call.

    In the meetings, someone from multicultural student services would address any issues the student was having via an advising meeting, encouraging the student to meet with their professors and expose them to services they might not know about (peer tutoring in our office, Murphy learning center, public speaking center, student support services, etc…). Other times there might be financial barrier as to why a student is struggling, and we could recommend they see someone in financial aid or the financial retention specialist in our office for assistance.

    When the quantity of information became too great to handle via the survey method, OMSS reached out to Institutional Technology to develop an online system that streamlines faculty's ability to offer feedback to students. Once it was decided this was something that could be done by IT, the decision was made by senior staff to make it a campus wide initiative where all students could get feedback from a faculty member via email. As a result, the Eagle Alert program was then added to the Higher Learning Committee's review of our accreditation, under what we call the Firm Footing Initiative (more information can be found on the home page:

    Questions about Eagle Alert can be directed to our office, or to Angela Birrittella at

    Financial retention

    Financing a college degree can be challenging and our office is here to assist our students and their families with any questions or concerns they might have. OMSS has a dedicated financial retention specialist that is well versed in the financial aspects of higher education. However, it is the responsibility of the entire office to aide students in their search for financial aid.

    There are a few scholarships and grant programs available in our office, for information please contact Richard Sims, 608.785.8225.

    Advanced Opportunity Program (AOP) grant for graduate students

    Awards under this program are made to graduate students of African American, Hispanic, Native American or designated Southeast Asian heritage as well as to economically disadvantaged students. Students must complete an AOP application and show financial need as established through filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( FAFSA).

    Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention grants

    The Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grant is available to sophomores, juniors, and seniors (30 credits or more), who have a minimum cumulative 2.0 grade point average, are United States citizens, and are Wisconsin residents. Full-time students are eligible for grants up to $4,000, for up to four years or 8 semesters (preferably consecutive) based on financial need. Students must complete 24 credits during the academic year to continue to be qualified for the Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grant.   

    You can apply for a Lawton Grant if you are African-American, Latino/a, American Indian, or a Southeast Asian American student of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, or Hmong heritage. (For full consideration, a financial aid application should be filed by UWL's priority date of March 15 proceeding the next fall term.)

    Additional scholarships and grants

    1. UW-La Crosse Foundation:
    2. UW-La Crosse Financial Aid: /finaid/
    3. American Indian Grants

    Outside resources

    Brain Track: Scholarships by career

    Peterson Education Center

    Student Guide to Understanding Financial Aid, US Dept. of Education

    Federal Student Aid

    Smart Guide to Financial Aid