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WIU touts social mobility success

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Western Illinois University received high marks from the Wall Street Journal for helping students improve their socio-economic status.

In the WSJ’s rankings of around 400 colleges and universities in the nation, WIU placed in the top 10% for the social mobility of its students -- in other words, students are graduating in a position to exceed their parents’ economic standing.

WIU Board of Trustees Chairperson Carin Stutz knows what that’s like. She was a first-generation college student when she attended Western.

Stutz went on to earn executive positions in the restaurant industry, including as president and CEO of Native Foods, executive vice president and COO of Red Robin, and president of McAlister’s Deli.

“I lived the American dream, and I say that specifically because of my upbringing and my foundation and education that I received here at WIU,” Stutz said.

“It’s like they (faculty) care about you as an individual. They cared that I was successful. There was someone there that saw my potential and pulled me along. They were absolutely going to make sure that I left here ready to move on into my career. I don’t see that everywhere.”

40% of those enrolled at Western are first generation college students, according to BoT Vice Chairperson Polly Radosh. She said the WSJ rankings show that an education from Western has an impact.

“It changes students’ lives. I think that comes out in these studies that have highlighted us as exceptional in the area of social mobility,” Dr. Radosh said.

She credited faculty members with helping students unlock their potential.

Like Stutz and Radosh, WIU President Guiyou Huang also credited faculty members.

“It’s really transformative. You’re coming as perhaps a raw product. You go out as a polished, refined, final product,” Dr. Huang said during the board’s meeting on Dec. 5 in Macomb.

Patrick McGinty, President of University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100, which represents faculty, said WIU has historically helped students improve their economic standing.

“We are doing our absolute best, giving our students 110% of the Western experience in our disciplines,” said McGinty, who teaches sociology.

“We establish a high bar and help students raise their sights.”

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.