Western Oregon University Targets Affordability and Adult Learners Through the ACE Learner Success Lab

August 2022 

Western Oregon University (WOU) is a regional comprehensive higher education institution located in Monmouth, Oregon. An emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), WOU has also been focused on expanding program delivery to adult learners in nearby metropolitan and suburban areas to increase the accessibility and affordability of four-year programs in the region. WOU joined the ACE Learner Success Laboratory (LSL) as a member of the inaugural cohort in 2020 in order to mobilize the full campus community to meet learners where they are and better support both the person and their educational journey in a comprehensive way. 


​Leading up to their participation in the LSL, WOU was in a transition phase on multiple fronts: it became an emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution and opened a new campus focused primarily on adult and returning learners seeking degree completion, professional certificates and professionally-oriented master's degrees. Additionally, on the verge of a new strategic planning cycle, WOU aimed to be part of an active cohort and leverage knowledge sharing and expert advice to create equitable systems with thoughtfulness and intentionality. 


Some of the key recommendations that WOU’s Lab team developed throughout the process to present to university leadership include: 

  • ​Taking the onus off students and scale and integrate what leads to social mobility
  • ​Creating a foundation section in the general education program for career readiness and life design courses
  • Building a program between the career center and faculty for connections and community to build social capital for students
  • ​Making valued liberal arts competencies transparent in general education courses, programs, and student employment
  • ​​​​Developing an alumni mentoring program


Through the LSL journey, WOU was able to take a more systemic and equitable approach to career readiness and life design. By participating in the LSL, WOU was able to have campus-wide conversations centered on student success that, admittedly, would not have otherwise occurred. During an extremely challenging time, the LSL process brought people together for a common purpose and provided a timely reminder of the depth of investment and commitment to the work of learner success. 

​“Our LSL journey enabled us to take a more systemic and equitable approach to career readiness and life design, hold conversations that normally would not occur, and put student success at the center of discussions. During an extremely challenging time, the LSL brought people together for a common purpose and reminded us why we're here.”—Adry Clark, Director of Service Learning and Career Development, WOU   


WOU’s advice to institutions that are considering—or preparing for—participation in the ACE Learner Success Lab includes:  

  • ​Trying to have a specific goal in mind, and have some data prepared, prior to entering the Lab
  • ​Using the Lab for campus conversations and development of actionable plans

The ACE Learner Success Lab 

​The Learner Success Lab is an inclusive learning community that integrates evidence-based practices for persistence and completion, life design and career exploration, and workforce skills development to assist participating institutions in developing a comprehensive strategy for learner success.