WSU Lands 3 DOE Grants Worth $4M for Services for Veterans, STEM Students, and Future Teachers

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) has received word from the U.S. Dept. of Education (DOE) that it is awarding three student support services (SSS) grants to benefit veterans, STEM students, and future teachers at the university.

Michael Highfill, Executive Director of the Office of Academic Engagement.

OAE Executive Director Michael Highfill said the grants—totaling over $4 million—will each serve between 120 and 140 low-income and first-generation students annually.

“We are pleased with this federal investment in WSU and our successful efforts to serve students through ambitious and innovative programming,” said Mary F. Wack, vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement. She leads the university division of the same name—which uses the acronym DAESA and is part of the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

Student Support at a Critical Time

Wack said, “This DOE funding will provide for intensive advising, peer mentoring, emergency aid, and discipline-specific support for diverse sets of hundreds of students.

“The grants are also very timely. They will fortify our efforts to address many unique, student-centered needs as they pursue higher education. Those have arisen since mid spring when the widespread impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic began to be felt.”

The OAE is leading the university’s significant effort to distribute more than $600,000 since March in $200-1,000 awards to over 1,000 low-income students with urgent needs. The funding, named the Crimson Community Grants, is funded largely by BECU with support from WSU Student Financial Services and private donors.

One Renewed, Two New Programs

Ali Bretthauer, Project Director of the ATLAS program.

Highfill said that WSU’s proposals for the three DOE grants were entered into an extremely competitive process at the national level. He credits OAE’s Ali Bretthauer for taking the lead on proposal development for all three. She will serve as co-investigator with him over their duration. OAE collaborated with WSU’s College of Education, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Veteran’s Center on the grant process.

Bretthauer is project director for the WSU Aspiring Teacher Leadership and Success (ATLAS) program in OAE. An existing project, the new funding represents a five-year renewal from the DOE. ATLAS is a collaborative project between WSU’s College of Education and provost’s office; it was originally funded by a DOE TRIO Teacher Preparation grant.

ATLAS supports increased college retention and graduation rates for eligible students and fosters an institutional climate supportive of the success of students from low-income, first-generation backgrounds and those with disabilities. The program provides individualized services, financial aid, and support resources for participants as well as advocacy for underrepresented populations.

Highfill said the latest DOE grant funding will also allow the creation of two new programs, focused on support for veterans pursing undergraduate education at WSU as well as students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“We are extremely excited to add these to our OAE suite of programs, and we look forward to providing student support services to our ever-growing number of exceptional WSU Cougar participants,” Highfill said.

More information about OAE programs is online at A listing of DAESA programs is at

Media Contacts:

Mary F. Wack, WSU vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement, 509-335-8044,

Michael Highfill, executive director of the WSU Office of Academic Engagement, 509-335-9851,

Beverly Makhani, director of communications and marketing, WSU Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA), 509-432-3430,

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