Reach for the STARS

Five students standing in a row with their arms around each other's shoulders.
WSU STARS students, left to right: Jovan Araiza, Ethan Dahl, Amie Browder, Colin Coker, Abraham Podkranic.

The Washington State Academic RedShirt (STARS) program equips motivated first-year engineering students with the tools and community they need to be successful in engineering.

Washington STARS in Engineering.

“My first interaction with STARS was during ALIVE, and I knew right then and there that it was a ‘yes’ for me,” said Amie Browder, an electrical engineering student in the STARS program at Washington State University. “It means you have extra support for grades, social events, and financial support.”

The STARS program is based on the strategy of “redshirting,” which allows promising college athletes to sit out a season in preparation for four successful years of competition.

A select group of students receive intensive coaching, access to mentors and advisors, and scholarship support during their freshman year in engineering. The program aims to help more students succeed as they navigate what can be a tough first year of college.

“Our director, Katy Tetrick, is a big help,” said Abraham Podkranic, who is studying chemical engineering. “The first week of school I had all my classes messed up and I contacted Katy and she helped me sort it out.”

Students meet as group in a seminar-style study skills course, as well as attend tutoring sessions.

“STARS helped me during my tutoring sessions, especially in calculus and physics,” said Jovan Araiza, who is majoring in computer engineering.

Amie and Ethan stand side-by-side with their arms draped across each other's shoulders.
WSU STARS Student Amie Browder with her STARS mentor, Ethan Dahl.

Students within the program also receive support from upperclassmen, including former STARS students, to help them achieve educational success.

STARS students are part of a community right from the start of their college career, participating in movie nights, holiday parties, bowling events, and even glow-in-the-dark Ultimate Frisbee.

Having a strong community is one of the best ways to create student success and to make it to graduation, says Katy Tetrick, Voiland College STARS program director at Washington State University.

“The connections you make with the people in STARS are important,” said Browder. “They’re going to be with you in your classes for the next four years.”

The program, funded by the National Science Foundation and private donors, is part of a collaborative project between Washington State University and the University of Washington.