By Mary Catherine Frantz, intern, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

In Shelby Sullivan’s eyes, STARS made all the difference in her college success.

WSU’s Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) program works with motivated first-year engineering students through their transition to college by providing them with the tools and resources they need to be successful, including a specialized curriculum and mathematics and chemistry tutoring.

Sullivan was looking for an organization to help her jumpstart her college career, and took an immediate interest in STARS and what it had to offer. Then she met WSU’s STARS director, Katherine Harms.

“Katy was the nicest person ever, and we immediately hit it off,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan sitting with her laptop.
Sullivan regularly visits the STARS office for a quiet working environment, advice, and to check in.

Harms has been a consistent support to Sullivan as she navigated early college decisions about classes, career paths, and other opportunities in the WSU’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.

“I trust her. She knows my story,” Sullivan said. “The entire STARS staff is like family to me.”

Sullivan feels her STARS connections were invaluable to her as a first-generation college student. While her family have been constantly supportive, they weren’t able to guide her through all of the intricacies of navigating college.

“When you arrive on campus, the transition can be so destabilizing and overwhelming,” Sullivan said, “From financial aid to bus transportation, STARS helped me figure out where I needed to go and what I needed to do to be successful.”

With STARS’ assistance, Sullivan has fully integrated into Washington State University’s student engineering community. She has become a member of Society of Women Engineers and Chi Omega Psi, the professional organization for computer science students. She has also developed a career path where she sees herself working in the emerging field of artificial intelligence.

“The STARS program made Washington State University my home.”


The STARS program is currently accepting applications for Fall 2018. Interested students are encouraged to learn more about the program and apply!