Iowa State University student wins free room and board for the year

AMES, Iowa - Iowa State University freshman Dana Buer never saw it coming. The Omaha native was just returning to her room in Helser Hall after checking on her laundry when ISU Dining and Department of Residence staff approached her with the news: She won free room and board for her freshman year for participating in the residence department's MAP-Works initiative.

The prize is retroactive to cover both semesters of the 2010-11 school year. It is valued at about $7,500. Buer was selected in a random drawing from the names of the thousands of students who participated in the MAP-Works program. MAP stands for Making Achievement Possible. The residence department operates as an auxiliary department, funded entirely from student room and apartment rents and receives no general fund support.

"I was utterly confused at first," said Buer, who majors in animal science. "I was sort of in shock [when they told me], and then I was really, really excited!"

Implemented in 2008, MAP-Works is an online assessment tool that helps first-year ISU students make a successful transition to the university. Students answer a series of survey questions that assess their preparedness for college. The program then provides students with feedback connecting them to academic, emotional, and social resources throughout campus to help them adjust to college life.

"MAP-Works does a terrific job of identifying students who may be struggling during their first semester on campus," said Pete Englin, director of residence. "By identifying them early, we can connect them right away with the people, programs and services that will improve the chances of their success at Iowa State."

Englin said the MAP-Works program has led to noticeable success for students who elect to participate. This fall, 85 percent of all on-campus freshmen took the MAP-Works survey and earned an average GPA of 2.78, while those who did not take the survey recorded an average GPA of 2.41. The averages are consistent with the MAP-Works program's first two years of implementation.

"We offer MAP-Works, because it benefits our students," Englin said. "But, it's always a special thrill to award room and board knowing the excitement and satisfaction that is caused when you help with the expense of college. That puts a smile on everyone's face."

Buer agreed, and so did another important person.

"I called my mom right away," said Buer. "She was absolutely ecstatic."