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Admissions

Statement of Non-Discrimination and Affirmation of Diversity Values

Western Institute for Social Research admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability in the admissions or in the administration of its educational policies, scholarships and loan programs and all other school administered programs. WISR actively encourages interested members of ethnic and racial minority groups, women, and other underserved persons to discover whether its programs and methods fit their special, personal and community interests and goals.

In addition, WISR seeks actively to build a multiracial, multicultural learning and teaching community, in which the central values are built on the worth and distinctiveness of each person’s background, going beyond our differences to celebrate qualities and needs that we all share as humans. In building and nurturing such a community, WISR affirms the importance of free and open dialogue, and to that end, students, faculty, staff, alumni and Board are all expected to 1) refrain from making comments that would infringe on the safety, dignity and respect for any group, and 2) welcome assistance in learning how to improve their interactions with groups with whom they are less experienced or comfortable.

WISR core values include:

  • Developing a multicultural, inclusive perspective. This means developing and using multicultural perspectives to inform one’s purposes, and one’s views of social issues and challenges and opportunities in one’s chosen fields or arenas of endeavor—profession, workplace, community.
  • Developing a sense of empathy, compassion and community toward, and with, others.
  • Appreciating and understanding the broad spectrum of perspectives and consciousness, and how those arise out of people’s culture, gender, economic background, religious and sexual orientations.
  • A culture of learning that respects and promotes the dignity of every person.
  • The belief that no individual or group may rightfully prosper at the expense of others.
  • The use of language that conveys respect for persons whose gender identity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, economic background, or political interests may differ from our own.

Admission

Entering BS students must demonstrate the maturity and ability to pursue undergraduate studies.  Entering undergraduate students must attest to having a high school diploma, or having passed the GED exam.  If they cannot conveniently obtain an official copy of your high school diploma or transcript, they may instead attest to and sign to these requirements by filling out and signing the  High School Diploma or GED Verification Form. In addition, those with no previous college credit, must demonstrate in the first course at WISR that they are capable of doing this level of academic work.  If they are not able to do this, they will have their tuition money refunded and not be allowed to continue in the program. They may, at a later date, reapply for admission if they successfully complete college level work elsewhere (e.g., in a California community college) and are subsequently able to demonstrate that they are able to study and perform well in the introductory course on “Learning the WISR Way.”

At this time, students may receive  a maximum of 105 of the required 120 semester units while enrolled at WISR.  Students are able to pursue coursework in other institutions, concurrently. At least 15 semester units must be completed in other institutions, prior to or during enrollment at WISR, and/or by passing CLEP exams, including, specifically, 15 semester units of general education coursework–at least 6 semester units in each of the following: natural sciences and humanities/arts, and 3 semester units in quantitative reasoning or math. When students are pursuing coursework elsewhere, concurrently while enrolled at WISR, WISR faculty will provide instruction to these students that may also support and assist them in their studies at those institutions.

For admission to a Master of Science program, a Bachelor’s degree is required, and for admission to study for the Ed.D., each student must have a Master’s degree, or a minimum of 30 semester units of graduate study* and demonstrate the ability to make creative scholarly and/or action-oriented leadership contributions during their studies.

Foreign students must have their transcripts evaluated by an agency that is a member of one of the following two associations:

*Academic credit earned from unaccredited institutions, including California licensed institutions, and foreign institutions, will be evaluated on a case by case basis, to determine if the quality of student work is comparable to that of students in many accredited institutions. Specifically, in addition to their transcripts the student may submit evidence of the quality of their previous academic study (e.g., course syllabi, copies of papers or recommendations from academicians who hold accredited doctoral degrees, or evidence of the consistency and quality of the work done by students from the particular unaccredited institution).  Such applicants may also submit professional or scholarly papers or projects that they have produced–which suggest that their previous study was at the level expected of accredited programs. The Chief Academic Officer or WISR’s President will evaluate this evidence, in consultation with a subcommittee of WISR’s faculty, or in some cases, by consulting with an admissions officer or knowledgeable academic official at an accredited institution of higher learning.

Admissions Decision

All admissions to study at WISR are made on the basis of intensive conversations, during the application process, with applicants about their goals, interests, and backgrounds, and applicants are told about the kinds of learning and action that are involved in studying with us. Initial discussions may be informal. WISR is interested in working with students who find a common bond with the Institute’s stated philosophy and goals. WISR also seeks students who want a flexible program, tailored to their individual needs, but who also want discipline and rigor in their studies. These and other issues are discussed frankly and openly with each serious applicant, and students’ intelligent self-selection to study at WISR is very deliberately emphasized. Many tentatively interested inquirers are discouraged from formally applying if their specific interests, personal maturity, or resources of time and money do not promise success in study here.

In particular, each applicant must discuss her or his background and objectives with a core faculty member, usually WISR’s President or Chief Academic Officer. Interested persons are routinely encouraged to visit WISR seminars and to talk with other faculty, students, and Board members of WISR, to gain several perspectives on study at WISR and a sense of the learning community that they may be joining.

The admissions decision is made by the Chief Academic Officer and/or WISR’s President, sometimes in consultation with other faculty if they believe that added input is needed. The admissions decision is based on interviews with the student, transcripts and other evidence of the student’s previous academic work, and letters of recommendation, and if applicable, demonstrated proficiency in English. Decisions to admit a student are made based on the likelihood of the student benefiting from studies at WISR. This includes having the necessary self-motivation and previous experience or knowledge to study successfully at WISR, along with having demonstrated sufficient access to the internet to participate in online courses.

Prospective doctoral students must show that they have the potential to make creative scholarly and/or action-oriented leadership contributions during their studies.

[Also, see “Admissions to Non-Degree Studies as an Option for Some Students” in the section on Admissions Interview, below]

Prospective students who are denied admissions may appeal to WISR’s Board of Trustees, who will consider the evidence presented by both WISR academic administration and faculty, as well as by the prospective student. The Board will only override the decision of WISR’s faculty and academic administration if they are convinced that severe bias was involved. In WISR’s history, there has never been such an appeal, and in virtually every case, prospective students come to mutual agreement with WISR’s faculty about whether or not WISR would be a good fit for them, and in their interests to enroll.

Limitations on Enrollment of Out of State Students

Since the State of California is the only state in the US that has not signed the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements ( go to http://nc-sara.org/ for more details), WISR cannot offer its distance learning programs to students living in most other states of the US.  There are a few states whose residents may enroll at WISR, since WISR does not have a physical presence in those states and does not advertise in those states. Because of our small size, it is not economically feasible for WISR to seek the necessary state authorization from each state in which a prospective student resides. Those from other states who are interested in enrolling at WISR should contact us to find out if their state is one of the states for which WISR would be allowed to provide distance education to students. Those from other states who wish to do studies at WISR on site, in the Bay Area, rather than from a distance, are welcome to explore this option as well. WISR is able to entertain inquiries from prospective students living in other countries, since this interstate reciprocity agreement does not apply to students from other countries. 

Students with Disabilities

As an educational institution devoted to personalized education, there are many things that WISR does to aid students with various disabilities, especially those with psychological and learning disabilities. First of all, as a matter of routine practice, faculty meet with students regularly to discuss their special needs and challenges as well as their strengths, in order to better support each individual student’s learning efforts.  This includes working with the student to develop learning strategies–study schedules, uses of special resources, and approaches to each assignment that will work best for the student, and to make the needed adjustments over time. In this context, when meeting with students with disabilities, faculty give special attention to those students’ special needs, and make accommodations to the extent of WISR’s capabilities as a small, institution with a limited budget. Therefore, prospective students with disabilities fill out the Disabilities Accommodation Request Form prior to making an enrollment decision, so that WISR’s ability to meet their needs can be realistically assessed and evaluated. WISR is committed to including the widest variety of students, and with varying needs, as is possible. If WISR cannot accommodate a particular student’s needs, the student will be informed of why WISR cannot and what specific challenges and limitations that they would face if they were to enroll. Based on this information, in order for the student to enroll at WISR, the student and WISR’s CEO or CAO must both agree that, overall, WISR can still meet enough of the student’s needs well enough that they will benefit from study at WISR. If it is determined that WISR cannot meet their needs, WISR’s CEO will inform the prospective student, whether or not it is feasible and likely that WISR can make sufficient changes in the 12 months to accommodate their needs. The CEO will state in writing the reasons for this assessment, and further, if changes are stated as likely, the CEO will also share in writing the key steps in the plan to make these changes. The prospective student will be informed that they should not take this as a guarantee, but instead, these statements are to be taken as a public disclosure of WISR’s intentions of the steps to be taken to become more accessible.

 

As a matter of routine practice, faculty meet with students regularly to discuss their special needs, and to make accommodations, including but not limited to: 1) gaining extra help and support with writing and the use of grammar and spell check software, 2) obtaining extended time for completing courses and the entire degree program, 3) in special cases, the student and their supervising faculty member may request from the Faculty Executive Committee permission to re-design some assignments so that the student with special needs can learn and demonstrate knowledge in equivalent ways (e.g., supporting students in learning how to use voice to text software for writing, and by substituting added oral exams for some of the shorter writing assignments).

 

Our courses are not yet optimized for the visually impaired, but our tech staff person is going to work on that, and give that a priority in the next year (July 2019-June 2020).  Because our online courses are heavily text-based, and do not make use of images or pdf files except in rare cases, they are mostly accessible for people using text voice readers. The videos used (mostly of our own seminars) are accessible by web links.  However, they do not have closed captions because the cost of that with zoom is prohibitive for a school as small as WISR.

Foreign Students

Foreign Students—No ESL Instruction, no I-20 status, but assistance in obtaining permission to visit:
WISR does admit students from other countries. However, WISR does not provide English as a Second Language, or English as a Foreign Language, instruction. All instruction is conducted in English. Some students who are not native English speakers, but who are fluent in English, have enrolled and successfully completed programs at WISR.

Students who do not have a previous college degree from an institution in which English was the primary language of instruction must take the TOEFL exam and receive an iBT TOEFL exam score of 85 or more. However, prospective students scoring lower than 85 on the iBT TOEFL exam will be considered for provisional admission, if two conditions are met: 

1) they meet (for the degree program for which they are applying) one of the following conditions (see below), AND 

2) if in the judgement of WISR’s CEO or Chief Academic Officer, the prospective student demonstrates (through conversations with WISR faculty, the writing of a brief admissions statement, and if applicable through their current work experience) that they are capable of making good progress in their studies at WISR.  Further, some students who may be admitted provisionally in order to enroll in one or two courses, after which time, enroll in one course, and their proficiency and ease in handling that course is assessed by WISR faculty before they are officially enrolled in the appropriate degree program.

With regard to condition #1 for those scoring below 85 on the iBT TOEFL exam . . .

Prospective students whose native language is not English and who have not earned a degree from an appropriately accredited institution where English is the principal language of instruction may be considered for admission at WISR, if they demonstrate college-level proficiency in English through one of the following for admission:

  1. For Prospective BS students: A minimum score of 500 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL PBT), or 61 on the Internet Based Test (iBT), a 6.0 on the International English Language Test (IELTS), or 44 on the Pearson Test of English Academic Score Report. A high school diploma completed at an accredited/recognized high school (where the medium of instruction is English).
  2. For Prospective MS in Education and Community Leadership students: A minimum score of 530 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL PBT), or 71 on the Internet Based Test (iBT), a 6.5 on the International English Language Test (IELTS), or 50 on the Pearson Test of English Academic Score Report.
  3. For Prospective students in the MS in Psychology or EdD programs: A minimum score of 550 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL PBT), or 80 on the Internet Based Test (iBT), a 6.5 on the International English Language Test (IELTS), or 58 on the Pearson Test of English Academic Score Report.
  4. A minimum score on the College Board Accuplacer ESL Exam Series as follows: ESL Language Use: Score of 85 ESL Listening: Score of 80 ESL Reading: Score of 85 ESL Sentence Meaning: Score of 90 ESL Writeplacer: Score of 4 Comprehensive Score for all exams of 350
  5. A minimum grade of Pre-1 on the Eiken English Proficiency Exam;
  6. A minimum B-2 English proficiency level identified within the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) standards and assessed through various ESOL examinations, including the University of Cambridge;
  7. A transcript indicating completion of at least 30 semester credit hours with an average grade of “C” or higher at an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), or accepted foreign equivalent that is listed in the International Handbook of Universities where the language of instruction was English. A “B” or higher is required for any graduate degree program (MS or EdD)

Note: Transcripts not in English must be evaluated by an appropriate third party and translated into English or evaluated by a trained transcript evaluator fluent in the language on the transcript. In this case, the evaluator must have expertise in the educational practices of the country of origin and include an English translation of the review.

WISR’s admissions process helps all prospective students to assess their skills, learning needs and interests, and aids WISR faculty and the prospective student in determining whether or not WISR can meet their educational needs. Enrollment at WISR does not provide foreign students with I-20 status (i.e., WISR students do not qualify for foreign student visas.). However, WISR has and will vouch for a student’s enrollment status and verify that WISR encourages all students studying from a distance to visit WISR for a few days every year or so. By so vouching and verifying, WISR is usually able to assist foreign students in obtaining permission to visit the United States for a brief period, for this purpose.

For More on Admissions

Each prospective student should read and explore our website carefully, and in particular, should read the following sections as first steps in learning about how to enroll at WISR:

And, of course, each student should carefully read the extensive details in the various subsections under “Academics.”

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