Months of planning came together this past Tuesday with the National Forum’s webinar on the subject of Holistic Support for Undocumented Students in a Rapidly Changing Policy Environment. The webinar was a collaboration between the National Forum and several cosponsor organizations: the National Center for Institutional Diversity, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education (CCCIE), and UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program (USP). We were fortunate to benefit from the knowledge and experience of Teresita Wisell from CCCIE, Maureen Fitzpatrick from City Colleges of Chicago, Ruben Canedo from USP, and current Berkeley senior Jesus Mendoza.
The presentations were fantastic, but I’m not going to spend much time talking about them because soon you’ll be able to watch them for yourself on the uLEAD Network website—and if you want to learn about strategies for providing undocumented college students with the best support possible (as an individual, office, or institution), I highly recommend you do so.
Instead, I want to talk about the conversation that emerged among our listeners. When we started planning our webinars this fall, we debated whether to include a chat box our listeners could use. Would people use it? Would it distract from the presenters? Was there a better way to gather questions to ask our presenters during the Q&A?
Despite our concerns, it proved to be a perfect complement to the information provided by our presenters. The webinar drew listeners from diverse institutions across the country—the most common locations included California, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Michigan. Having a way to communicate with other listeners allowed for a true conversation as people answered each other’s questions, shared resources, and commented on how they’ve experienced the topics being discussed by the presenters. At many colleges, there may not be a formal support system for undocumented students, and staff at such colleges were able to compare notes with those working in different institutional environments. People could draw new ideas from work being done across the country, and they could connect with colleagues close to home—listeners from North Carolina even exchanged contact information to start a working group.
When we plan events, we pay attention to the big questions, and rightly so. But last week’s webinar was a reminder that small changes in structure can have a significant effect. Including a chat box seemed like a very minor question. We wondered if it would be superfluous or distracting; in the end, it served to supplement and reinforce our presenters’ knowledge and create a deeper experience. As we think about future events, we can look for ways to support similar connection, collaboration, and conversation.
Seeing my older sister attend Clark Atlanta University gave me an early impression of Minority Serving Institutions as higher education institutions dedicated to holistic formation for students of color. At CAU my stepsister developed as an athlete, experimented with different majors, grew as a leader, and explored other aspects of her identity, particularly gender. The strong foundation she built at CAU reverberates through her life now as a collegiate tennis coach and mentor for students. Her experiences at a Historically Black University expanded my early conceptions of what college meant, including academic, personal, and spiritual growth.
Those themes flowed through the presentations at the Minority Serving Institutions Symposium. Our opening presenters, Jeremiah Thompson and Dr. Jaime Chahin, highlighted how MSIs have a distinctive approach to the personal formation of students. Sharing his experiences attending predominantly White institutions, Mr. Thompson reminded us of the unwelcoming and racist messages Native American students still encounter. At Tribal Colleges, Native American students can engage a course of study in an environment dedicated to enriching their cultural knowledge and identity. The educational environments at MSIs, steeped in a cultural heritage and curiosity, encourage students of color to grew in their various identities. Faculty and campus administrators of color, uniquely positioned and motivated to promote student success, foster this process.
Dr. Chahin provided a fascinating case study of how intentional leadership transformed Texas Status University into a thriving Hispanic Serving Institution. Through incentives for faculty to create culturally aligned courses and promoting student voice to suggest new activities, Texas State grew into a culturally defined institution. I resonated with Dr. Chahin’s description of the mission of HIS, particularly Texas State, to facilitate and encourage students in building a solid foundation to go forth to the workforce or graduate school with a firm sense of their identity.
Transforming institutions to truly serve students of color requires leadership to motivate actors at different levels to change curriculum, mission, and the environment. Many of the research papers highlighted the challenges of creating and maintaining MSIs. Access to resources, accreditation guidelines, and changes in enrollment at MSIs complicate the ability of institutional actors to enrich and maintain the mission of serving students of color. Our closing session with Dr. JoAnn Canales demonstrated how an intentional focus on holistic development and cultural heritage promoted student growth and success. The symposium provided an opportunity to build a community of research and practice around Minority Serving Institutions. These conversations should continue to investigate the ways MSIs foster cultural wealth at the organizational level and envision strategies to enrich and support these institutions.
“At the core of our work is a desire to make a difference in our society through impacting the way higher education responds to its role to serve the public good.” - Betty Overton, Director for the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good
The National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good and the National Center for Institutional Diversity—both located at the University of Michigan—have agreed to a new level of partnership to include strategic collaboration, joint sponsorship of events and programs, and the development of funding proposals to support work shared between the two organizations. This partnership will largely focus on the areas of higher education access and success for immigrant and undocumented students, and leadership for diversity in higher education.
Since its founding in 2000, the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good has worked to demonstrate the ways in which higher education serves a greater public role. It has recently focused some of its work on higher education’s responds to supporting underserved and minority groups, and the institutions that serve them. Led by its Director, Professor Betty Overton, the National Forum works to encourage people to frame college education as not only an access point for a career, but as a resource for the greater good of society.
Historically, the University of Michigan has distinguished itself as a pioneer in diversity. This commitment by the University to affirm the central value and undeniable importance of institutional diversity to the mission of all colleges and universities was the seed in creating the National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID). Since its establishment in 2006, NCID has centered its priorities on offering empirical context for diversity efforts, linking diversity to measures of meaningful participation, and acknowledging the discourse that surrounds higher education and using it as a principal means through which diversity can be understood, interpreted, and advanced.
With the 2013 appointment of NCID’s current Director, Professor John Burkhardt, the center has been successful in building partnerships across the UM campus and has started to establish a network of scholars in other institutions who are studying diversity issues. They have begun to decentralize the diversity agenda by engaging other schools and colleges, and promoting innovation across the university. The NCID strategic plan emphasizes leadership development, national partnerships, and communications, and acts as a mechanism used to reassert the importance of diversity in the mission of higher education. As such, the recent partnership with the National Forum is an essential stride in the journey to further the diversity narrative.
One of the first steps taken in advancing the shared work will be the expansion of the uLEAD network, a web based utility that provides up-to-date information about issues affecting undocumented students in higher education. The uLEAD network was established in 2012 through a grant from the Ford Foundation. In addition to the expansion of uLead, the National Forum and NCID staff will collaborate in supporting several leadership for diversity efforts, including programs with the American Council on Education, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, and the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance.
This partnership will advance the realization of goals long held by each of the two groups. The National Forum will be providing support and technical assistance to NCID’s work in leadership development, contributing research from its evaluation of related programming in minority serving institutions and building on institutional case studies. Together, the National Forum and NCID will work to support a communication effort geared toward higher education leaders who are pursuing commitments to diversity and inclusion.
As a part of the community engagement team I have had the fortunate opportunity to work closely with Marygrove College in helping them achieve their integrative urban leadership vision. Marygrove’s goal is to develop urban leaders through the explicit integration of urban leadership principles in, among other things, their course curriculum. Though I have only been part of the project for a few months, the drive to create such major organizational change has been inspiring. The effort requires the participation and buy-in of the entire faculty and staff and a significant amount of time and resources. What intrigues me most about this endeavor is to see first-hand that major change like this is possible.
Though I am an advocate for developing leadership skills in college students, I automatically began thinking about how this model could realistically be applied to working towards social justice in predominantly white institutions (PWIs). In her talk during a Race and Social Justice Symposium last semester at the University of Michigan, Dr. Yolanda Moses, Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Excellence and Diversity at UC Riverside, spoke about dismantling systems of oppression in higher education. She gave several recommendations for how we can overcome institutional oppression at PWIs, including: structuring diversity as a core institutional value, allocating resources to support diversity initiatives and create programs to educate administrators to know their role in promoting diversity. While I was excited to hear practical recommendations for climate change at the post-secondary level, Dr. Moses’ suggestions also seemed extremely daunting. Until I connected them to what Marygrove is doing.
What if PWIs integrated diversity and social justice principles, and made sure that all faculty members were trained to explicitly address and discuss them? What if they required all faculty members to explicitly state on their syllabus which diversity and social justice principles their class targeted and how students would embody those principles by the end of the course? What if they spent the time and resources that Marygrove has spent towards implementing these principles into the core institutional mission? We can continue to address campus inequity and climate issues with small band aids or we can tackle them at their core. I guess the real question is: When most PWIs talk about diversity and social justice, is this level of institutional change something that they truly desire or are the band aids a strategic response to not address the issue in its totality?
While looking back at my previous blog post that I wrote shortly after arriving at the National Forum, I realized how many new skills I have actually gained since starting in May. I will be graduating from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education in December and I’m on my way out of the National Forum, as well, but I think it’s important to reflect on these new skills. The following is a list of 3 new things I learned during my time at the National Forum as a member of the Finance & Stewardship team:
3. Creating agendas is vital – Things don’t always go as planned if you don’t have an agenda of what you think should be accomplished at the many meetings held at the National Forum.
2. Immerse yourself in the material – There is SO much going on at the National Forum that I’ve learned it’s best to just jump in to a project. Find out as much information as you can and then get started wherever you think you can be the most useful.
1. Look ahead – Again, there is so much going on at the National Forum that it can be difficult to keep everything straight. Looking forward on the calendar can help you better prepare for the busier times during the semester and know how early to get started on that final report or that LOI.
My time at the National Forum has been a great growing experience for me and I hope others have the opportunity to learn as much as I have in the past 6 months.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the privilege of participating in a series of events that each highlighted, in their own way, the necessity of foregrounding a public good mission in American higher education.
On November 5-6, the Rackham Graduate School here at the University of Michigan hosted a compelling Summit on Diversity in Graduate Education. The event brought together leaders from institutions across the country. Participants considered the role of higher education as an enabling force in the promotion and creation of knowledge. As at the undergraduate level, graduate education must engage historically underrepresented groups of Americans in advanced fields of study. American society can never achieve its full potential when only portions of the population experience the benefits of higher education. Dr. Penny Pasque, Associate Professor of Adult and Higher Education at the University of Oklahoma and a visiting scholar at the National Forum this academic year, offered the challenging insight that policymakers, educators, and the general public must develop a recognition that the private benefits of higher wage prospects and improved economic conditions are not mutually exclusive from the public benefits of a more engaged and engaging citizenry.
Still reflecting on the Diversity Summit, I took off with my colleagues from the National Forum to attend the annual Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) conference in St. Louis, Mo. Whether discussing the challenges and opportunities of access to higher education for undocumented students, considering new research on ways in which flagship universities are seeking to recover revenues lost as a result of declining state support, or learning about the experiences of Latino males in advanced science programs, I could not—or perhaps refused to—shake the lens of advancing the public good through higher education. As a community, those of us committed to a new vision for higher education in the twenty-first century—a vision in which higher education serves to promote equity and social justice, rather than perpetuate the inequities of the past—must inform this vision with a determined commitment to the public good served by institutions of higher learning.
One of the great higher education visionaries, Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, visited the University of Michigan on November 21. Through a series of presentations and workshops, Mr. Merisotis presented Lumina’s commitment to enhancing attainment of high quality higher education credentials nationwide by 2025. As he pointed out, the foundation cannot only support efforts to boost attainment rates for the sake of putting more credentials in the hands of Americans in the coming decade. This work recognizes the promise of higher education not only to enable a better economic future, but to equip graduates with the experience of working with diverse sets of colleagues, social capital to advocate for positive change, and passion to build stronger communities. As Dr. Pasque stated at this month’s Diversity Summit, “risks require patrons.” I am grateful to know organizations such as the Lumina Foundation are at the forefront of broadening access to higher education in an effort to promote the public role the sector must serve to realize its own full potential.
I have come to realize that the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good is literally a forum. In the short time I have been here, it has become a physical place where I go to engage in rich conversations with professors, staff and my peers around the higher education issues that concern us the most. Through these dialogues, I have been exposed to many topics in higher education that I had never even thought of before such as challenges foster care youth face in accessing higher education. I have also had opportunities to participate in conversations at the national level.
Through the National Forum. I had the opportunity to attend my first national higher education conference in my hometown Chicago, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). After delving into the histories, challenges and strengths of Minority Serving Institutions through a class I am taking it was beneficial to meet individuals from Hispanic Serving Institutions from across the nation and hear about the great work they are doing. The University of Michigan was recognized for being a strong associate of HACU and for its work with college access for undocumented students. A team from the National Forum presented on uLEAD, an online tool created at the Forum to encourage collaboration and problem solving for university leaders committed to educational access and diversity.
Most recently, I was able to engage in conversation with individuals from UC Berkeley and Texas State University on their efforts to provide support to undocumented and Latino students on their campuses. Being new to the field of higher education, I would have never guessed that so many initiatives are taking place to make higher education accessible to all students. I am excited to be a part of a team that is working towards the same goals.
At our first pre-screening of the film, The Graduates, the panelists talked about their experience with mentorship and how it has affected their lives. Listening to the conversation has led me to reflect on my life and experiences and the role that mentorship has played in all of it. As a Latina and first generation college graduate who has been working at the Forum for the past year, I cannot express enough how grateful I am for all of the hands-on experience granted to me on this journey. I have learned just how valuable and important mentorship really is.
Growing up, I lived in a community that often lacked the necessary resources to gain a quality education and to live comfortably with a single mother and five siblings. My determination, work ethic, and will power are all great contributors to my success, but I truly would not be where I am today without the people who guided me and continue to motivate me along the way. My middle school teachers, my three moms, my counselors, my peers, and my co-workers are my mentors. They have helped mold my being and their diverse support has helped me accomplish many of my goals.
I matured at a very young age and had a complicated, disturbing episode in life during my teenage years. While I worked hard to make the best of my situation, my middle school teachers reminded me all the time of how smart I am. They would always say I had a big heart and great potential. My moms taught me how to be a young professional. They pushed me to reach my full potential and by doing so, I attended the number one public high school in Detroit which is Cass Technical High School. They encouraged me to get involved in my community and to find ways to become a well-rounded person. My counselors helped me cope with my anger and sadness. They also helped me understand that everything happens for a reason. My peers have been by my side through the good and bad times. They have opened their arms to comfort me and their families have made me a family member too. My sorority sisters have taught me all about community service, academic excellence, professionalism, event planning, and leadership. My co-workers, especially those at the National Forum have heavily educated me more about my interests in social work and higher education. Here, I have been given the opportunity to put into action the knowledge and skills I gained during my time as an undergraduate student. In a matter of two months, I have been able to combine my bachelor degrees with my passions and serve underrepresented and under served communities.
With that said, I want to put emphasis on the importance of all youth having mentors, positive role models, and strong foundations in their lives to be able to succeed like we expect them to. I am especially passionate about helping at-risk youth and their families with getting the resources they need to self-improve and I also believe that we, outside of their homes, are responsible for their success as well. So, how can we help?
We need to be aware that we do not have to take drastic measures to contribute to the well-being of others. We can help by simply doing our jobs right all of the time and for the good of all people. We can help by being positive and influential family members. We can help by being mentors.
I am practicing this belief in my professional and personal life on a daily basis. I am thanking my mentors by passing on the knowledge they gave me. Professionally, I am teaching my peers who are still undergraduate students how to improve their writing, public speaking, and event planning skills. I guide my sorority sisters to learn about and practice professionalism. Personally, I have created a path to higher education and success for my siblings, nieces and nephews. I mentor young girls by helping them stay focused in school and improve their self-confidence and self-respect.
In reflecting on mentorship and the pre-screenings of The Graduates, I have begun to plan the next steps to further and positively influence my community. Making time to do what I love has allowed me to not think of participating in mentorship as a responsibility. It is a blessing and a privilege to be able to be mentored and to mentor others on the path to greatness.
In my year of serving on the Finance and Stewardship team of the National Forum, I have learned much about the strategy and collaboration that goes into each letter of intent or proposal prepared by our project teams. While I am certainly not an expert in grant writing now, I think that many of the lessons I have learned may be valuable for project teams working on creating an application.
The Mundane – As unexciting as it may sound, one of the most important parts of applying for a grant is knowing when the deadlines are and creating a work schedule that will allow your team to complete an application on time. Having more eyes review a proposal is only helpful if you have enough time to allow multiple reviewers. Therefore, it is important to schedule backward from a deadline to make sure everyone has enough time to review an application before it needs to be submitted.
The Team – A creative team is key to success. While one person might have the first idea for a proposal, running the idea past a team will make it stronger in the long run. When the team has come into agreement around an idea, having one person write a first draft to be reviewed by the rest of the team can set up a terrific proposal.
The Secrets – Who you know and what information you find matter. Every time a member of your team goes to an event or conference, he or she should be “friend raising,” connecting with others at the event that have the potential to be project funders or partners in the future. These people may be able to share secrets about the funding process or provide insight into the direction a funder might take in the future.
Speaking of insight about a funder’s priorities…Where you get your information about a funding opportunity matters. A funder’s website is always a good place to start, but making connections with a program officer at a foundation proves to be even more helpful. If you cannot personally connect with a program officer, checking in the news to see where they have been speaking lately and what they have been speaking about can help you further your understanding of a funder’s priorities. Sometimes you can find Youtube videos of these speeches, which will allow you to hear where the program officer envisions the foundations future work going.
Bringing all of these strategies together has allowed me to provide support for our project teams this past year. As I move into my second year working with the Finance and Stewardship team, I look forward to seeing what new strategies I will learn.
Prior to my arrival at the University of Michigan and the National Forum I worked as the program director for the College Preparation and Leadership program (CPLP) at Mott Haven Village Prep High School in the Bronx. The program provides all college and career prep related services for the students in the high school, from organizing college visits to SAT/ACT prep to facilitating financial literacy workshops. Additionally, CPLP’s partnership with the school is so strong that CPLP staff is able to teach college and career prep classes to the students (9-12) during the regular school day for elective credit. This structure has made college and career preparation mandatory and helped to promote a college-going culture in a school of majority first generation college bound students. While the structure and integration of the program is very strong, the services it provides are very internal and the only time they reach out to external resources are either to connect students to extracurricular opportunities or to visit colleges.
Since beginning my work with the National Forum in August, I have had the opportunity to learn more about Local College Access Networks (LCANs) and even sit in on a LCAN development meeting for the city of Highland Park. LCANs are designed to provide college prep services and promote a college-going culture in the community for which they serve. What struck me most about the formation of this particular LCAN was how the entire community came together to create the vision and see it through, very unlike our approach at CPLP. Represented at the meeting were counselors from the local high school, representatives from Trio, Gear Up, The Boys and Girls Club, and the Department of Human Services’ Youth and Family Services as well as us at the National Forum. Though potentially harder to manage, this holistic approach is inspiring to see. Each entity will bring its own unique perspective and resources towards the ultimate goal of access to higher education.
One area that I hope receives attention in the Highland Park LCAN model is the importance of personalizing the college application process. Because CPLP is integrated into the school community, it is able to provide every student with individual support on their process. This means individual college searches, college visits, personal statement review, meetings with students’ families, connecting students with resources on campus and a whole lot more. Ideally the Highland Park LCAN will consider how to utilize its resources to provide this type of hands-on model. As the planning process for the Highland Park LCAN moves forward, I am excited to see how it takes shape and hopefully add some input based on my experiences with CPLP.