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Briana Akani Examines Diversity on Campus

Bio PicAlthough at the University of Michigan diversity is espoused widely as one of the principles with which the administration is most concerned, the lived experiences of many students on campus tell otherwise. In my own case, I am one of very few Black students on campus. At an institution of over 40,000 students, I more often than not find myself as one of only a handful of Black students in my classes. I am able to see firsthand in my classes the racial disparity in enrollment, both in small seminars and large lecture halls. My racial demographic made up only 4.6 percent of the University’s enrollment in Fall 2014, a steady decline over the years from the 7.6 percent of Black students that were enrolled in 2005. While Asian students at 13.2 percent of the University population have not been underrepresented, other minority groups have been with Native American and Hawaiian students combined making up less than 0.5% of the University population in 2014, and Hispanic/Latino students comprising only around 5% (University of Michigan Office of the Registrar).

With these figures in mind, it becomes evident that, although the administration states the value of students’ diverse backgrounds, there is a disconnect between the concept of diversity and its implementation. Through my research on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at the National Forum, I have learned that increased diversity on college campuses, for white students in particular, allows for greater racial awareness, an enhanced critical consciousness, and a reduction in resistance to examining oppression (Closson and Henry, 2008). It is not too farfetched to believe that these effects are similar among students of minority groups. In the same vein, studies have found that racial diversity has positive effects on students’ complex and critical thinking, academic self-confidence, and social agency, as well as the importance that they place on taking action in society (Antonio et al., 2004; Laird, 2005). In this case, it seems that the lack of diversity on the University of Michigan’s campus may be depriving its students of critical skills and experiences that should be developed during the college years.

In light of the campus’s lack of racial diversity, President Schlissel has outlined an action plan for the future, which includes the development of campus-wide Strategic Plans for Diversity, diversity initiatives in hiring procedures, and most importantly, partnerships with K-12 schools that serve underrepresented populations (Iseler, 2015). Early recruitment is especially important because of the impact that it will have on students’ college preparedness and awareness of the options that the University has to offer to them. While these steps are definitely ones that need to be taken, I would additionally emphasize the importance of support groups to promote retention of those who may feel lost on a campus on which they feel marginalized. It is possible that with the added input of students in these new diversity initiatives, the University will be able to adjust its policies and become a place where all students can feel welcome and valued.

 

Sources:

Antonio, A. L., Chang, M. J., Hakuta, K., Kenny, D. A., Levin, S., & Milem, J. F. (2004). Effects of racial diversity on complex thinking in college students. Psychological Science, 15(8), 507-510. doi: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00710.x

Closson, R. B., & Henry, W. J. (2008). The social adjustment of undergraduate White students in the minority on an historically Black college campus. Journal of College Student Development, 49(6), 517-534. doi: 10.1353/csd.0.0036

Iseler, J. (2015, Feb. 16). President Schlissel kicks off campuswide effort to improve diversity. The University Record. Retrieved from https://record.umich.edu/articles/president-schlissel-kicks-campuswide-effort-improve-diversity

Laird, T. F. N. (2005). College students’ experiences with diversity and their effects on academic self-confidence, social agency, and disposition toward critical thinking. Research in Higher Education, 46(4), 365-387. doi: 10.1007/s11162-005-2966-1

University of Michigan Office of the Registrar. (2014). Ten year enrollment by ethnicity [Data file]. Retrieved from http://ro.umich.edu/enrollment/ethnicity.php

Options for Helping Low-Income Students in Higher Education

Jeremiah Thompson

By: Jeremiah Thompson

I recently had the opportunity to listen to a panel of experts discuss potential ideas to aide low-income students attending (or aspiring to attend) higher education institutions.

 Susan Dynarski, a professor with the Ford School of Public Policy and the School of Education, proposed simplifying the FAFSA. She cited studies showing that paperwork, or in this case an online application, can often be a deterrent for low-income families to receiving financial aid or realizing their eligibility for those programs.

Kevin Stange, a professor with the Ford School of Public Policy, talked about “choice architecture” and that sometimes consumers, or students, do not make the best choices when offered many options. He referenced Guttman Community College, part of the CUNY system in New York. Guttman has developed a plan that limits the choices of its students – there are a limited number of majors, the core courses are the same for everyone, students must be fulltime their first year, and there are a number of other designs that limit the ‘choices’ that students get to make. Guttman graduated its inaugural class and tentatively shows a higher graduation and retention rate than the CUNY system as a whole. The differences are not dramatic, but enough to warrant continued attention and study.

Ajita Talwalker Menon, Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education with the White House, discussed the Obama Administration’s efforts, particularly the recent Gainful Employment Rules. Gainful Employment is targeted at short vocational programs, many that are run by for-profit colleges. Gainful Employment, while meeting much resistance from the for-profit sector, would cut Title IV funding for schools whose students cannot pay back their loans at a certain threshold – i.e., if a student is using more than 12% of her disposable income, then that student has not reached ‘Gainful Employment’ standards. If enough students at one institution fail to meet these standards, then the Title IV funding is cut.

Libby Nelson, an Education Report with Vox Media, talked about the regressive nature of tax credits for higher education. She also argued that tax credits should be far more predictable and refundable. If families had a better idea of how much their credit might be, or if they could receive a refund sooner than in the current system, families could better plan for their educational expenses.

I found particularly interesting the idea of simplifying the FAFSA. I previously worked with many low-income families and can attest, anecdotally, that paperwork often is a barrier for these groups. I worked through the FAFSA with many families who found the form intimidating and were grateful to have someone aid them through that process. These same families often do not realize how much financial aid may potentially be available to them. Many students think that college is too expensive and out of reach – if it were easier to get information to families, they might be able to make more informed decisions and sooner.

That said, for students considering colleges with more selective admissions, many colleges (including the University of Michigan) require the much more onerous CSS Profile. This application asks for significantly more information than the FAFSA, and in my experience, this can also be a barrier, more so than the FAFSA.

Would colleges be willing to forego the CSS Profile or to simplify the form, for low-income families at a certain threshold? Unfortunately, our session did not allow for many questions, but I’m sure Professor Dynarski has some thoughts about the CSS Profile as well.

Kyle at the American Educational Research Association Conference

Kyle-SouthernLast weekend, I attended the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association in Chicago. As a first time AERA participant, I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed—as I expected—by the number of people who descended on the River North area of town to share and learn from the latest educational research. It was hard to tell whether it was more difficult to navigate criss-crossing the Chicago River or the crowd of 14,000 people.

My National Forum colleague, Esmeralda Hernandez, joined me for an early morning presentation on our work examining the influence of guidance counselors on the college-going aspirations of Latin@ students. Based on data from the High School Longitudinal Survey, we found that given the many job responsibilities of counselors, ranging from course and standardized test scheduling to behavioral health issues faced by students, college advising can often get pushed too far down the priority list. This finding holds especially true in schools where counselors manage case loads of 400 or even hundreds more students. Based on the analyses Esmeralda and I conducted, Latin@ high school students had odds 22% higher than those of their White peers of expecting to attend a four-year postsecondary institution. Further, talking with a counselor about college and making educational plans to pursue a college preparatory curriculum in high school significantly increased the odds Latin@ students expected to attend a four-year institution, compared to not expecting to pursue any college. Unfortunately, lack of access to effective counseling and lack of social capital in navigating the admissions and financial aid processes impedes many aspiring Latin@ students.

Guidance counselors are well positioned to serve as what Ricardo Stanton-Salazar has termed institutional empowerment agents. Rather than act as gatekeepers who determine who is and who is not meant for college, counselors who seek to empower students act against the self-perpetuating cycle of socioeconomic inequality in the United States. Schools that charge even one counselor with an exclusive focus on college advising may be better positioned to empower students to aspire to a college degree and prepare for success in and through college.

Apart from the chance to share research, I appreciated the opportunity to learn from some of the most respected higher education scholars. During a “fireside chat” on pursuing social justice through higher education research, a group of scholars at varying stages of their careers offered thoughts to a room largely filled with graduate students. Assistant Professor Michelle Espino of the University of Maryland spoke of the importance of making oneself vulnerable to teach, research, write, and advocate for change.

Walter Allen, Distinguished Professor at UCLA, spoke of ways his scholarship on the connections between race, identity, and access to essential resources—including education—has evolved over the trajectory of his career. In Dr. Allen’s words, “Educational access is the essential glue of our society.”

Professor Mitch Chang, also of UCLA, turned attention on the classroom by making the case for pedagogy that both disrupts long-held norms and imagines more inclusive learning environments and modes of learning.

Following Dr. Chang, Associate Professor Noah D. Drezner of Teachers College, Columbia University made the case that “we have to live the values we talk about in class in our admissions processes.” To make matters of access to higher education only theoretical neglects the real impact of exclusionary and marginalizing admissions practices that perpetuate cycles of privilege and disadvantage too long far too familiar in the field and society more broadly.

Despite the overwhelming nature of AERA, I came away with some new relationships and some stronger relationships previously forged. For the year ahead, however, I will continue to consider how to be more vulnerable in my work, how to bring greater imagination to my thoughts about teaching and learning, and how to push for practices that reflect the public good mission higher education must serve.

Note: To track the events and conversations around AERA, look to the #AERA15 feed on Twitter.

Daniel Morales: A Look at the Mental Health of Undocumented People in America

Dan Pic

On November 25th 2011, an 18-year-old high school student from Mission, Texas, Joaquin Luna Jr., took his own life. Joaquin was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents when he was a 6-month old infant. He had dreamed of becoming the first in his family to attend college, but after realizing that his immigration status would probably prevent him from being able to attend college, he gave up on life. His death sparked controversy and debate as well as a renewed effort by immigrants’ rights groups, community leaders, and experts in the fields of psychology to draw attention to the unique plight of the undocumented youth who call the United States of America home.

While the case of Joaquin is a tragic and extreme one, similar stories of students who were brought to the U.S. without authorization as children experiencing hopelessness and despair as a result of their status are surfacing in growing numbers across the country. There are today an estimated 2.1 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. These young people face a particularly untenable legal circumstance, for which there are well-documented complex mental and psychological consequences. As many experts have observed, these students go through particularly confusing and contradictory experiences related to their feelings of belonging and rejection as they enter critical transitions from childhood to adolescence and adulthood. These students have a constitutionally guaranteed right to K-12 but cannot legally work to support themselves, vote, receive federal financial aid, nor drive in most states. They also have to endure the constant fear of being deported to their countries of birth, countries that many of these young people no longer remember.

Teachers, other school officials and often their parents tell these students that if they work hard in school, they can go to college. But given the legal limitations associated with their status, these words of encouragement can become a painful mistruth. Undocumented students are often blindsided by the implications of their status once they are already close to completing high school. The result of these crushing realizations is often devastating. As their peers begin the process of moving through important rites of passage—taking their first jobs, getting their driver’s licenses, and applying to college—their inability to join them sets them on a path of discovery which exposes them to a painfully exhaustive list of the barriers to employment and higher education. In addition to what one expert called “the onset of multiple exclusions” their path of discovery often induces feelings of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and guilt.

Due to a general lack of access to comprehensive counseling and psychological service, these negative emotions are often internalized by these youngsters and later manifest themselves in various ways that impact their daily lives. Indeed many of the factors that have been found to negatively impact immigrant’ mental health include pre- and post-migration traumas, acculturative stress, anxiety related to job-insecurity and the strains of low-wage work and experiences and perceptions of discrimination. Among undocumented immigrants, their status creates an additional layer of stress related to a lack of access to vital resources and constant fear. Such fears often lead them not to seek out the few affordable resources that are available to them.

Studies have consistently shown that undocumented students struggle with disproportionately high rates of stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have also shown that undocumented youth tend to begin experiencing the symptoms and consequences of these issues at a young age. The bulk of the research in this field consistently finds that these youngsters are particularly vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes. Therefore, any effort to combat these poor outcomes would necessitate a process of providing undocumented immigrants living in the United States with broader access to comprehensive mental health information and services. It will also necessitate efforts by those who support these youngsters (their family, churches, community organizations and colleges and universities) to provide them access to spaces where they feel safe. The creation and expansion of safe spaces, resources and a commitment to achieving policy changes that address the root causes of the inequalities, injustices and prejudices these students face are all necessary.

Sources
Gonzales, R., C. Suárez-Orozco & M. Dedios-Sanguineti. No Place to Belong: Contextualizing Concepts of Mental Health Among Undocumented Immigrant Youth in the United States. July 12, 2013.
2. Fortuna, L., M. Porche. Clinical Issues and Challenges in Treating Undocumented Immigrants. Psychiatric Times. August 15, 2013.

Kyle’s Reflections on NASPA 2015: Institutionalizing Undocumented Student Support

Kyle-SouthernLast week, I had the opportunity to present alongside valued colleagues from the University of California Berkeley and Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) during the annual conference of NASPA – Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education. Our presentation, “Institutionalizing Support for Undocumented Student Success” provided national context for the educational imperative colleges and universities face to support all of their students, regardless of citizenship or residency status, with holistic support to achieve their full potential.

We presented three points to bear in mind as institutions work to meet their undocumented students’ needs:

  • Undocumented student access and support is a national issue addressed in local and individual ways

  • Student activism can spark campus movements, but student affairs professionals and faculty play critical roles institutionalizing commitment to student services

  • Tuition equity and financial aid eligibility are important first steps, but ongoing support empowers students to navigate the college experience

NEIU, a 100% commuter student campus on the Northwest side of Chicago, serves more than 10,000 students. More than half of NEIU’s students attend part-time, and the average student is 28 years old. The Undocumented Students Project has convened faculty and staff to oversee program activities and assess policies and processes affecting undocumented students. The Project has also developed a comprehensive Undocumented Student Resource Guide, Ally program, and website. To meet the needs of Chicagoland undocumented students, NEIU leverages both on-campus leadership and community-based partnerships.

UC Berkeley ranks among the most prestigious research institutions in the country. Although Berkeley is renowned for its history of on-campus student activism, the needs of undocumented students have gained the institution’s attention primarily in recent years. The Undocumented Student Program there, however, has quickly established itself as a model for holistic student services. The Program seeks to meet both the academic and overall well-being needs of students. To meet those needs, the Program engages faculty and staff campus-wide, along with partners beyond the campus. This engagement enables Berkeley to provide an experience that is more inclusive and supportive in order to empower students.

NEIU and UC Berkeley are institutions with different missions, meeting those missions in different ways. What unites them in this case is a common commitment to identifying and bringing to bear a comprehensive set of on- and off-campus resources to support students who are undocumented in a comprehensive manner that recognizes the right of everyone to learn and achieve. I hope presentation attendees came away with tangible steps they can take to deepen their own institutions’ commitments to their enrolled undocumented students. Doing so affirms the mission of higher education to empower students and graduates and the shared value in the field of meeting the particular needs of all students to fulfill their empowered potential.

Welcome to the National Forum!

Ilana Israel BioRecently a new team member joined the National Forum. Ilana Israel will be our new Admin! She is a native of Ann Arbor, MI. Ilana graduated from Elon University in NC with a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications. Her interests include working with non-profit organizations, furthering her education and advocating for social justice and equality. She enjoys traveling, photography, spending time with friends, following sports and hanging out with her two pets, Willie her horse and Rio her dog. Welcome to the team, Ilana, we all look forward to working with you!

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a National Webinar

The National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good has hosted four webinars through the uLEAD Network, each addressing a different aspect of postsecondary access and support for immigrant and undocumented students. These webinars are an important part of our outreach, education, and advocacy efforts: they allow a national audience to learn from our expert colleagues at no cost for the audience and minimal cost for us.

There are many ways to run a webinar, and the guide below should help you decide what options are right for your organization, your audience, and your budget.

Find your team

A webinar is a medium for education and communication, and the team you assemble will define what, how, and to whom you intend to communicate. Start thinking about who might fill these important roles.

  • Institutional partners: You can host a webinar on your own, but collaborating with one or more institutional partners has a number of benefits. Partners can help define the goals and subjects you will address, review content or promotional materials, identify possible presenters, and reach a wider audience. Our partners have included nonprofits (like the National Immigration Law Center), professional organizations (like the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators), and campus centers (like UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program).
  • Internal planning team: We rely on a core planning team of 3-4 people who meet on a weekly basis and communicate frequently by email between meetings. The core team takes on the major planning responsibilities, including communicating with institutional partners and presenters, managing technical requirements, and making sure the planning process stays on schedule. This is a big time commitment, so be as clear as possible about your needs and offer other ways for your colleagues to stay involved (for example, reviewing occasional draft materials or providing support on the day of the webinar).
  • Presenters: Your presenters are the heart of the webinar, and a clear sense of your subject, goals, and intended audience will be invaluable as you identify candidates. Our webinars have featured 2-3 presenters offering experience and subject matter expertise, as well as a moderator to frame the discussion and introduce each section. The professional roles and experiences of your presenters should reflect both the subject at hand and your intended audience (for example, our most recent webinar featured one presenter from a community college and one from a university). You should also pay attention to representation of race and gender, among other considerations, as you identify and invite potential presenters.

Content and format

Of course, the most important content consideration is your subject matter. This will drive the entire planning process, from inviting presenters to creating promotional materials to making technical decisions. Your subject matter (and the subtopics to be addressed by each presenter) should guide your decisions on each of the following matters.

  • Presentation format: Our webinars last about 90 minutes, and we try to mix up the format so that our audience does not just hear an uninterrupted lecture. We may have a brief Q&A between presenters or feature a student interview. Below you’ll find the structure of our last two webinars. One of the outlines below may work for you (we used these for our last two webinars), or you may find another format that is a better fit.

Sample webinar formats
Moderator-Presenter-Q&A-Presenter-Q&A-Presenter-Q&A-Moderator
Moderator-Presenter-Interview-Presenter-Q&A-Moderator

  • Audience interaction: We include a chat box that audience members can use to ask questions and discuss the topics at hand. We answer some questions directly in the chat box (for example, a request for the link to a presenter’s organization). We address more complex questions during the Q&A period. Using a chat box (as opposed to a question submission box, which many webinar platforms offer as an option) allows audience members to interact with each other in real time. Of course, this means you cannot control the information shared, but the collective expertise of your audience is a powerful resource. At our most recent webinar, participants discussed state-specific policy issues, with some even sharing email addresses to start a working group in their home region. Depending on your goals and the size of your audience, an interactive element may or may not make sense, but it has worked very well for us.
  • Q&A: We reserve a significant portion of the webinar for questions. Audience members can submit questions throughout the presentations (as mentioned above, we prefer a chat box, but there are other options). Our behind-the-scenes team sorts through and pulls out any questions that would be a good fit for a Q&A—typically those that are open-ended, more complex, or guided by professional judgment. We choose a single presenter to answer each question; group answers tend to be messier since our presenters are not sitting in the same room. We use private chat boxes to send a preview of the question to both the moderator (Here’s the next question to ask [name of presenter]: ______) and the presenter (The next question will be for you: ______).
  • Presenter slides: Our presenters prepare their own slides and send them to us approximately two weeks before the webinar. We ask for slides in simple black and white with no formatting other than images. We then apply a consistent template to all slides (which is much less time-consuming with minimally formatted slides). We usually add a slide or two for the moderator’s overview of the subject, as well as transition slides introducing each new section of the webinar and a closing slide with a link to our post-survey.

Each section of the presentations should connect to the overarching subject in a natural way—that is, audience members should understand why each topic is being discussed in the context of this webinar. However, keep in mind that your presenters have expertise and experience that you may not have considered when you started planning. Stay open to changes and adjustments throughout the planning process.

Technical considerations

As you make technical decisions, you will likely be guided by three main factors: your goals, your budget, and the technical expertise available to you. The first factor will shape how you use the available technology, while the second and third factors will provide constraints to direct you toward the appropriate technical options for your organization.

  • Platform: We currently use Adobe Connect (and have also used GoToWebinar), but plenty of other platforms are available. Keep in mind that many platforms limit the audience size, or charge more for larger audiences. Important questions include: How many audience members do you expect? What is your budget? How user-friendly are the various options, and how comfortable are you with new technology? Finally, does your organization already have a license for one platform? Thanks to the UM School of Education’s license, we have been able to use Adobe Connect for free. If you have a communications or IT office, check to see if you have similar options (in which case you will likely have formal or informal IT support, another major advantage). Your choice of platform will also be guided by the desired format for your webinar.
  • Technical requirements: Our webinars rely on live audio and a slideshow, which has worked well for us in the past. (Other webinars use live video, which you may prefer.) We ask our moderator and presenters to use a microphone headset to eliminate echo and reduce background noise. We also ask presenters to use an Ethernet cord rather than a wireless internet connection to ensure that the presentations are smooth and uninterrupted. (Depending on the platform you choose, your presenters may be able to call in, in which case they should use a landline rather than a cell phone.)
  • “Rehearsals”: A few weeks before the webinar, we schedule online meetings with each presenter and our moderator to introduce them to the webinar platform, reiterate the technical requirements, discuss the structure of the webinar, and answer any questions. About a week before, we have a “tech rehearsal” with all of our presenters and moderator during which each presenter quickly runs through their slides. This allows us to identify technical problems, and it allows presenters to see gaps or areas of overlap in the presentations. Presenters may want to revise their slides as a result.
  • Software installation: If your webinar platform requires special software, make sure to tell presenters and registrants as early as possible. Adobe Connect only requires Flash Player, but some other platforms require specialty software or registration.
  • Recording: You will reach a wider audience and extend the webinar’s lifetime if you make a recording available. People who were interested but could not attend will be able to benefit from your information, and audience members will be able to pass the word along to colleagues. Recording capabilities should be a consideration as you choose a webinar platform.

Accessibility

You want to reach your intended audience, and it’s important to consider accessibility so that the audience can fully benefit from your presenters’ knowledge and experience. Make sure to be clear in your promotional materials and/or registration form that these options are available.

  • Captioning: Adobe Connect offers the option of a “pod” where captions appear during the webinar, and many other platforms have a similar capability. We have used Aberdeen Broadcast Services for live captioning, and there are many other professional captioning services you can consider. This can be a significant expense, but very much worth it. Plan ahead so you can include captioning in your event budget, and allow time to work out technical questions with the captioning provider.
  • Plain text: We send promotional emails with a poster-style image in the message describing the event—it’s eye-catching and allows for visual consistency with our website and presentation template. However, we also include a plain text transcription below the image with the same description as the “poster.” This is helpful for visually impaired recipients who use a screen reader (screen reader programs translate text to speech but cannot translate an image).
  • Advance copies of presentation materials: Offer advance copies of the presentation so audience members can get large print or Braille transcriptions made. You can provide registrants with an email address to contact or you can include a question about advance copies on your registration form.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and you should consider additional practices such as those recommended in the Association of Research Libraries’ Web Accessibility Toolkit. You should also consult with any organizations or offices available to you that may have more information or suggestions. We continue to learn new ways we can make our own webinars more accessible.

Planning timeline

This timeline is not comprehensive, and yours may vary. However, it should give you a rough sense of the important steps along the way, as well as the pacing of the planning process.

  • 3 months ahead of time: Decide the subject of the webinar; identify the planning team; confirm the webinar proposal with institutional partners; choose a date; make a list of people who could serve as presenter or moderator.
  • 2 months: Confirm presenters and moderator; send a timeline including date to turn in slides; schedule a “tech rehearsal” for the week before the webinar; create contact list for email publicity blast; draft promotional materials, including registration form and pre- and post-surveys (we use Google Forms for all three).
  • 1 month: Open registration and send email announcement to all subscribers/contacts (we link to an anonymous pre-survey with our registration page); draft moderator script; confirm captioning service; schedule a call with your moderator and each presenter to introduce the webinar platform.
  • 1-3 weeks: Contact institutional allies who can publicize the webinar in social media or email newsletters; schedule meeting with captioning service to run through technical requirements; collect presenter slides; format presentation; send one or more reminder emails publicizing the webinar.
  • <1 week: Hold tech rehearsal; give presenters a chance to edit their slides; recruit support crew for day-of-webinar command center (see below); send login information to registrants.
  • After the webinar: Remind registrants to complete post-survey; post recording and follow-up materials (copy of presentation slides, FAQ, resource guide, etc.); send institutional partners summary including registrant data, size of audience, and pre- and post-survey data analysis.

During the webinar

On the day of the webinar, our planning team and support crew set up in a “command center,” which should be a quiet area with reliable internet access and space for several computer users (a conference room works well). Depending on your platform, format, and technical needs, your support crew may vary, but we have someone in each of the following roles.

  • Audio control: Mutes and unmutes audio so only the current presenter’s mic is live. This is not strictly necessary if all presenters have headsets, but it minimizes the risk of background noise or interference. (For simplicity’s sake we typically keep the moderator’s mic live throughout the Q&A and mute/unmute presenters as questions are addressed to them.) Should be connected by Ethernet, not wireless. Ideally someone from the core planning team.
  • Moderator contact: Talks to the moderator on a behind-the-scenes chat box. Sends notifications when they will be speaking soon (for instance, as the end of a presenter’s section is approaching). Sends questions for the moderator to ask during the Q&A section and identifies which presenter the question should be addressed to. Ideally someone from the core planning team.
  • Presenter contact(s): Talks to one or more presenters on a behind-the-scenes chat box. Sends notifications when their section is approaching and when their mic is live. Sends a warning when their time is running out. Notifies presenter(s) when the moderator is going to ask them a question during the Q&A section. Ideally someone from the core planning team.
  • Chat box monitor(s): Watches the audience chat box. Answers straightforward questions directly. Identifies possible questions for the Q&A section. Should be knowledgeable about the subject area.
  • Timekeeper: Watches the detailed webinar schedule (which lists starting and stopping times for each section). Announces when presenters are nearing the end of their time so their contact person can get in touch. Helps decide when to end Q&A.
  • Runner: Stands by in case anything is needed—a printout, another Ethernet cable, whatever it may be. Probably won’t end up doing much, but it is good practice to have someone available (and good for your peace of mind).
  • Live listener: Logs on and listens to the webinar from outside the command center to have the “audience perspective.” Alerts you if there are any issues such as audio quality. Like the runner, probably won’t end up doing much.
  • Live-tweeter: Live-tweets.

Webinar blog post 2

Good luck!

A webinar can be a great (and cost-effective) way to reach a national audience and collaborate with partners around the country or across the world. With sufficient planning, good communication, and a clear sense of purpose, this can be an important addition to the services and educational tools you already provide. Make the most of it, and good luck!

Tim’s Reflection on Holistic Support for Undocumented Students Webinar

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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.

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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.

 

Kamaria’s Reflections on Minority Serving Institution Symposium

IMG_3912Seeing 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.

A New Partnership in Diversity

“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.

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