AASCU Innovations Exchange
Your Source for innovation in Public Higher Education

Underrepresented Students

Advocates for College Education Success (ACES): A Program for Reentry Students San Francisco State University Project Description: The intent of this program is to improve the academic performance and retention of formerly incarcerated students enrolled at San Francisco (SF) State, through a series of general education courses designed to improve study habits and critical thinking skills. Stakeholders are: the Associated Students’ Project Rebound, a program founded in 1967 by a late SF State Sociology Professor to help formerly incarcerated individuals gain formal admittance to the University and support them through the transitional reentry and educational process, the City’s District Attorney’s Office, and numerous nonprofits that provide services to formerly incarcerated individuals. This program is housed in the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement.  Read more >>

Compass 2 Campus, Western Washington University Youth Mentoring Initiative Western Washington University Project Description: Compass 2 Campus (C2C), launched in Fall 2009, provides university students the opportunity for service learning in Whatcom and Skagit County Title I schools, serving diverse, underrepresented, low income students beginning in 5th grade, encouraging them to graduate from high school and to consider enrollment in higher education. The program provides opportunities for youth to be mentored by university students who are trained in mentorship through intentional university coursework. Participating fifth graders are provided an introductory tour of the campus where university classrooms and offices are opened to welcome them and encourage future goals of higher education. The program is funded by donations from private and corporate sponsors, as well as grants.C2C is the second in the replication program implementation of “Creating the Future,” a concept and curriculum developed to encourage institutions of higher education to proactively and collaboratively improve the pipeline from K-12 through post-secondary education. (See “Potential for Replication” below for more information.) Read more >>

Eastern Connecticut State University/Quinebaug Valley Community College Dual Enrollment Program Eastern Connecticut State University Project Description: Partnering with Hartford Public High School (HPHS) and Quinebaug Valley Community College (QVCC), Eastern co-enrolls each fall a cohort of 10 HPHS graduates who have the determination and potential to succeed, but who had not planned to attend college due to extremely challenging economic and family circumstances. Students complete course work at QVCC in their first semester while taking one course at Eastern, living in Eastern's residence halls, and fully participating in campus activities. After the first semester most become full-time Eastern students. Advising, tutoring, counseling and mentoring services are provided, and all participants are assigned to on-campus jobs.   Read more >>

Listening to Students California State University, Sacramento Project Description: Listening to Students is a project that brings the perspectives of students directly to those who serve them in education, using the power of student voices to expand minds, touch hearts, and contribute in profound, meaningful ways to inclusivity, student success, and institutional transformation in the name of diversity.  This work is meant to inform and inspire those in higher education and foster greater awareness and advocacy for those most at risk and in need in academia.  The project is based on a very simple premise:  One of the best ways to learn about the different types of students that you teach or work with is to just ask.  Accordingly, students were invited to take a survey asking them to share their thoughts and feelings regarding their education at the institution.  Over 800 student responses were returned at the community college where this project first commenced (Sierra College in Rocklin, California, from 2010 to 2013), and over 1,500 student surveys were returned at the university where this project was undertaken a year later (California State University, Sacramento, from 2014 to 2017).  The students wrote about such things as their trials and tribulations in, hopes and aspirations for, and opinions and beliefs about getting their education.  The students’ responses were then categorized into sections that include:  New, Transfer, and Reentry Students; Students of All Ages; Students with Physical Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, and Psychological Disabilities; Students from Around the World, Multilingual Students, and Students of Different Cultural Backgrounds; Students of Color and Minority Underrepresented Students; and Students Who Are Athletes, Parents, Veterans, LGBTIQQ, First Generation College Students, Students of Varying Financial Means, Dreamer Students, and more.  Each of these sections contains:  (1) the stated perspectives of that type of student (from the survey responses), (2) information regarding that type of student group, (3) suggestions for faculty and staff to better work with or teach that type of student, and (4) a list of applicable campus programs and services for that student group.  At both institutions, one section per week was shared with the campus:  At the first institution where this work was done, the sections were e-mailed out directly to all faculty and staff over one semester.  At the second institution, the sections were posted weekly to the university website and announced each week in the employee campus news bulletin e-mailed out over three semesters.  The project was coordinated by one person, with support from campus leaders, as well as a tech team to administer an online survey and to post the sections to the university website given to the work.  No funding was needed.  This work is likely the first of its kind ever done at an institution of higher education in the nation.  This is something that I hope to see change—and something that should change.  The more faculty and staff know about the students they serve, the better they can do their jobs.  Who best to teach us what they need in education than the students themselves?  Student voices can reach us and teach us in ways unlike any other, and they deserve to be heard far more in their higher education.    This work can be done at any institution of higher education, in a number of different ways and to any extent, great or small, and by just about any person(s), ranging from instructors at any level to staff in a host of campus organizations, programs, and services.  Given that the project has been done at both the two-year college and four-year university level, the work is entirely scalable to colleges and universities across the country. Read more >>

WISE GEMS: Women In Science Empowering Girls Engaged in Math and Science University of West Alabama Project Description: Women In Sciences Empowering Girls Engaged in Mathematics and Sciences (WISE GEMS) is an organization led by female faculty members in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM), conceived and initiated by Dr. Venkat Sharma, Dean of the College. This project recruits undergraduate NSM student volunteers to give presentations and conduct hands-on learning activities about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) topics at local K-12 schools. The project goals are: 1) to engage local girls and boys in STEM activities; 2) to prompt UWA students and faculty to get involved in the local community; and 3) for NSM students to learn how to teach fundamental STEM concepts.Obstacle Addressed: Rural west Alabama's Sumter County schools are characterized by a high percentage of students on the free lunch program, low expenditure per student, and low test scores. What's more, 98% of students attending schools in the UWA service area are predominantly minority living below the poverty level. The majority of these students progressing to higher education is often first generation college students and is frequently unprepared academically and socially. The myriad of tasks and course work quickly become a huge obstacle to higher education. The major problem for our area is twofold: low numbers of minority students – especially females – entering STEM professions and inadequate STEM preparation provided to elementary and secondary students in our area. These two problems, shared by much of the nation, are not independent of each other. By providing activities that motivate young learners to embrace science and mathematics from an early age, students will be more likely to pursue higher education and careers in these areas. To encourage UWA students majoring in STEM subjects to graduate and enter STEM careers, WISE GEMS recruits undergraduate NSM student leaders to give presentations and conduct hands-on participatory activities on STEM topics at local schools. The students effectively teach and learn from each other.Theory of Action: WISE GEMS bases its outreach activities on the theory of early intervention. By offering hands-on and discovery enrichment activities to children of young age, their fears and resistance of science and mathematics become less problematic for student and teacher. Simultaneously, putting college students in environments that strengthen their teaching experiences helps them understand more effective ways of approaching learners while giving them a sense of security in their own knowledge.History of Development: The WISE GEMS project began when Dr. Venkat Sharma, Dean of Natural Science and Mathematics, became dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in the Fall of 2009. He discussed with the female faculty members of NSM his aim of getting more girls interested in science and mathematics. The idea of organizing WISE GEMS was born merging the concept of teaching experience for UWA science and mathematics majors with the need to inspire elementary and middle school students at an early age. Dr. Heather McDonald was appointed chair of the group and submitted a Service Learning grant to UWA that would become the first source of funding for the project, receiving $1,000 for outreach activities and support. All funding for WISE GEMS has been through grant support.  Read more >>