ASC to receive $100,000 Walmart Minority Student Success Award

(03-29-2010)

Adams State College is launching an Emerging Scholars program that will expand services and support for first-generation college students, according to Adams State Provost Michael Mumper. Program start-up will be funded by a $100,000 Walmart Minority Student Success Award, recently granted by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).

"This really is good news," Mumper said. "I think the new Emerging Scholars program we proposed will make a big difference to our first generation students." He noted Adams State was one of 15 schools whose proposals were funded, out of 85 applicants. The $100,000 grant is made possible by a $4.2 million grant to IHEP from the Walmart Foundation.

The program's goal is to bring the retention and graduation rates of first-generation students up to that of their non-first-generation peers. In fall 2008, 37 percent of Adams State's undergraduates were first generation; 36 percent of that group was Hispanic. Hispanics comprise between 25-28 percent of non-first-generation students.

Karen Lemke, director of ASC STAY program

"The Emerging Scholars program will create an academic and social support system that includes faculty mentoring, as well as several classroom-based elements," said Adams State STAY (Structured Transitional Academic Year) Coordinater Karen Lemke, who took the lead on developing the grant proposal. Brian Rauscher, director of Student Support Services, and Karla Hardesty, assessment coordinator, also participated in grant development.

Building academic engagement

Beginning in fall 2010, each year 50 first-year, first-generation students will participate in an Emerging Scholars Learning Community. To build engagement in academic and campus life, group members will enroll in a common section of English, math, sociology, psychology, and "College Connections" freshman seminar. About one-quarter of each year's freshman class will have the opportunity to participate.

"A change in the retention rate of these 50 students will have a noticeable impact on the institution's enrollment over time," Lemke said.

Emerging Scholars also includes a faculty development component to expand faculty skills in understanding and teaching their first-generation students. The program will work seamlessly with Adam State's FIGs (First-year Interest Groups) and Summer Scholars bridge program, both of which are aimed at improving retention.

Adams State's five-person Faculty Implementation Team for the Emerging Scholars program includes Mumper and Lemke, in addition to Eva Brown, instructor of sociology, Dr. Leslie Alvarez, assistant professor of psychology, and Dr. Stephen Aldrich, associate professor of mathematics. Additional implementation team members include Diego Trujillo, tutoring and testing coordinator; Dr. Sarah Owens, assistant professor of English, and Aaron Miltenberger, coordinator of student activities.

Members of the implementation team will attend the annual IHEP Summer Academy, where they'll be joined by representatives from 14 other minority serving institutions to establish action plans to increase capacity, share ideas to better serve first-generation college students, and develop partnerships with other colleges and universities.

"This grant will be an integral part of work to build on Adams State's demonstrated successes in enrolling, retaining, and graduating first-generation college students," said Adams State President David Svaldi.

Adams State is a federally recognized Hispanic Serving Institution, with an undergraduate student body that is more than 29 percent Hispanic. A total of 38 percent of Adams State undergraduates are non-white. The degree completion rate for Hispanic and other minority students at Adams State is 90% the rate of majority students. A 2007 study by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) found Adams State had the third highest Hispanic graduation rate of all 435 AASCU member institutions.

Influence of minority-serving institutions

Approximately 41 percent of students enrolled at minority-serving institutions (MSIs) are first-generation, compared to 30 percent of students at Predominantly White Institutions. The overrepresentation of first-generation students at MSIs makes them ideal to help improve retention and persistence gaps for this student population. Thus, the grant targeted Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Predominantly Black Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. It entailed a highly competitive application process to strengthen efforts to support first-generation students.

"The institutions in our 2010 Minority Student Success cohort broaden and deepen the pool of MSIs committed to ensuring first-generation student success both at their campuses and beyond," said Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) President Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D. "We are pleased to be working with them on programs that are sure to serve as models to all of higher education."

The Walmart Foundation grants support the existing work of MSIs to strengthen first-generation student success programs, with a special focus on classroom practices and the role faculty play in their students' academic success.

"At Walmart, we understand that education is critical to the lives and well-being of all Americans. We're proud to support giving that enables the success of first-generation college students," said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation.

The other 2010 winners include Bloomfield College (N.J.), Bowie State University (Md.), Coppin State University (Md.), Delaware State University (Del.), El Camino College (Calif,), Fort Belknap College (Mont.), Hampton University (Va.), Leech Lake Tribal College (Minn.), New Jersey City University (N.J.), United Tribes Technical College (N.D.), University of Houston- Downtown (Texas), University of New Mexico (N.M.), Valencia Community College (Fla.), and Winston-Salem State University (N.C.).

For more information about the initiative and grantees, visit the IHEP Web site.

By Julie Waechter