CSUDH’s Title V Programs Recognized as Trendsetting Among Hispanic-Serving Institutions
California State University, Dominguez Hills was recognized as one of 12 trendsetting Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in a report featured in the June issue of Excelencia in Education. The university’s Latinas Juntas mentoring program, the Title V Gateways Math-Science Project, and the Enhancing Critical Literacy Project (ECLP) were recognized among institutional practices that apply to several areas including community outreach, academic support, and faculty engagement. Title V is a federal grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Education that helps institutions of higher education enhance and expand their capacity to serve Hispanic and low-income students.
Latinas Juntas is a daylong program designed to provide support and mentoring to Latina students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. Dr. Monica Rosas-Baines, a psychologist in the CSUDH Student Development office, describes the unique stumbling blocks to academic and personal success that Latina students face.
“Our Latina clients reported similar cultural pressures and obstacles that often interfere with educational success,” she says. “These include family and gender role conflicts, lack of role models, isolation on campus, and personal insecurities.”
Rosas-Baines and her colleague, psychologist Dr. Denna Sanchez, designed Latinas Juntas to include the participation of Latina faculty and staff who serve as role models, encouraging students to reach educational and career goals with discussions and activities. Departments all over campus have lent their support to the Latinas Juntas event, which is free of charge to students, including the Women’s Center, the Latino Faculty & Staff Association, Associated Students, Inc., the Multicultural Center and Outreach and Information Services. Representatives from the local business community, including Starbucks, Target, Ikea, and Chivas USA, have also donated their time and support.
“Programs like these provide Latina students the opportunity to meet Latina professionals with advanced degrees who know firsthand what it’s like to pursue their educational goals,” Rosas-Baines says.
Latinas Juntas, which is in its fifth year, was inspired by Student Development’s Nosotras, a weekly support group aimed at Latina students, which was established in 2002. Last year, a coed program, “Pizza, Profs, and Plática,” was implemented, giving male and female students the opportunity to meet with Latina/o faculty, with lunch provided.
“We recognize that our male Latino students also need and deserve supportive programs,” says Rosas-Baines. “This program used a fun “speed dating” format where each student went through a rotation, allowing them to meet individually with all faculty members in a short amount of time, providing them with the opportunity to meet [our] Latino/a professors and learn about their work in a relaxed and informal setting.”
Rosas-Baines looks forward to the next Latinas Juntas event on Nov. 7th, as well as next year’s “Pizza, Profs & Plática,” which is scheduled for April 16, 2009.
“These programs demonstrate to our Latina/o students that there is a community of faculty and staff who are eager to offer support, mentorship, and guidance in order to foster personal growth and success,” she says.
Academic support is also part of the university’s efforts to help Latina/o students to achieve. David Nishioka, director of the Title V Gateways Math-Science Project, says that one of the greatest challenges facing HSIs is “overcoming the wide disparity in math-science preparedness among entering first-year students. Some students come fully prepared to enter college level math and science courses, but a much greater number enter college with inadequate math skills, and must correct that deficiency by taking up to two semesters of developmental math just to enter general education math and science courses.”
Gateways, which is in the fourth year of a five-year grant, is a partnership with Cerritos College designed to better serve and retain Latina/o students in math and science by providing more math and science tutors in the Center for Learning and Academic Support Services (CLASS), producing workshops for students and faculty development, and expanding computer-assisted instruction.
“We [also] face the challenge of recruiting students into the math, science, and technology majors, preparing them to enter careers in these fields,” says Nishioka, “and placing them in graduate or professional schools and/or careers in these fields.”
The Enhancing Critical Literacy Project (ECLP) was established in 2002, to focus on faculty and curriculum development in the hopes of improving students’ writing abilities.
Caron Mellblom-Nishioka, professor of teacher education and special education, served as activity director for ECLP, a Title V program which ended last year. She says that the issue of substandard writing and reading skills is not specific to any one particular group in the student population at Dominguez Hills.
“English as a second language presents issues for many non-native speakers of English,” she states. “The grammatical rules and structures differ from one language to another and this adds to difficulty with oral and written fluency.”
“Research indicates that regardless of ethnic background, all students benefit from re-writing based on informed and helpful feedback,” says Linda Pomerantz-Zhang, emerita professor of history and former director, ECLP. “More than 100 faculty members were trained through ECLP to incorporate exercises to help strengthen students' reading skills, develop good writing assignments, and give students appropriate feedback on their drafts.”
Mellblom-Nishioka, who is also the director of CLASS, says that the Dominguez Hills faculty who attended workshops funded by ECLP learned how to redesign their courses in order to reinforce reading, writing, and critical thinking skills for their students. She cites other efforts of the university to service its Latina/o population.
“The campus is responsive to the needs of our community and ongoing efforts are made to determine those needs and develop programs to meet them,” she says. “This is evident in the development of degree programs such as criminal justice and the master’s in social work, to the many off-campus cohorts that are offered to teacher interns in our surrounding school districts.”
Although the university received kudos for initiatives targeting Latino and Hispanic populations, its commitment extends to all groups in its service area, which includes the South Bay and South Los Angeles, says Mellblom-Nishioka.
“California State University, Dominguez Hills strives to fill the educational needs of a growing Hispanic population by providing highly qualified instruction and excellent support services aimed at increasing student success in all majors, [as well as] fulfilling the needs for a student body of unprecedented diversity.”
For more information, visit these sites:
Gateways Math-Science Project
- Joanie Harmon