Shared Grounds: Harvesting an Appreciation of Diversity at UAA

Submitted by E. Andre Thorn, Ph.D., Multicultural Center Director ~

First of all, I want to thank Whitney Brown and Samantha Holtshouser for their guidance, leadership in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for having this conversation. I view this as an initial conversation that will lead to on-going conversations as we increase the number of stakeholders in the exciting work we know as diversity and student success at UAA.HarvestingDiversity1

It should be noted that this discussion is relevant and consistent with many of our stated Student Affairs Vison, Values and Core Themes including:

  • Embracing effective and inclusive uses of technology to ensure access, simplification of processes, and enhanced services for students and staff
  • Accountability: Establishing and completing goals, measuring outcomes, and serving as a model of responsibility for our community.
  • Respect: Being open to other people’s values by listening, caring, and interacting with everyone in an equitable, open, and honest manner.
  • Integrity: Accountable for decisions and actions, which are transparent, honest, and consistent
  • Commitment: Demonstrated by a responsive approach to student success, dedicated service, and hard work
  • Compassion: Provide a welcoming, empathetic environment, kindness, concern, and encouragement to all members of our community
  • Inclusion: Involve, appreciate, and respect people with a wide range of differences and similarities
  • Student Learning & Success: Promote scholarship, engagement, and leadership; foster a sense of belonging; and recognize the achievements of our diverse and multicultural student body.
  • Student Centeredness: Develop and deliver collaborative programs and services to meet needs and interests identified by UAA’s diverse and multicultural student body, which improve access, retention, engagement, persistence and completion.

Specific data points were presented to participants that highlighted the UAA 6-year graduation rate, disaggregated by race and ethnicity. This illuminated some “gaps” in student success that sparked some discussion. Also, 2nd year retention data (disaggregated by race and ethnicity, of course) was presented for a multi-year viewpoint which also revealed some dramatic differences over time.

As we discussed possible causes and barriers to success of all students, we concluded by harvesting the following suggestions were harvested from the group. I do hope to continue the interest and dialogue as we plan a new course for “fixing what is broken” with respect to diverse student access, retention and success at UAA. Please join me in discussing the possibilities.HarvestingDiversity2

  • New admissions standards and meaningful pathways for entry
  • Work with the State of Alaska to create more scholarship opportunities
  • Require financial literacy and payment planning
  • Improved outreach to community/schools to improve students’ preparedness and preparation for success
  • Streamline reporting structures with faculty
  • Keeping a student perspective: understanding what our students live through and challenge/empower them
  • Faculty and Student Affairs isolation and lack of communication
  • Rethink how we define success and who is responsible for retaining and graduating students
  • Leverage grant writing opportunities
  • Have a climate survey on sexual misconduct and create a campus free of sexual assault
  • Centralizing Services: Everyone owns all student success
  • Earlier college and career advising: ASD, UAA and Government
  • Involving families
  • Student Success is everyone’s business at UAA
  • Waive the orientation fee: Cover it with student fees or pursue other avenues to cover payment
  • Have mandatory first-year experience class for all students
  • Include mandatory financial advising within first year student contact: include mandatory advising and orientation
  • Collaboration up, down and lateral
  • Collaborations to build earlier foundations
  • Involve families in the process
  • Every student have a faculty, staff and peer mentor connection when they start UAA: MAP-works or Technology
  • Staff Development; Diversity in AK context; attend student diversity eventsHarvestingDiversity3
  • Exposure can change perceptions-Powerful
  • Hear their stories
  • Say no to barriers-break down silos…Support one another & their efforts
  • Clear career pathways through degree to show value of degree-community, CSC, Colleges
  • UAA financial aid programs that support diversity and reward achievement
  • Recognize value of education starts at home, involve parents, siblings, you, old, employers, everyone
  • Work with the school districts on better preparing students
  • More tutoring resources at the university
  • Affordable prep options for classes
  • As an open enrollment institution, offer greater preparatory support for prep classes, greater financial aid opportunities for prep classes, etc.
  • Mandatory financial aid counseling for first time, degree-seekers by entry
  • Diverse program staff
  • Outreach
  • Increase programs and strengthen programs in the high school…the high school graduations rates reflect the college
  • First year live-on requirement
  • Mandatory advising every semester
  • Create a one-stop shop on campus for student services
  • All UAA employees should be mentors
  • Mandatory financial literacy programs for entering students
2 comments on “Shared Grounds: Harvesting an Appreciation of Diversity at UAA
  1. This was a great conversation! I am interested in talking more about how we can provide or better raise awareness about staff development opportunities to better understand the meaning of diversity in the Alaska context. I think this would be especially helpful for our Alaska transplants.

  2. Katie Alley says:

    Thank you, Andre, for leading a time of interesting discussion and learning.