How 2 community colleges make equity transformative

We have to ensure colleges are student-ready, however they come to us,' President Yves Salomon-FernÁ¡ndez says

Every student at Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts has access to a community volunteer who serves as a mentor for conversations and check-ins.

That’s just one aspect of the wraparound services the college offers as its student body becomes more and more diverse, President Yves Salomon-FernÁ¡ndez says.

“We have to ensure colleges are student-ready, however they come to us,” says Salomon-FernÁ¡ndez. who was recently awarded an AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship. “We’ve disavowed the old idea of expecting students to be college-ready.”

By 2045, the U.S. is expected to become a majority-minority country, and no single race will hold the majority by 2060, she says.

More from UB: Mentoring anchors 6 community college equity goals

The college’s Mountain Scholars program provides scholarships for students to take a full course-load, and is available to Black, Latinx, American Indian, Pacific Islander and multiracial students.

Mountain Scholars work with specialized advisors and participate in specialized orientation programs geared toward student success.

They also take a first-year seminar that covers connection and community; developing college success strategies; becoming self-directed learners; exploring a field of study, and developing an academic plan and mapping a pathway to completion.

Greenfield administrators have also beefed up on-campus “PR campaigns” that include students touting the effectiveness of the academic counseling they’ve received. These efforts also aim to build students confidence in their ability to succeed in college, Salomon-FernÁ¡ndez says.

“A lot of it has been around empowering the students and helping them see the social capital they do have, many coime up with little ozcial scpatial, but they come with something, how change frame to say you’ve obrcomce a lot to get here, and we know you can excel …

Affinity groups

Several affinity groups, including one for employees of color, operate at Greenfield Community College to support the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

More from UB: How 6 teacher prep programs will infuse equity

The college lso is a member of the Racial Equity and Justice Institute, a multi-state consortium that brings together administrators, faculty members and researchers. At Greenfield, there is an ALANA caucus for staff members of color and a white caucus. The two groups meet regularly to promote racial equity and positive student outcomes.

“It’s an important space for people to feel like they can share without being judged, such as if you’re working on being a better ally,” Salomon-FernÁ¡ndez says. “It’s also for people of color to say this is how we can best be supported.”

‘Conversations about change and transformation’

Pittsburgh Technical College in Pennsylvania is on the cusp of doing some real transformational work as it strives to build more inclusive communities, says President Alicia B. Harvey-Smith, also a recipient of the AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship.

The college has just launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office, and hired a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

Harvey-Smith also launched a multi-disciplinary campus-wide task force to develop new initiatives geared toward equity and diversity.

“We are very close-knit community and that has given an ability to have conversations about change and transformation,” Harvey-Smith says. “We look at all that’s going on around us and in the world, and we need to prepare our students to operate at a high level in a workforce, that’s going to be more and more diverse.”

More from UBGen Z leery of 4-year degree paths, surveys show

The new initiatives allow members of campus to more readily discuss sometimes difficult topics such as cultural competency and micro-aggression. This, in turn, creates an institutional climate that’s open to change and transformation, she says.

Her goal is for these attitudes to filter into teaching and learning, Harvey-Smith adds.

“Our students must be able to work and innovate in teams that are diverse, and appreciate the opportunities that are gained when learning from others who they perceive as different from themselves,” she says.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

Most Popular