Four people sitting on a stage in a discussion

Creating Academic Success for Minority Students a Key Point of 2017 ‘Minority Serving Institution’ Convening Hosted at Richland College

Four people sitting on a stage in a discussion

Mike Flores, Ph.D., president of Palo Alto College (far right), hosts a panel on minority student success at the 2017 Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Convening at Richland College Oct. 21. Also on the panel were (left to right) Naomi Story, Ph.D., executive director of the National Asian Pacific Islander Council; Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., president of Huston-Tillotson University; and Vincent Solis, Ph.D., senior vice president for academic and student affairs at Laredo Community College. Photo by Keenan Cobb.

Approximately 200 higher education administrators from 19 states, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands attended the 2017 Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Convening, “Minority Student Success: Using Data to Effect Change,” held Oct. 20-21 at Richland College.

Hosted by Richland College in collaboration with the Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI) program, this conference provided attendees a chance to discuss effective research, initiatives and programs that impact the academic success of students at minority-serving institutions.

While a previous conference focused on best practices and innovation, this year’s MSI Convening focused on covering existing evidence and developing more robust methods for determining success of minority programs and initiatives so that colleges and universities can improve, obtain funding and effect change.

“The 2017 MSI Convening was a very successful event,” said LaQueta Wright, Ph.D., convening chair of the Richland College Planning Team for MSI Convening. “In addition to inspiring talks from higher education leaders during the opening and plenary sessions, small group breakout sessions provided detailed examples of how to design programs from a data-informed perspective, how to evaluate programs in a quantitative way, and success stories of students impacted by programs at colleges across the nation and even as far away as the Pacific islands. The convening also provided opportunities to network and build collaborative relationships with participants from more than 60 different colleges, universities and higher education organizations.”

The event began on Friday with a keynote address from Mike Flores, Ph.D., president of Palo Alto College in San Antonio. A Del Rio native, Flores holds a doctorate degree in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin. He currently serves as an Achieving the Dream data coach and a board member for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Communities in Schools San Antonio, the San Antonio Education Partnership and other organizations. He has also served as a fellow with the American Council on Education and conducted postgraduate study at the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management. Since becoming president of Palo Alto College in 2012, he has led many new initiatives for student success.

During the event, Flores guided the conversation to inspire participants to share effective strategies and evidence-based research for evaluating programs and initiatives that support minority student success. “Students come to community colleges like immigrants to America, hoping their journey leads to a better life,” Flores said.

Flores also moderated a panel that included Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., president of Huston-Tillotson University; Vincent Solis, Ph.D., senior vice president for academic and student affairs at Laredo Community College; and Naomi Story, Ph.D., executive director for the National Asian Pacific Islander Council.

Burnette reminded the audience that the concerning data about student success struggles is not new, so rather than focusing on what the data says we should focus on what can be done to change it. Solis discussed how his college attempts to impact student success through faculty support and personal development, saying, “If you’re going to move the needle [on minority student success], it’s going to happen in the classroom.” Story added, “Curriculum and retention are deeply connected, so faculty leadership and buy-in are deeply needed.”

Terrell Strayhorn, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Do Good Work Educational Consulting, LLC, gave the plenary address Saturday morning. Strayhorn holds a doctorate degree in higher education from Virginia Tech and is an internationally recognized student success scholar, highly acclaimed public speaker and award-winning writer. He is the author of 10 books and more than 200 book chapters, journal articles and other scholarly publications. His research focuses on major policy issues in education such as student access and achievement; issues of race, equity and diversity; impact of college on students; and student learning and development. Strayhorn is also known for using the hashtag #DoGoodWork on social media, was named one of the country’s top diversity scholars by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine in 2011, one of Business First’s Top 40 Under 40 and became the youngest full-time professor in Ohio State University’s history in 2014.

Strayhorn talked about how “access without success is useless,” and to achieve student success, we need retention plus persistence. He also stated, “We need a more nuanced framework for understanding our international students and their experiences because these students, like all minority and underserved students, do not have a one-size fits all background.”

The conference also included breakout sessions and a graduate student poster session.

The MSI Convening was made possible in part through a grant from the AANAPISI program of the Department of Education and by State Farm®.

Holding two designations by the U.S. Department of Education as an AANAPISI and a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), Richland College is one of only nine higher education institutions in the U.S. awarded the AANAPISI grant in fiscal year 2015. With approximately 15 percent of Richland College’s student population comprised of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students and at least half demonstrating financial need, AANAPISI funding impacts many of the college’s underserved students. The program helps Richland College to increase the three-year graduation rate for AAPI students who have one or more risks to success and completion, such as financial need or academic challenges.

For more information on the MSI Convening, visit