In keeping with its mission of teaching, learning and community building, Richland College, in collaboration with the Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution program, has hosted each fall since 2016 the Minority Serving Institution Convening, a conference dedicated to providing higher education professionals with tools to impact the academic success of students at minority-serving institutions. After attending the 2018 MSI Convening, “Minority Student Success: Using Data to Effect Change,” last October, many attendees left the convening with more than just insight on how to achieve minority student success: some also left with a zeal to put ideas learned into practice and provide education and encouragement for others to follow in those same footsteps.
As an MSI Student Fellow, Richland College student Camryn Morrow was nominated by a faculty member to participate in the 2018 MSI Convening. Of everything Morrow heard at the convening, one thing impacted her the most: the importance of showing empathy. “The MSI Convening helped Richland College because it emphasized that professors should go beyond just teaching¾even expressing an ounce of empathy ensures that all students have the same opportunity to succeed,” said Morrow.
Overall, Morrow was encouraged by what she learned at the MSI Convening. “I found the presentations to be reassuring,” she said. “They showed that despite what we don’t see, many things are happening behind the scenes to fix what students consider to be some of the most prevalent of issues, including race. I would highly recommend others attend a future MSI Convening to learn more.” Morrow will also be attending the 2019 MSI Convening, this time to share her experiences at the 2018 conference and as a student at Richland College.
Cassandra Himes, College Connections advisor at the College of the Mainland in Texas City, also attended the 2018 MSI Convening. Upon returning to their institution, Himes and her colleague, Stephanie Dilissio, used what they learned at the convening and put together a presentation for the COM Student Services Leadership Council to share their takeaways and actionable items. Now COM is using the practices and information Himes and Dilissio acquired to examine the college’s processes, including the way COM collects data, the need for all units at COM to collect and analyze quantitative data and the importance of initiating courageous conversations about equity, inclusive excellence and quality programs.
“After attending the MSI Convening, I have a clearer understanding of equity, inclusive excellence and quality, and how to translate those into campus practice,” said Himes. “I approach my work with the guiding question: ‘How can we, at College of the Mainland, continue to improve the way we collect and use quantitative data to design, evaluate, modify and improve programs and initiatives to address the success of minority and underserved students?’ On a personal level, the MSI Convening reignited my commitment to the statement ‘all means all.’”
Himes plans on returning to Richland College to attend the 2019 MSI Convening, and she encourages all higher education professionals to do the same.
Jennifer Baggett, professor of biology at Richland College and MSI Convening faculty program chair, said, “By working hard to provide a high-quality, free conference with nationally recognized speakers, we have created an affordable opportunity for community colleges and other minority-serving institutions to convene, collaborate and learn about research and programs in a data-focused way to improve minority student success. The feedback we’ve received from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive, especially about the quality of presenters, both invited and those selected from breakout session proposals.”
The MSI Convening provides an opportunity for educators and other higher education professionals devoted to student success to gather and participate in presentations and discussions about using data to modify and improve programs and initiatives that address the success of minority and underserved students. The 2019 MSI Convening will be at Richland College Oct. 18-19. Proposals to present are being accepted now through June 7. The MSI Convening is made possible in part through a grant from the AANAPISI program of the Department of Education.
Richland College serves as more than just the host college¾it completely plans and executes the conference each year. The planning team is led by convening chair and executive dean for the School of Social Sciences LaQueta L. Wright, faculty program chairs Baggett, Michael Puente and Rolanda Randle, and faculty logistics chair M.T. Hickman. This team identified the theme and created the structure for a four-year series of conferences, “Using Data to Effect Change”; secured funding support from community partners; invited and guided nationally recognized keynote and plenary speakers; solicited and selected breakout session proposals; oversaw the creation of the conference website, call for proposals and registration system; organized and planned facilities, food and host hotels for the convening, including the evening networking reception and breakfast and lunch on both days; and oversaw the advertising and marketing of the convening, both locally and nationally.
“As the final year of our four-year, grant-funded MSI Convening series approaches, we look forward to seeing what Richland College does from here,” added Baggett. “We have built new relationships with community colleges and four-year minority-serving institutions over the last few years, and we look forward to cementing those relationships into collaborations that lead us all forward in our efforts to improve student success through data-informed programs and initiatives.”
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 16% of Richland College’s student population comprised of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander 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 about the 2019 MSI Convening, visit www.richlandcollege.edu/msi-convening.