Corporate partnerships are the lynchpin for many college programs
Campus Issues / Technology
Using partnerships to curb cost of facilities, services
More in: Workforce Development / Opinions
Auto consortium takes on the manufacturing challenge
More in: Government / Workforce Development
Miami Dade College's dance program is among its many programs that illustrate the college's student diversity.
Photo: Miami Dade College
Below are profiles of the five community colleges named finalists for the American Association of Community Colleges' inaugural Awards of Excellence in the category of advancing diversity. The colleges include:
The winner will be named April 23 at the annual AACC convention.
St. Louis Community College (STLCC)
Since 1989, more than 300 young people from Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico have had their lives enriched and have enriched the lives of others at STLCC through the Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) program.
SEED provides training to youth and community leaders from economically disadvantaged and underserved populations. In 2007, STLCC added to the diversity of the program by enrolling a group of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
SEED students arrive in America, sometimes possessing only a desire to learn. They take part in all aspects of college life, from attending classes to participating in clubs and campus events, and they share their customs and culture with others.
At the end of the two-year program, SEED students return home “as agents of change—as well-rounded, bilingual individuals who will make a difference in the lives of their families, in their communities, and in their countries,” said STLCC President Myrtle E. B. Dorsey.
Service learning is a large aspect of the program. SEED students have assisted with the college’s electronic recycling program, planted daffodils along the highway, and helped clean up the Mississippi River.
Students are mentored by Boeing Corp. Affinity Group members. Students also participate with Boeing professionals in Rebuilding Together volunteer efforts to repair homes of low-income elderly citizens.
The program has been a learning experience for STLCC, as well.
“The SEED students challenge us to devise new ways of educating our own native students to improve their lives and surrounding communities,” said Dr. Dorsey.
Lone Star College–CyFair (LSC-CF)
At LSC-CF, diversity is not a problem in need of a solution. It is an opportunity—an opportunity for teaching and learning, for curricular coherence and student success.
When the college opened its doors in 2003, the student population was 55 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic and 5 percent black. Though the numbers didn’t require a sense of urgency, the college looked ahead, knowing the 21st century would bring change.
“The campus leadership made an informed decision that diversity and equity was important to prepare students for the 21st century, as well as make an immediate impact on our entire campus community,” said Feleccia Moore-Davis, vice president for instruction.
LSC-CF developed Windows on the World institutional programming. It ensures that the campus has diverse student programs and activities that are aligned with the curricular activities of faculty. Cultural programming, such as a film series and the Readers Theatre, bring the world to the campus and community. The annual Women’s Conference and International Education Week events celebrate and promote diversity.
In 2005, LSC-CF formed the Diversity and Inclusion Council to ensure that diversity is tied to the college’s strategic initiatives.
Strategies committed to by the college include employing a diverse workforce that mirrors the student population, reviewing and facilitating a diverse and inclusive curriculum, and expanding diversity initiative and activities.
“The campus has solidified its commitment to diversity and inclusion by embedding the principles of social equity in its operations,” said Audre Levy, president of LSC-CF.
The earlier predictions for the future were correct. Change did come to LSC-CF. Today, LSC-CF is a minority-serving institution; 32 percent of the students are Hispanic, and 14 percent are black. Inclusivity remains a vital part of the institution’s identity.
Miami Dade College (MDC)
Diversity at MDC is much more than diversity of people, cultures and celebrating differences. The more-than 300 programs of study offered by MDC educate the community, make a positive impact and help the region grow.
The college’s 174,000 students represent 185 countries and speak 94 different languages. Nearly three quarters of the students need some type of college preparatory coursework. More than half are the first in their families to attend college, and 67 percent are low-income.
“For many of these students, MDC represents their only real chance to enroll in higher education,” said MDC President Eduardo Padrón.
Supporting these students through innovative programs and ongoing advocacy efforts has become vital to ensuring their success, and this is reflected in MDC’s impressive track record of results in retention, graduation and overall achievement. The college graduates more black and Hispanic students than any other community college in the nation.
Programs include Tools for Success and PUENTES, which increase the number of underrepresented students completing degrees in STEM fields. REVEST (Refugee/Entrant Vocational Education Services Training) offers services to enhance the employability of refugees and political asylees. Another program gets students with limited English proficiency into college-level courses faster through an accelerated content-based English for Academic Purposes program.
The college also hosts an array of diversity-awareness activities year-round. Included are events celebrating Hispanic Heritage, Black History and Women’s History months, Disability Awareness Week and Chinese New Year.
MDC’s commitment to diversity is reflected in its hiring practices, as well. The full-time workforce mirrors the diversity of the community it serves. Seventy-five percent of administrators, 63 percent of faculty, and 88 percent of staff are minorities. Representing the diversity of the community “enables them to serve as exceptional role models for our students,” Padrón said.
Prairie State College (PSC)
In the fall 2012, PSC student enrollment was 57 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic and 28 percent white. The ratio of black-to-white students was reversed a decade ago.
“With these changes, the college has moved aggressively to provide additional support for a minority population that is predominantly first generation and low income,” said PSC President Eric Radtke.
PSC has made strides to ensure that the diverse student population is mirrored in its faculty and staff, and put in place new programs to help often underrepresented populations.
Much of the college’s programming is aimed at recruiting and retaining black male students. The Protégé Program helps students identify and eliminate barriers to success often encountered by minority males. About 20 students each year participate.
Through the Man Up! program, students set educational and career goals, explore their value and decision making skills, and learn effective study skills and strategies. More than 150 black male students have taken the special college success courses.
PSC’s Early College Program helps under-funded local high schools serve promising students by helping them get a head start in college. High school seniors earn transferrable college credits at no cost while developing a sense of personal responsibility.
The college also is engaging more minority students in STEM programs. Multi-year predominantly black institutions grants from the U.S. Department of Education have allowed PSC to increase its capacity to support minority student success in academic programs in math and science.
These changes at PSC are not only good for the students, but also good for the community.
“In the end, the economic development and vitality of our region benefits as educational levels increase,” Radtke said.
Seminole State College of Florida
Diversity is a cornerstone of Seminole State College’s mission. From offering nationally renowned black theatre productions to hosting international fairs and employee diversity training, the college’s ongoing commitment to promote social equity has had a positive impact on campus and the community.
A major centerpiece of Seminole State’s commitment to diversity is a 10-year initiative to engage its students and the region with the work of black playwright August Wilson via his Pittsburgh cycle of plays. Each play depicts the black experience during a different decade.
“These plays have enabled the college and our artistic community to come together to experience the telling of this uniquely American story through language, music and history,” said E. Ann McGee, the college’s president.
Theatre patrons have been entertained and engaged, and theatre students have been given the opportunity to study with some of the nation’s finest directors, including Woodie King Jr., founder of the iconic New Federal Theatre in New York City. King commended the college for giving students, faculty, staff and community members an opportunity to “view a full spectrum of African-American culture unfold in the decades of the 20th century.”
Seminole State’s commitment to enhancing diversity extends to several other initiatives and programs. The college’s African-American Cultural Forum sponsors the annual Heritage Jubilee, a celebration of local black achievers. The Student Diversity Institute includes workshops such as Diversity 101 and Diversity of a Diet. Allies Advance trains faculty and staff volunteers to serve as advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community and other oppressed populations. The list goes on.
“Seminole State embraces diversity at all levels and is a model of innovative and progressive practices that support institutional diversity,” McGee said.
Copyright ©2012 American Association of Community Colleges