Earlier this month I attended a seminar entitled “Current Issues & Diversity in Higher Education” with Dr. Gasman from UPenn as the headline speaker. She was absolutely motivating and enthralling in that she reviewed the current system of higher education and challenged all practitioners in the room to take a look at themselves to evaluate how “positively” they encourage and mentor student success. Dr. Gasman applied for and won a $3 million grant to research why/how some HBCU, Tribal Colleges, and predominantly minority schools have had high success rates. Her Top 10 Lessons were not life shattering nor rocket science, but, rather boiled down to basic human decency which in my opinion is becoming lost at top tier research institutions such as Virginia Tech.
Top 10 Lessons:
- Successful institutions assume success on the part of students rather than seeing students of color from a deficit perspective.
- Successful institutions teach in ways that focus on what the student needs to learn rather than what is convenient for the professor.
- Successful institutions have faculty members that allow students to bring their full identity to the classroom and capitalize on all aspects of a students identity in the learning process.
- Successful institutions have faculty members that come together to co-construct classes and a curriculum that empowers the student.
- Successful institutions provide students the opportunity to participate in culturally relevant assignment that speak to the issues in the communities from which they come.
- Successful institutions encourage students to live for something larger than themselves.
- Successful institutions gather as much data as possible on their students’ learning experiences.
- Successful institutions bring the student services and academic services sides of the institution together in order to focus on students rather than operate in silos.
- Successful institutions encourage student collaboration over competition and independence.
- Successful institutions provide students with peer mentors and peer mentoring opportunities across the curriculum.
Although we didn’t spend much time on each lesson she did review how each one positively correlated with high success in either program graduation rate, continuance of education (moving on from a college to university), and solid GPAs/class attendance. I would be willing to wager that if VT did an evaluation on these Top 10 Lessons for all PhD students they would be surprised by the low scores received. Some students like myself are constantly challenged with fitting into a “mold” that a professor wants us to be rather than encouraged to explore and bring individuality to a program. This in effect stymies the generation of the thought process and reduces our possible impact on the world at large. Challenge received and accepted……I think I’ve found an interesting research topic!