Long-range impact of Title V and HSI STEM funding at MSMU

Shared by Janet Castaneda Rosas - 11/17/2016

Since the 1960s when MSMU acquired property in the urban center of Los Angeles, an increasing number of our students have been Latina/Latino, low-income, first generation, and often in need of support to develop basic learning skills. Closing the gap between Hispanic students and others has been an important challenge to be met, as we strive to prepared and graduate all our students for lucrative and worthwhile careers. Across our two campuses a large percentage of our students consistently need developmental work in basic academic skills. We received our first Title V grant in 2001 and also are now enjoying the benefits of a Title III STEM grant to address more of these academic needs. Our Title V grants have significantly contributed to the creation of programs, technology, and pedagogies that are focused on meeting these crucial needs of our students. Our Title V grant has supported new analysis tools that are helping us to understand where we can improve and strengthen student programs to further increase graduation and retention rates. Focused strategies such as the creation of mentoring programs, increased access to technology, transition centers, summer STEM workshops, summer two-week Introduction to College Skills Workshops, new software applications, tutoring in math, sciences and writing, and a GIS minor and new Geospatial Criminology major have all been supported by our Title V and HSI STEM grants. Our grants have significantly contributed to an intensified campus climate of academic research, career exploration and preparation, and active student interaction in the teaching/learning process. Our Studio Classrooms are bringing the excitement of in-class research, content creation, and technology together to make even the first year academic experience both relevant and engaging. Further, our students are being supported through peer, faculty, and staff mentoring to help them with writing, critical thinking, scholarship applications, and career exploration. More focus on engaging the students’ families has occurred, recognizing that student success is also a function of making their students’ college experience a family project rather than experiencing it as observers. Our first-year learning community, iComunidad has supported them with additional sources of mentoring, tutoring (with a Writing Specialist to help them with writing skills, scholarship applications, and research), career exploration, and campus social connections. At the institutional level, our new Tableau data analysis and reporting software has already become an invaluable tool in assessing program quality, student retention, faculty accountability, departmental performance, and demographics, to name only a few benefits. Our GIS minor and new Geospatial Criminology major is a product of the efforts of the faculty and staff supported by Title V and HSI STEM grants. The STEM grant is engaged in preparing students to succeed in math and science courses/majors, The goals of our Title V grant have been to increase graduation rates across majors, and employ new pedagogies that will both expose and engage them with research early on in their academic careers. These two parallel initiatives are changing the dynamics of learning campus-wide. Students from a range of disciplines are learning to think spatially as a way to visualize social issues, develop research designs, and be prepared to step into occupations that utilize the new cutting-edge technology of GIS. The broad reach of our combined grants is creating more inter-disciplinary collaborations across faculty from a range of areas such as Philosophy, Criminology, Film and Media, Biology, Gerontology, Nursing, Sociology, Business, and Social Work. Student interest in courses that reflect analytic skills such as Demographics, Cartography of Crime, and Gender & Media has increased.

With the increased emphasis on research, media tools, and technology, students are learning to take the social media skills they have developed in high school and adapt them to academic and research activities. These types of classroom and campus experiences have resulted in better retention, better grades, increased application and attendance in graduate school. For example, in Sociology graduate school applications have increased over 30% from the inception of the grant, and has increased another 6% this past year, indicating that the entire student body is benefitting from our grant activities. Faculty are also benefitting as they are trained and encouraged by their colleagues in the use of new and more effective teaching strategies, including iPads in the classroom, Apple TVs, SmartBoards, GPS units, GIS assignments, project-based learning, and in-class content creation. Overall there is a more effective use of online resources, and our students are profiting from this.