Place and Space for 'Minority Student Success: Using Data to Effect Change' 2017 MSI Convening

by Angel L. Velez and HyeJin Tina Yeo / Nov 16, 2017

The 2017 Minority-Serving Institution Convening brought together scholars and practitioners from 17 states to discuss minority student success vis-a-vis the use of data to effect change. The convening took place on the beautiful Richland College campus, which features a central pond and created the perfect environment for the gathering. The President of Richland College and the AANAPISI Project Director warmly opened the convening; Dr. Mike Flores, the President of Palo Alto College and keynote speaker, talked about democracy and the use of a social justice lens to achieve equitable outcomes for minoritized students. The two-day conference allowed for the sharing and discussion of practical research, methods, and programs that influence the achievement of minoritized students.  

The opening session engendered a discussion around research on minority student success. Dr. Mike Flores served as the panel discussant. Showing a video about understanding social mobility, he shared his successful experience collaborating with communities, schools, and community colleges for minoritized students’ success. The three panelists included Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, President of Huston-Tillotson University (TX); Dr. Vincent Solis, Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Student Affairs at Laredo Community College (TX); and Dr. Naomi Story, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific Islander Council. The speakers offered new and innovative approaches to minority student success, including changing the way we train students for tomorrow, focusing on social justice and history as a way forward, and advocating for culturally competent pedagogy for faculty. They perceived data to be a useful tool for change but cautioned that students are more than numbers and come with particular stories and histories. They all believe that data is a necessary tool that, if used effectively, can lead to minority student success.

The plenary speaker, Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, captivated the audience by sharing research studies and personal stories to illuminate new avenues of unpacking terms such as “minority” and “underrepresented” in a way that challenges people’s implicit biases. In addition, he mentioned we need a more nuanced framework for understanding our international students of color.

The breakout sessions added another dimension to the gathering. Focusing on the power of data, the presenters showcased quantitative and qualitative studies and program evaluation techniques that can facilitate minority student success. The OCCRL research team for Hispanic-Serving Community Colleges STEM Pipelines (HSCC-STEM Pipelines), one of the OCCRL research projects, contributed to rich discussion of the breakout sessions by providing a new aspect of how to use national data to illustrate the STEM contributions of Hispanic-Serving Community Colleges (HSCCs).  In many ways, these presentations showed the myriad ways data can be utilized to impact institutions positively. The presenters represented every higher education sector, from public community colleges to Ivy League institutions, which speaks to the growing importance of Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) nationally.

Beyond participating in 2017 MSI convening, OCCRL’s studies of policies, programs, and practices have contributed to minoritized student success. Two ongoing projects, Minority-Serving Community Colleges (MSCC) and HSCC-STEM Pipelines, are good examples of OCCRL devotion to minoritized student success. The MSCC project examines factors that influence student success in STEM at public community colleges that are federally designated minority-serving institutions. You can learn more about the MSCC project in the recently published MSCC report. The HSCC-STEM pipelines project explores the transitions to and through HSCCs for underrepresented minoritized STEM students. More information about goals, research questions, and activities of the HSCC-STEM pipeline project is available on the project homepage on the OCCRL website.