Friday, September 18, 2015

Cuyamaca College working to boost success rates for men of color

Cuyamaca College is partnering with a national organization to boost student success rates for men of color through an online faculty and staff training program aimed at building better teaching strategies and a greater awareness of casual, unintended slights.

“We want to help men of color at Cuyamaca College advance their goals, whether that be earning a certificate, an associate degree, or transferring to a four-year college or university,” said Tammi Marshall, who serves as chair of the Mathematics Department at Cuyamaca and is leading the new effort with the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement (CORA).  “You often hear people talking about closing the achievement gap. We want to eliminate the achievement gap.

CORA’s mission “is to support the development of educational and training professionals in advancing their capacity to serve historically underrepresented and underserved students in education.” Under the new collaboration effort, CORA will provide Cuyamaca College with professional development training to all instructional faculty on the most effective ways of teaching and reaching men of color.

The one-week program, developed by researchers J. Luke Wood and Frank Harris III, includes videos, readings, live interactive sessions and learning assessments. The program is designed to improve relationship-building and encourage research-based strategies to support learning. 

“Participants demonstrate a greater commitment to collaborative learning, building personal relationships with men of color, using culturally relevant teaching and course materials,” said Harris, who also serves as the co-director of the Minority Male Community College Collaborative (M2C3) at San Diego State University. “They also demonstrate a greater awareness of racial microaggressions,” he added, referring to the casual, and often unintended, degradation of socially marginalized groups.

Wood, who serves as CORA’s director, applauded the commitment from Cuyamaca. “We are pleased that colleges are making this program available to all of their entire faculty, this demonstrates a very serious commitment to redressing equity gaps between men of color and their peers,” he said.

The collaboration with CORA is one of several efforts underway at Cuyamaca College to improve student success. Among them is the college’s Stats Academy that is aimed at improving mathematical skills of students who in the past had struggled with mathematics. Students who have taken the Stats Academy pass their math courses and graduate at higher rates than those who don’t.

An initiative being introduced this semester is the Cross-Cultural Center, an idea proposed by a former student body president. An office in the student center now houses the center with the purpose of serving as a space to benefit both the college and the community. The Cross-Cultural Center will serve as a space both to hold diversity programs and for students to gather, particularly culturally-based student organizations, said Mariah Moschetti, current president of the Associated Student Government of Cuyamaca College.

“The ASGCC hopes the center will soon serve as a bastion for cultural awareness and diversity both on campus and the community as a whole,” Moschetti said.

Wood and Harris are scheduled to take part in a free, Oct. 8 seminar, Creating Conditions that Foster Engagement Among Men of Color, in Room I-209 of the Cuyamaca College Student Center. The session, scheduled from 1 to 2:15 p.m., is open to the public.