Thursday, September 1, 2016

District receives national diversity award

For the second time, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District has received a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award, a national honor recognizing colleges and universities for outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In the awards announced Wednesday for 2016, the East County college district was one of nine community college districts nationally and the only one in California to be selected. The district will be featured with 82 other colleges and universities across the country in the November 2016 issue of Insight into Diversity magazine, the oldest diversity-focused publication in higher education.  

The district also received the HEED award in 2014.

“At a time when cultural and racial diversity has become such a major issue, our role as educators to spread a message of acceptance and openness has never been so important,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said.  “Being selected for the HEED Award is a source of pride for us and signals our commitment to providing learning and working environments that are welcoming to everyone.”

The magazine selected the district based on its diversity and inclusion initiatives relating to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, socioeconomic status, veteran status, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community. 

To receive the award, the district had to submit extensive information about its student and staff demographics, its efforts to recruit and retain underrepresented and first-generation college students, and the diversity initiatives underway at the two colleges. 

“Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being accomplished every day across their campus,” said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of Insight into Diversity. 

Both colleges have made extensive efforts to serve a diverse range of students. In September 2015, Grossmont College was awarded a five-year $2.62 million federal grant to help Hispanic and low-income students progress toward graduation. Cuyamaca College recently received a $2.5 million grant that it will be using to help Hispanic students succeed in their classes and reach their educational goals. 

Other efforts include:

  • Participation in Achieving the Dream, a nationwide network of community colleges that focuses on expanding student access to higher education and providing avenues to student success, particularly to those from historically underserved communities.
  • The district’s implementation of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council Strategic Plan. The multifaceted plan was created to ensure an environment fostering cultural competence, equity and respect for all employees and students. The council and site committees have led the district’s efforts to look at diversity data, seeking ways to increase employee diversity and to make the campuses more welcoming to everyone. 
  • An increased effort to hire more diverse faculty and staff through participation in job fairs and a broader base of job postings, along with cultural sensitivity training for employees who are selected to serve on job screening committees.
  • Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges joined the National Consortium of College Men of Color, an initiative dedicated to improving student success among men of color in community colleges.
  • The District’s Higher Edge Promise Scholarship being offered to Grossmont Union High School graduates, beginning with the class of 2019, provides a free year at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges. The scholarship provides a pathway to college for students who might not have otherwise be able to obtain a higher education.
  • The designation of “Safe Space” areas for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, and establishing gender-neutral restrooms. Grossmont College has a Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Club and Cuyamaca College has a LGBT Student Union.
  • Cuyamaca College’s Diversity Dialogues, a workshop series offered each semester focusing on diversity and social-justice topics. Students who attend three or more workshops receive a Diversity and Leadership certificate that can be used toward a similar certificate offered by SDSU.
  • Grossmont College’s many diversity events sponsored by the campus’ World Arts and Culture Committee. Past events a gospel festival, “Hip Hop on the Quad” featuring the World Beat Dancers and Drummers, Languages of the World Festival, the Celebration of the Arab Wedding, a Chinese cultural fair and more.
The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District educates and trains more than 30,000 students a year at its two colleges, Grossmont College in El Cajon and Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego, and through it Corporate College and East region Adult Education Consortium. The district serves a diverse community of students, primarily from East San Diego County and San Diego, as well as from around the state, the nation, and more than 50 countries around the world.

For more information about Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges and the district, go to

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