U.S. Department of Education recognizes University’s College Life 101

Exemplary student-retention initiative, College Life 101 program helps low-income, first-generation students graduate college

3/26/2013 - By: Abbie Walker
College Life 101 Jody Lykes (standing center), student development coordinator for the University of Nevada, Reno's Center for Student Cultural Diversity, lends a helping hand for two students at the center, which was just recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an exemplary student-retention and student-graduation initiative.

The University of Nevada, Reno's Center for Student Cultural Diversity has received national recognition again. After receiving the CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Award in 2011, the center's College Life 101 Program is again recognized, this time by the U.S. Department of Education, as a best-practice program. The Department of Education acknowledged 15 programs nationally for Achievement Gap Closure: Promising and Practical Strategies, which highlights the country's best programs in getting self-identified, underrepresented college students to graduation.

"We are helping to bridge the gap between students with a good support system and those who lack access to a good support system," said Reg Chhen Stewart, the University's director of diversity initiatives and director of the University's Center for Student Cultural Diversity. "By being recognized on a national scale, especially by the Department of Education, it brings a lot of validity to the University's diversity efforts and it shows that the University has a commitment to the success of our students."

College Life 101 is an in-depth program claiming an impressive 85 percent retention for students who need additional level of service and grade-level programming with the goal of graduating college. It involves regular meetings with center coordinators, a service-learning component, and mid-term progress reports, as well as academic, career and financial-aid advising. The program is communicated to local students as early as fifth grade, and involvement begins as college freshman and continues until completion of graduation.

"We are ensuring that students with specific boundaries for educational success get into college and make the same sort of progress towards graduation as everyone else," Stewart said. "Our goal is to help them so much the first two years that by the third and fourth year they are self-sufficient and need only minimal guidance. It is not about who cannot participate, but identifying the students who need to participate."

The University's College Life 101 program is sustained with only a full-time staff of five and a small number of part-time graduate and undergraduate students. Even with a small staff, the program is able to see significant growth and success. In the center's most recent annual report submitted with data collected from fall 2011 to fall 2012, 370 students participated in the College Life 101 program and 316 of the students were retained or graduated. "Nationally we could close the achievement gap if more programs like College Life 101 existed throughout most college campuses," Stewart said. "It is the idea that you can take this program and replicate it at any level on any campus."

For more about the center and the recognition, contact Stewart at (775) 784-4936.


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