University lauded for work to accelerate Latino student success

University of Nevada, Reno College Life 101 program recognized by Excelencia in Education as a national benchmark for diversity in higher education

10/2/2013 - By: Nicole Shearer
The University's College Life 101 program received national recognition for its work with Latino students.

The University of Nevada, Reno continues to receive national accolades for its successful College Life 101 program. Excelencia in Education, a national non-profit organization that accelerates Latino student success in higher education, announced Tuesday, Oct. 2, that the program was recognized as a finalist for the 2013 Examples of Excelencia at the undergraduate level. College Life 101 aims to create and support greater cultural diversity within the University.

The Examples of Excelencia initiative identifies, honors, and disseminates evidence-based practices increasing academic opportunities and improving achievement for Latino students at the associate, baccalaureate, and graduate levels. This national honor means that College Life 101 is a recognized model for how universities can best get self-identified, underrepresented college students to graduation.

"As the University prepares for its projected enrollment to increase from nearly 19,000 to 22,000 students over the next decade, programs like this will continue to play a key role in how best to prepare and retain students," Marc Johnson, University president, said.

"What we have with College Life 101 is really progressive and effective," Reginald Stewart, chief diversity officer at the University, said. "This award is an opportunity for the University to show a national audience what we are doing in Reno that is demographic specific. We hope colleges across the country see our program, learn from it and apply pieces of it within their schools."

College Life 101 is an intensive, custom-tailored program geared toward under represented students. The program assists in the transition to college life through three main components: weekly check-ins with an adviser, mid-term progress reports and service learning hours. The program has been available to students since 2003 and starts advising students of the opportunities available to them as early as fifth grade.

"So many things happen simultaneously to make this program a national best practice," Stewart said. "From our early work with the middle and high schools to the community engagement and school district partnerships, a lot of resources are put into the success of these students."

While College Life 101 serves more than Hispanic students on campus, the majority of the students enrolled in the program are Latino. Currently 14 percent of students at the University are Hispanic. In fact, the number increased from 2,419 in fall 2012 to 2,764 students this year.

"We are on the front end of diversity initiatives here at the University," Stewart said. "We went from zero to 60 with this program and to be nominated and to receive awards like this is a huge recognition of our efforts to prepare for a more diverse, changing student body."

College Life 101 has also received recognition from the U.S. Department of Education as a best practice program for Achievement Gap Closure: Promising and Practical Strategies and it received the CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Award in 2011. The College Life 101 program is administered through the Center for Student Cultural Diversity which, as of this past summer, reports to Marcelo Vazquez, associate dean of students.
 
"One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about this program is accountability," Ricky Salazar, College Life 101 graduate and current administrative faculty member in the Center for Student Cultural Diversity, said. "Between the weekly check-ins and the encouragement you receive to get involved in clubs and organizations on campus, I feel like these aspects all really help with the retention piece of the program."

"Receiving mentoring when you're having a challenging time has been the most beneficial to me," Jessica Parra, a junior criminal justice major and College Life 101 participant, said. "Mentors help guide you on what classes you should take, campus resources that are available to help you and they offer motivation. That makes a big difference."

In addition to the recognition received for the College Life 101 program, Stewart recently learned he was nominated and accepted into the American Council on Education Spectrum Executive Leadership Program. This 8-month leadership development program is designed for diverse senior-level administrators from underrepresented groups who are interested in seeking a presidency in the near term. 

"President Johnson's support of this program highlights the dedication by our administration to diversity and diversity initiatives," Stewart said. "This demonstrates we're not only trying to foster diversity among students, but also among our faculty and administrators."


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