Campus diversity efforts focus on high-impact practices for greater student success

In late July, campus presidents, diversity officers, student affairs personnel and other campus staff involved in student success gathered at the Council offices to present their final diversity plans to the Committee on Equal Opportunities (CEO). This meeting was the culmination of a yearlong planning effort and a highly collaborative process.

Launched this fall, the campus diversity goals and plans support the three focus areas of the state's strategic agenda--opportunity, success and impact. These areas are described below.

  • Opportunity relates to encouraging more people, particularly low-income and underrepresented minority populations, to take advantage of postsecondary opportunities.
  • Success addresses increasing first- to second-year retention rates, three- and six-year graduation rates, and degrees conferred for low-income and underrepresented minority students.
  • Impact urges the creation of inclusive and supportive campus environments by increasing cultural competency, recruiting, retaining and promoting diverse faculty and management occupations, and ensuring equity and inclusion campuswide.

This new iteration of the statewide policy continues the efforts of the 2010 policy by implementing strategies, programs and services that fulfill the educational objectives set forth in HB1. Through the diversity policy and institutional diversity planning process, the Council recognizes that diversity, equity and inclusion are core values of higher education that must be present across the postsecondary education system.

The concept of diversity in Kentucky has broadened immensely in recent decades as demographics have changed in the state and the nation. Although diversity goes beyond race and ethnicity, the current diversity policy will continue to monitor the status of African Americans, Hispanics and other underrepresented minority students. Additionally, the policy also emphasizes the importance of varied human characteristics, ideas, values and worldviews by encouraging campuses to support the success of all diverse populations, including but not limited to groups such as low-income, veterans, single parents, first-generation, LGBTQ, and international students, among others.

The July 20-21 presentations made to the CEO highlighted numerous high-impact practices and innovative strategies designed to close achievement gaps and increase student success. Some unique strategies proposed by the campuses are described below.

Dr. Mordean Taylor-Archer
Dr. Mordean Taylor-Archer

Beginning this fall, the University of Louisville will initiate a living learning community (LLC) for the African American Male Initiative and the Porter Scholars. The African American Male Initiative was established to improve retention, graduation and participation rates by addressing scholastic and social challenges. The Society of Porter Scholars is the largest recognized student organization and provides academic and social support to African American students. This LLC approach will feature several high-impact educational practices such as common intellectual experiences, learning beyond the classroom and first-year seminars/experiences. Dr. Mordean Taylor-Archer, vice provost for diversity and international affairs, shared that activities for the cohorts will focus on academic success, mentoring, developing peer connections and gaining leadership skills.

Big Sandy Community and Technical College is implementing a variety of strategies designed to increase student success, including common intellectual experiences and diversity/global learning. First, the campus is creating an annual initiative focused on encouraging discourse related to the various aspects of diversity. This initiative is called One Book One Community. In addition, leadership is creating a campuswide campaign to encourage students, faculty and staff to participate in DNA testing. Testing is voluntary and participants will be encouraged to share their results at a variety of strategically planned, cross-cultural interactions and activities throughout the academic year. Greta Heintzelman Slone, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, also plans to work with faculty to embed a diversity module in all FYE courses.

Dr. Ty Handy
President Ty Handy

Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC) serves students from some of the city’s most economically disadvantaged areas, which includes students from the five Zones of Hope. The city of Louisville established these zones based on data which indicated localized high crime rates, low employment and low educational attainment rates. Almost 2,000 of JCTC’s currently enrolled students live in Zones of Hope neighborhoods (California, Newburg, Russell, Parkland and Shawnee) and more than half of those students are African American. The Rise Together initiative is a collaborative partnership between JCTC and 15,000 Degrees (Louisville Metro Government’s Initiative to increase African American degree attainment). The goal of the partnership is to increase awareness about JCTC’s programs and create an improved connection between campus and community that will lead to increased student success. President Ty Handy specified that mentoring and support services are important components for Rise Together students from Louisville’s Zones of Hope.

For more information, please contact Dr. Caroline Atkins, senior associate, at caroline.atkins@ky.gov.