Learning from One Another

UC Riverside hosts University Innovation Alliance Conference

UCR panel discussion about closing the graduation gap. Photo courtesy: Carrie Rosema

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – As a leader in bridging the graduation rate gap and making higher education accessible to students of diverse backgrounds, the University of California, Riverside shared its practices and programs with the other members of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA). In a two-day conference held at UC Riverside, the 11 universities that make up the UIA shared ideas and provided thoughtful support around implementing strategies at closing the graduation rate gap, and building diversity.

“The UIA exhibits a unique partnership among universities. We are a group of campuses intent on sharing ideas instead of viewing each other as competition,” said UIA executive director Bridget Burns.

Diversity and acceptance at UCR

UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox welcomed conference attendees and introduced the first panel discussion centered on closing the graduation rate gap.

“Raymond Orbach, the chancellor of UCR in the mid-‘90s, saw that the world around us was changing, demographics in America and California were changing, and he knew we as a university needed to change, too,” said Wilcox. “In the mid-‘90s our color demographics jumped up, and we’ve continued with that.”

The UIA is made up of 11 universities. They share ideas and provide thoughtful support around implementing strategies at closing the graduation rate gap, and building diversity. Photo courtesy: Carrie Rosema

The UIA is made up of 11 universities. They share ideas and provide thoughtful support around implementing strategies at closing the graduation rate gap, and building diversity. Photo courtesy: Carrie Rosema

UCR has been recognized as one of the most diverse large research university in the U.S. and as a national leader in diversity in higher education. The campus of 22,000 students brings together students of all backgrounds, and has achieved near parity in graduation rates by student ethnicity and gender groups.

Members on the panel discussed how programs like freshmen learning communities, the creation of a “one stop shop” student services building, and the implementation of programs such as a new employee orientation that introduces new hires to our inclusive campus culture and the surrounding community, has allowed UCR to become a leader in closing the graduation rate gap and making the campus a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds.

“We have a campus culture where we make excellence and student success part of everyone’s job,” said Yolanda Moses, anthropology professor and former vice chancellor of diversity, excellence, and equity at UCR. “It’s not just up to executive leadership and the faculty, it’s up to staff, and all other employees as well.”

Success of first-year learning programs

UCR has been recognized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as a Bright Spot in Hispanic education, is a U.S. Department of Education Hispanic-Serving Institution, and is a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. About 36 percent of UCR undergraduates identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. Almost 60 percent of UCR undergraduates are first in their families to pursue a college degree to completion, and about 80 percent of UCR students rely on some form of financial aid.

“We looked at our audience and our environment and had to analyze ways to break down barriers,” said LaRae Lundgren, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management.

One manner in which UCR is breaking down those barriers is with the freshman learning communities. Prior to the establishment of the learning communities, overall graduation rates in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences were 28 percent after four years and 36 percent after six years. Since the learning communities were created, graduation rates have increased to nearly 50 percent after four years and 65 percent after six years for those students who complete the learning communities. The increased rates hold equally true for underrepresented minority and non-underrepresented students.

UCR has been recognized as one of the most diverse large research university in the U.S. and as a national leader in diversity in higher education. Photo Courtesy: Carrie Rosema

UCR has been recognized as one of the most diverse large research university in the U.S. and as a national leader in diversity in higher education. Photo Courtesy: Carrie Rosema

“We’re changing the structure of our first-year classes, exposing students to research early on, communicating the process of science,” said Richard Cardullo, the faculty director at University Honors. “We have taken a look at results and our first-year learning communities have boosted grade point averages and retention so much that we are now seeing twice as many science students, including Hispanic students, staying and graduating from the college.”

On a larger scale, UCR’s graduation rates are better than the national average. The national six-year graduation rate is 41 percent for Latinos and 50 percent for whites, resulting in a 9 percent graduation gap. However, at UCR, there is virtually no graduation gap – in fact, graduation rates from 2004-2012 show that Hispanic students graduated at a higher rate than white students – 3 percent higher. The suite of academic and advising programs targeted at low-income, first-generation students that UCR provides, its campuswide commitment to student success, and a culture that accepts and encourages minority participation at all levels of campus life creates a positive learning environment for our students.

More about UIA

Launched in 2014, the UIA is a consortium of public research universities established to help students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds graduate from college. The participating institutions started using data analytics and advising to improve student retention and college completion.

UC Riverside is the only California-based institution in the mix – the UIA also includes: Georgia State University, Oregon State University, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, Arizona State University, Iowa State University, Purdue University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Central Florida, and University of Kansas.

 

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