About 220 higher education professionals gathered last Friday for the annual ALASS (Accelerating Latino Student Success) Institute in Washington, D.C., held by Excelencia in Education. Featuring several sold-out expert panels and information sessions throughout the day at the Mayflower Hotel, leaders worked to exchange ideas about evidence-based practices, strategies and resources to advance Latino achievement at the associate, baccalaureate and graduate levels of education, as well as within community-based organizations.
Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University, was invited to speak during the Leadership Luncheon session on The Role of Institutional Leaders for Latino Student Success in 2020. She shared the stage with Monte Perez, President of Los Angeles Mission College, during a conversation moderated by the President of Excelencia in Education, Sarita Brown.
Dr. Becerra is a member of Excelencia in Educations Presidents for Latino Student Success (P4LSS), a diverse group of college and university presidents and chancellors who have committed to making their institutions learning environments where Latino students thrive.
We were enthusiastic to hear of Dr. Becerras appointment as President of Marymount, Brown said. When I met her, I saw someone who was bringing a commitment to this effort, a keen recognition of the issues. If higher education is going to be pertinent, it has to look at how it engages the growth population of America, and Dr. Becerra understands that. She is a source of energy and a source of strength, and a colleague that we know we can work with in the future.
With colleges and universities serving as the training ground for the future workforce and civic leadership of this country, the two education leaders shared their perspectives about intentionally shaping campus learning environments to better serve Latino students while preparing all students to thrive in 2020 and beyond. Since arriving in 2018, Dr. Becerra credits a new retention task force that was recently implemented for better serving the student population at Marymount.
Its important to understand that many Latino students are first-generation students, and for them to be successful in college and beyond, its critical that they have guidance and structure so that they can move forward, Dr. Becerra explained. Through the data-informed efforts of our retention task force in seeking to help all students, we have replaced the prior practice of faculty advising with professional advisors, which is the best practice for on-time graduation. We are proactively identifying signals that predict a students vulnerability of not being retained, such as lack of class attendance or not renewing housing.
We are also implementing better housing options and will soon be opening up a new Student Hub, all things that will lead to satisfaction for all students and will especially cater to first-generation students by giving them the support they need.
Other questions that Dr. Becerra and Perez addressed during the panel included how faculty members play a key role in shaping the learning environments of Latino students, how institutions can prepare students for their futures and how the concept of higher educations value to society influences the vision for their institutions.
It is our responsibility to set the expectation that college is, in fact, for everyone, and our commitment as university presidents is to get every student to graduate, Dr. Becerra said. Therefore, we created the Marymount Pledge, which assures students and their parents that we will do everything in our power to get students to graduate in four years or less. That has to be the expectation for ourselves as university administrators.
Since its founding in 2004, Excelencia in Education has highlighted over 300 programs across the country and both raised and distributed about $1.9 million to advance the use of effective practices producing positive results for Latino students. Click here for more information on its mission and organizational goals.