At Strada Education Network®, we’re interested in supporting all students on their education-to-career journey and we are fortunate to have great partners in this work – partners who understand the value of engaging with students wherever they are on that journey and supporting their success.
Many devoted educators have worked for decades to address the challenges their students face, developing college admissions policies that truly welcome a diverse student body and deploying student success teams to help students stay on track. They have embraced the promise of using meaningful data to measure students’ progress and to determine which interventions will be successful in helping students transition from school to career, and to continue to learn throughout their working lives.
Our Philanthropy team is determined to support and scale programs that work – especially those aimed at helping students of color, students from low-income households, and those who are the first in their family to pursue an education beyond high school. Why? Because if we level the postsecondary playing field for all students we remove barriers that prevent them from succeeding.
We are continuing our engagement with a select group of five innovative Minority Serving Institutions through Strada’s MSI Measuring College Value initiative. Now entering its third and final year, this initiative has provided $325,000 grants and other support to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi; Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis; Wiley College in Marshall, Texas; St Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida; and Martin University in Indianapolis to develop and scale their student success efforts to help students earn on-time degrees and successfully transition to meaningful careers in their chosen fields. By next fall, we expect that each of these institutions will report not only on their success but also on their plans to continue the work into the future with the strategic focus on Strada’s mission of Completion With A Purpose®.
The work by these five institutions is ground-breaking: They are eliminating barriers to employment by engaging employers in their work with students to assist them in building professional networks, increasing opportunities for internships and real-time work-based learning in the classroom, using and training on new technology to provide certifications and design e-portfolios, and helping adult learners who are also working part-time to update and enhance their skills.
Already, this work is attracting attention—and funding—from sources beyond Strada. Critical-thinking exercises and the augmentation of communications courses at St. Thomas University have resulted in the university winning a $1 million grant for their work in Bobcat Analytics, an initiative that is equipping students with the technical and digital skills they need to launch and maintain careers in high-demand fields.
Engineering, Business, Education, Communications, and IT are areas in which the campuses are working. An unanticipated benefit of this work has been the professional development of faculty. One faculty administrator shared that because her entire career has been on campus, her external employer network and engagement had been limited until this project was initiated. Now she and others are paying closer attention to their own networking and professional development, realizing that faculty working in the fields they are teaching can enhance campus relationships with students, employers and the community.
Grantees also are focusing on curriculum redesign, engaging employer partners to determine what is expected of students and to incorporate these areas into the academic setting. Employer partners are a part of each team and are considered experts in the field who share insights, new products, and services with the institutions.
Finally, all five of the institutions are weaving alumni engagement throughout this work as campuses leverage the Strada-Gallup Alumni Surveys to understand how their alumni feel about their experiences on campus, and how they can engage with current students as mentors and/or potential employers.
I’m looking forward to seeing the results next fall, and more importantly, to exploring how these five institutions can continue to help students while serving as role models and consultants to other institutions like them.