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Engagement strategies to promote retention, diversity

June 5, 2014

By Lalita Smith

Although many people may not know it, big things are happening—in the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement here at Cleveland State University.

The biggest thing that is happening is the creation and initiation of a new mentoring and academic success strategy called Navigation to Graduation.

According to the office’s website, the goal of the program is to successfully increase and promote retention and degree completion for “diverse students.”

The “navigation” aspect of the program comes from the efforts of trained students, faculty and staff members who assist students during the various stages of their college careers.

There are three stages of navigators — all of whom are thoroughly trained to be able to successfully address the different stages and problems students may face throughout their time here at Cleveland State.

“First year students have a particular collection of challenges, and then you come back for your second year [and] it’s different, so the services that are provided for you in your second year should be different,” said Dr. Charleyse Pratt, Assistant Vice President of the office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement.

Stage one navigators work with first-year students, providing peer mentoring assistance — such as helping students select majors and providing students with study strategies.

Second year students presented more of a challenge — for many students it’s a very awkward stage almost like being thirteen again — not quite a kid but not yet quite old enough to (think) they know it all.

“We customized services, we’ve done some research [on] the kinds of challenges second year student face, the kinds of things they do that cause them to trip up — so navigators are being trained to address that,” Pratt said.

Navigators of continuing students — seniors and those students pursuing graduate school — are trained to assist these students with preparing for graduation and finding careers after graduation, as well as exploring options for graduate programs.

The office of Inclusion has taken great care to recognize and address the needs of not only the individual classes of students, but address the needs of individual students within those classes.

As important as it is to address the academic needs of this diverse group of students — there is much more happening in the office of Inclusion.

In addition to promoting academic success, the office also actively creates and supports activities and strategies that advance diversity, including aggressively supporting the goals outlined in the University’s Diversity Action Plan.

In 2010, Cleveland State released its “Diversity Action Plan: A Roadmap for Inclusive Excellence,” which was developed by Dr. Njeri Nuru-Holm, the Vice President for Institutional Diversity, in collaboration with the President’s Council on Diversity.

Included in the action plan is an executive summary — in which its states “Cleveland State University (CSU) seeks to be known as a premier institution where diversity and inclusion is valued and celebrated. Diversity is a compelling interest and core university value and commitment to diversity at all levels of the University is important and expected.”

The Diversity Action Plan (DAP) is created around the vision of achieving eight key goals that will “build upon a twenty year legacy of building traditions of diversity, excellence and inclusion,” as stated in the DAP.

These goals address the many facets and features of creating a successfully diverse university, including, addressing the academic needs of diverse students, ensuring the diversity of the university’s faculty and staff and developing and implementing diversity education programs.

While Cleveland State may not yet be the cornerstone of diversity — the university, along with the efforts of the office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement, has made great strides in accomplishing the goal of increasing diversity, engagement and the success of an ever growing group of diverse students at Cleveland State.