Student Affairs News

Annual Forum Key to Establishing Key Partnerships

Department: Office for Access, Equity, and Achievement

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By Lucila Loera, Assistant Vice-President of Student Affairs, Office for Access, Equity, & Achievement

Every year the Office for Access, Equity & Achievement provides an in-service two-day training on the Pullman campus to bring programs and partners together to design institutional strategies, foster efficiencies, and develop collaborations to more effectively serve first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students at Washington State University (WSU). When this effort first started over a decade ago, the first generation population was at 15.5% at WSU, in recent years the number of first-generation college students has jumped to 40% across the system. What I look forward to each year at this event is that professional development trainings can remind us as a campus community that higher education can learn from and flourish because of our own research, the importance of developing partnerships, and hearing the expertise from our own colleagues. We had over 56 WSU faculty and staff join us this year at the Access & Opportunity Forum to engage in critical discussion surrounding equity in higher education and re-commit to creating a campus of inclusion and belonging for all our students. One highlight each year is the student panel when we hear directly from students about their academic experiences, challenges, and the impact and role that equity programs have provided in their lives. In addition to the student panel, we always have a workshop on enrollment updates, self-care, and other intentional informative and insightful topics. This year we also focused on Poverty and Disabilities as a way to broaden our conversations on diversity. Colleges and universities remain, as they long have, crucial gateways for social mobility. Our effectiveness as a campus community in meeting student needs depends on being relevant, innovative, integrated and collaborative. The thought behind A&O has always been strait forward, in order to further develop our ability to nurture underrepresented student’s learning, empowerment, and subsequent upward social mobility, we must also encourage cultural-competency of our faculty and staff to develop a research-based and affirming campus environment, and willing to develop partnerships to make that happen. Participants in attendance were committed to make those partnerships happen, as we came together as Cougar Colleagues to share and learn. As one colleague, Dr. Colette M. Casavant, remarked,

   “Thank you very much for the fabulous forum these past two days. I greatly enjoyed meeting everyone and the workshops. I am new to WSU and am in CAHNRS, working with agricultural students. These past two days reminded me of the hearts that can be forgotten in the day-to-day procedures of academic programs. I left inspired and look forward to future endeavors with the Office for Access, Equity, and Achievement. Have a lovely day!”

Thanks to those that came and joined in the conversation. For more information about the Access & Opportunity forum, or to be part of next year’s event, please contact Lucila Loera at lucila@wsu.edu.