This spring, as part of her ongoing Student Success lecture series, CSUN Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Beth Walker hosted two seminars — in person and, in the wake of COVID-19, via Zoom — aimed at expanding inclusion and diversity, as well as practical, specific strategies for student success.
On Feb. 17, Sumun Pendakur, chief learning officer and director of the USC Equity Institutes at the USC Race and Equity Center, spoke to hundreds of CSUN faculty members and staff on the topic “Inclusion Isn’t Accidental: Purposeful Strategies for Belonging.”
“There’s so much implicit and unconscious bias deep within each and every one of us,” Pendakur said, during her presentation in the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall. “To be truly equity-minded is to be truly aware of one’s own privilege, one’s own blindspots. That is what makes us better teachers, better supporters. There have to be concrete actions you’re taking on a regular basis. It does require actively checking our blindspots.
“If we close equity gaps, we close the opportunity gaps,” she said. “We should be making our campus student-ready, rather than focusing on making students college-ready.”
Walker added: “We can all visualize ourselves walking the other way on the ‘moving walkway’ away from inequity. We know it can happen. We make a big difference in the lives of these students, and they turn around and make a big difference in the world.”
On March 10, in a Zoom webinar designed to allow for social distancing, Walker and a number of CSUN colleagues presented “More Practical Strategies for Student Success.”
Presenters included Laura Wimberley and Yi Ding from the Oviatt Library, who shared that they studied the library check-out habits of first-time CSUN freshmen. They found that the more freshmen checked out materials from the library, the more likely they were to earn more credits and return for their sophomore year, Wimberley said. Their top recommendation to faculty: Put items on course reserves at the library!
Other presentations included “What Students Don’t Tell Professors: A Presentation on Boosting Student Success,” by Dan Alonzo, Elizabeth Poloskov, Pat Alfrod-Keating and Milton Abram of University Counseling Services (UCS). They shared UCS resources and “small steps” from faculty that students have reported are very helpful in fostering a sense of belonging: making eye contact, learning to pronounce students’ names, using their preferred pronouns and sharing their own stories.
Slides and recordings of all seminars in the Student Success series are available on the office’s website. The office also plans to offer one or two additional seminars via Zoom later this spring. Updated information will be available on the Office of Student Success website.