The president and founder of the National Urban Alliance (NUA), Eric Cooper, joined California State University, Northridge faculty and staff to highlight the work the university is doing to close achievement gaps, at the Academic Innovation Showcase on May 13 in the University Student Union’s Grand Salon.
Cooper, a renowned educator and advocate, delivered a keynote address that shared details of his own story and outlined some practices faculty and staff may use to help promote student success. He also praised the faculty members at CSUN and all the hard work they do to help students succeed.
“I came up with this title, ‘CSUN: A Beacon for Diversity and Success,’ and I fervently believe that,” Cooper said of his keynote title.
Though Cooper holds a doctorate from Columbia University, he once was told by his high school guidance counselor that he was “not college material.” He used his story to emphasize that many children are not given the support necessary to succeed, and that it is important for educators to allow children the chance to realize their gifts. “Only God knows the potential of a child,” he said.
To highlight this point, Cooper told the crowd about Oshae Rodgers, a CSUN student who was sitting in the audience. Rogers was once homeless, but after encouragement from a family member, he is now a freshman at CSUN with an excellent grade point average and plans to continue on to become a teacher.
“Our work is anchored in the belief that every child has a capacity and a hidden talent that needs to be acknowledged,” Cooper said. “And I honor all those who have been part of this effort and part of this mission.”
After the keynote address, faculty, staff and students presented research and strategies in culturally relevant teaching and high-impact practices, with each group allowed only two minutes to state the primary theme of their topic. More than 15 posters expanding on the presentations lined the perimeter of the room, giving attendees easy access to additional information and acting as a meeting place to discuss strategies and collaboration.
The Academic Innovation Showcase is one result of a partnership between the NUA and CSUN, which began in summer 2015 when CSUN was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Collegiate Athletic Association to support the collaboration. The program uses the NUA Pedagogy of Confidence as a model to encourage and support first- and second-year student-athletes in achieving their full potential. In the past year, the NUA has provided workshops for CSUN faculty and advisors. The organization also has participated in the university’s Faculty Learning Committee and Staff Learning Committee, whose work throughout the year culminated at the showcase.