World Trust

6 Ways to Recruit & Retain Students of Color: Winona State's Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

Posted by Lisa Abbott on December 4, 2014
WinonaStateDiveristyInclusionOfficeSince 2005, Alexander Hines, the Director of Inclusion and Diversity at Winona State University, has increased the number of students of color at the school from 144 to 680. The University has surpassed its own goal of attracting 2-3 percent more black students to the campus each year, and with students themselves pushing for greater diversity efforts, it seems likely that this trend will continue.

Curious about how Hines has achieved this success in meeting Winona State’s diversity goals, we decided to find out for ourselves. Hines has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and as he warms to the subject, it becomes clear that this energy is backed by an impressive body of knowledge. Here is what he told World Trust.

1. Employ Active Recruitment

We asked Hines what he believes makes his efforts so innovative. His response was to point out bluntly, "We recruit." His office conducts "both on campus and off-campus recruitment" that reach out specifically to underserved and underrepresented students. Targeted recruitment -- Hines’s office makes sure to visit high school campuses that do not hold college fairs and fall off most admissions office’s radar -- is an inclusive gesture that gives students an incentive to attend Winona State.

2. Develop Programs for the Underserved Student

Hines understands that student success is community and family-based. Summer programs like Family Ties and the 10-day-long Hope Academy, which is offered at no cost to underserved students, help prepare high school students to take on the challenges of completing a college degree. Giving students access to community support and ongoing mentoring helps them to feel connected, Hines says, and he believes it is a big factor in the increased retention rates at Winona State. Overall, Hines explains, the focus is on building a foundation that students can draw on to help them feel committed to the student life even after the initial recruitment phase is complete.

3. Cooperate with Other Local Institutions

Hines has also created a partnership with Southeast Technical College, allowing students of this community college to live on the Winona State campus while they complete credit hours that they can use to transfer into a 4-year undergraduate program. Students who complete some of the diversity programs and who demonstrate strong potential for success are given special admissions' consideration.

4. Host Diversity and Equity Workshops

Wondering what role a diversity speaker can play in helping the campus to become inclusive, we ask Hines about his connection to Shakti Butler and the World Trust organization. Hines explains that he has known Dr. Butler since 2008 when the two met at the White Privilege Conference. She hosted two diversity workshops at Winona State in 2011, "The Way Home: Heart to Heart Conversations" and "Irresistible Justice: Cultivating Joy as Pathway to Equity" which utilized clips from her diversity video Cracking the Codes.

General audiences sometimes "experience cognitive dissonance" when they hear about systemic inequity for the first time, Hines says. The overwhelmingly positive response to these workshops suggests that Dr. Butler's approach was able to spur critical thinking and left students eager for more information about racial differences rather than leaving them feeling confused and defensive. Seminars and workshops are a supplemental form of education that works.

5. Inspire Student Involvement

When the institution truly values diversity goals, students themselves become leaders in the process. Hines tells World Trust about one such student, Joauapag Lee, who was the student coordinator for the Winona State’s Knowledge, Empowerment, Advocacy, and Pluralism (KEAP) organization.

Along with other members, Lee presented a 38 page report articulating their need for a diversity space on campus to the administration, and when these efforts fell on deaf ears, they occupied a cardboard shack they constructed on school grounds in freezing weather. The result is students were granted space for the new KEAP Center in the spring of 2013.

6. Build Relationships

Finally, we asked Hines to tell us the single most important thing he would say to diversity and inclusion leaders at other institutions. Here is his response:

"You have to understand your institution and learn to navigate it yourself, but you must also identify your faculty allies. You must be intentional and evaluate the programs you are using to see if they are working.

The most important thing, though, is building relationships. It helps if the university president is a transformational leader, but the main thing is working on connections and building relationships."

For more information about Winona State's innovative diversity initiatives, you can contact Alexander Hines directly at AHines@winona.edu. To learn more about World Trust's approach to diversity workshops, click below.

Download "5 Hallmarks of Effective Diversity & Inclusion Events" by Shakti Butler, PhD

 

Topics: Higher Ed, Shakti Butler, How to