According to research, students belonging to the Native American and Pacific Islander minority groups represent the lowest percentage of all minority groups continuing education at Salt Lake Community College.
“A couple of years ago, students that came back from LeaderShape agreed on a project to look at retention efforts for two particular ethnic minority groups, Pacific Islander students and Native American students. They presented their data at President’s call, but it was unfinished. It was put on the shelf following that presentation,” says Dr. Marlin Clark, SLCC Dean of Students, Assistant Vice President.
Last year, Clark asked Kevin Miller and students from SLCC LeaderShape to take on a project to research the Native American and Pacific Islander groups and come up with some solutions for retaining them.
Students from SLCC LeaderShape presented data from their research focusing on retention rates among two distinct minority groups at the Vice President’s Extended Staff Meeting on June 18, 2013.
The LeaderShape team conducted extensive research over the past 14 months and came up with some recommendations to support retention among the Native American and Pacific Islander groups. Five students and one advisor make up the SLCC LeaderShape Team, Alex Bardsley, Beth Low, Josue Tlapale-Reyes, Kaila Koplin, Liz Tallington, and advisor Kevin Miller.
“We did a huge online survey, and from those answers, we did our focus groups, separating them into Native American and Pacific Islanders, and what we found out later was that their responses were completely different from each other. Instead of grouping them together as a whole demographic that wasn’t staying in school, they had their own specific reasons for not coming, and they were not the same at all,” says Tallington.
Students from SLCC LeaderShape attended club meetings of American Indian Student Leadership and the Pacific Unity Association and conducted focus groups with both clubs separately to learn about personal experiences that might give insight to their research.
With the support of campus labs and institutional research, online surveys were conducted.
Just over 950 surveys were sent to SLCC students identified as Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. Approximately eight percent responded from the surveyed groups combined.
SLCC LeaderShape recognizes that several areas will take time to improve. However, the organization is also aware that a few simple changes could help work toward the goal of retaining more of the minority students in the groups at-risk. SLCC LeaderShape presented their recommendations to staff and faculty at the Vice President’s Extended Staff Meeting.
After 14 months of research, six areas of focus were recommended for improvement: academic advising, childcare, clubs and organizations, diverse staff, financial aid and Web access.