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University’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity recognized nationally



University of Nevada, Reno Graduate Assistant Christopher Barry (left) with Ronald Williams, vice president of the College Board, at College Board’s CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Awards. Barry recently accepted the award presented to the University’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity in San Francisco.

Exemplary student-retention initiative, College Life 101, helps students from minority and low-income backgrounds overcome obstacles to college success

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Center for Student Cultural Diversity has received one of 17 national awards for its exemplary student-retention program, College Life 101. The CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Award was presented to the center at the recent College Board 2011 Regional Forum in San Francisco.

The College Board, which promotes excellence and equity in K–12 and higher education, honored programs in each of its six regions. The winners initiated innovative and effective best practices to help minority and low-income students get ready for, into and through college, and each honoree received a $5,000 award to support the continuation and growth of their program. Exceptional initiatives were recognized in the categories of Getting Ready, Getting In and Getting Through. The University was one of five acknowledged nationally in the Getting Through category.

“Our freshmen retention rate is at 80 percent, an all-time high for this University, and the center is a vital contributor to this,” said Shannon Ellis, vice president student services. “The center has become a community of faculty, staff and students all fully committed to the academic success of students. Everyone benefits as we continue to improve retention rates and see these students graduate, ready to join the workforce and be active, productive citizens.”

College Board President Gaston Caperton describes the winning programs as “leading the charge” toward improved graduation rates and “giving our students the best possible opportunities to succeed in college and beyond.”

The center is the focal point of the University of Nevada’s multicultural campus environment. A gathering place for studying, attending programs and taking advantage of professional staff in dealing with student issues, the center is a hub of student life.

“The center’s College Life 101 Program is a custom-tailored, support-services initiative aimed to create and support greater cultural diversity within the University,” said Reg Chhen Stewart, director of the Center for Student Cultural Diversity. “The center has worked hard since 2003 to set the high-water mark for supporting Nevada’s college students. The fact that that we have the top retention program in the west, and one of the top six in the country is a point of pride for the entire University.”

College Life 101 is an in-depth retention program for students who want an additional level of service and grade-level programming. It involves regular meetings with center coordinators, a service-learning component, and mid-term progress reports, as well as academic, career and financial aid advising.

The number of students of color is at its highest point in the University’s history at  24.6 percent of total enrollment (4,356 of 17,679) and 30 percent of the incoming freshmen class. Professionals in the center met 11,327 requests for retention-based services from fall 2009 to fall 2010 including academic advising, financial aid advising, personal counseling, study hall, educational programs and social activities. The center conducted outreach to 3,832 prospective students from fall 2009 to fall 2010 and hosted co-curricular programs for 8,093 University participants.

“By recognizing these programs, we hope to inspire other institutions to continue to expand opportunities for low-income students to successfully prepare for, attend and complete college,” said Ronald Williams, the College Board vice president who leads the CollegeKeys initiative. “We are committed to partnering with key stakeholders across the country to identify and remove barriers to success for underserved students.”

For more about the Center for Student Cultural Diversity, www.unr.edu/cscd, and for more information about the College Board Innovation Awards, visit www.collegeboard.com/collegekeys.

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