UW-Madison hosts 2015 Institute on High Impact Practices & Student Success

More than 250 practitioners in 35 teams from college campuses across the country have converged on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus this week to participate in the 2015 Institute on High Impact Practices (HIP) and Student Success Summer Institute (SSI) organized by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Institute on High Impacts Practices.

Among the teams involved in the training is a highly-integrated team of UW-Madison practitioners, said Hazel Symonette, Ph.D., who is a member of the HIPs Institute faculty and the founder & director of the Student Success Institute.

DSCF0311“Our proposed work together at the AAC&U Institute on High Impacts Practices will focus on further development of our collaborative efforts especially with regards to closing achievement/equity gaps, utilizing effective methods for improving students’ group learning experiences, identifying strategies that can be implemented by our programs for enhancing students’ capacity to overcome the impact of micro-aggressions, stereotype-threat, and imposter- syndrome,” Symonette said, “while, simultaneously increasing students’ academic self-efficacy, their skills and capacities through meaningful employment and research experiences. We will also work on our plans to assess our programs’ processes, outcomes and impacts.”

DSCF0313The UW-Madison team members are Susan Nossal (Director, Physics Learning Center), Chris Moore (Physics Learning Center), Maya Holtzman (Associate Director, Ronald E. McNair Post baccalaureate Achievement Program (McNair Scholars Program)), Angie Rosas and Anna Golackson (Founders, Student Employment Work Model, Office of Human Resources), and Althea Miller (Founder, Vivaldi Ain’t All We Whistle project, UW Madison). Both Maya and Althea are also graduate students in the School of Education. Susan works as a research scientist in the field of atmospheric physics as well as her work in the Physics Learning Center.

Additional Team Members include: Mulki Nur – Office of Human Resources Student Employment Work Model & Undergraduate Student; Akilah Mason – Office of Human Resources Student Employment Work Model & Undergraduate Student; Sheltreese McCoy – Crossroads Project Coordinator (Multicultural Student Center & LGBT Campus Center) & Graduate Student; Jose Madera – Center for Academic Excellence Assistant Dean; Jean Heitz – Distinguished Faculty Associate, Zoology and Peer Learning Association Instructor/Advisor; Lillian Tong – Faculty Associate & Faculty/Staff Programs Director, Wisconsin Institute for Science Education and Community Engagement (WISCIENCE); Agnes Lee – Faculty Associate, Chemistry Learning Center; Miguel Hernandez Ochoa –  McNair Scholar and Undergraduate Student; Shilvio Linton – McNair Scholar and Undergraduate Student; Akire Trestrail – Teaching Assistant in the Physics Learning Center and Graduate Student; and Christian Hernandez – Peer Mentor Tutor in the Physics Learning Center and Undergraduate Student.

“This training is a way to strengthen our skills involving use of high impact practices to foster student success and address equity gaps at our institution,” Symonette said. “We will build on our partnerships begun through the. Our team draws upon Growth Mindset theory to facilitate the development of resilience and self-confidence amongst the students we serve, through authentically inclusive, ethno-relative practices. We strive to help students build these capacities in the context of undergraduate research, a learning community for physics, student work experience within the Office of Human Resources, and through educational workshops addressing stereotype threat.

As founder and facilitator of the University of Wisconsin’s Student Success Institute, Symonette added that the focus of the teams work at the institute will be three-fold: 1) increasing student access and success, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields; 2) building students’ capacities for meaningful employment and career opportunities; 3) multi-culturally relevant assessment to improve program effectiveness.

“We would like to learn more about strategies for helping students to build their capacities for fostering a growth mindset, resilience and other strategies for reducing the impact of stereotype threat and other challenges, while increasing students’ academic self-efficacy. We are also interested in learning more about techniques for fostering effective group work and other strategies for enhancing student interactions.”

Participants also will learn new techniques for assessing their programs’ effectiveness, including ways to obtain and incorporate student input, learn about how others are collaborating amongst high impact practices to provide holistic approaches to foster student success, and gain additional strategies for sharing what we learn through our work with students involved in high impact practices with the greater campus to help inform decision making to create a campus environment that provides a supportive learning environment for all students.

UW-Madison Team-Member Programs:

McNair Scholars: The federally-funded Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate prepares students from communities that are underrepresented in graduate studies, to successfully enroll in Ph.D. studies. Through intentional program design, and in an inclusive, ethno-relative structure and process, the staff work closely with eligible undergraduates, in all, including STEM, majors, who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. degree. McNair Scholars engage in faculty-mentored research and a variety of scholarly and professional development activities that aim to provide students with skills that are necessary to successfully navigate the rigors of Ph.D. studies.

The Student Employment Work Model (SEWM) is focused on the educational practices and pedagogies of ethno-relative, as opposed to ethno-centric, inclusion, growth mindset, appreciative inquiry, and deliberate and mindful collaboration. SEWM focuses on these to serve students in application of these pedagogies and practices to strategically building a skill-set that will foster success beyond their employment with SEWM, specifically, that the participants will develop the self-advocacy and agency needed for carving one’s own space within environments that would otherwise not accommodate them. Evaluative practices, specifically participant feedback, is encouraged throughout to ensure that the participants feel their needs are met, and if not they are identifying in what ways those needs can be met. Those requests are then honored to the best of the ability of the environment.

The end result is an ethno-relative, collaboratively created space that allows for participants to grow and develop to meet their goals. Evaluations of students post the employment model have also been solicited to better understand what resources can be provided now to enhance success beyond current employment. Based in growth mindset, both student and staff participants are given the ability to develop skills beyond those we feel we are inherently adept. Coupled with appreciative inquiry, we are able to identify strengths, whether individual or collective, that may foster growth in other areas.

The Physics Learning Center provides academic support, small group supplemental instruction, and a learning community to students studying introductory physics, gateway courses for many science majors and students with pre-health interests. Participants in our program include returning adults, people from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, students from families in lower-income circumstances, first-generation college students, transfer students, veterans, and people with disabilities, all of whom might feel isolated in their large introductory course and thus have a more difficult time finding study partners. We also work with students potentially at risk for having academic difficulty due to factors such as weak math preparation.

A second mission of the Physics Learning Center is to provide teaching and leadership experience for undergraduate Peer Mentor Tutors who lead small study groups and receive extensive ongoing training and supervision. Our tutors participate in a weekly teaching seminar to discuss teaching and mentoring issues in the sciences, and also attend a weekly meeting to discuss strategies for teaching specific content areas. Our tutors are physics, biology, engineering, and science education majors. Many of our tutors are from populations that we prioritize for our student participants and some were former Physics Learning Center participants.

Vivaldi Ain’t All We Whistle (VAAWW) is an initiative named after Claude Steele’s book, Whistling Vivaldi: Cues to How Stereotypes Affect Us, that seeks to expand on Steele and others’ work on the stereotype threat- the fear of confirming a negative stereotype about one’s [racial, ethnic, gender, etc.] group in academic and professional settings, and how that fear contributes to underperformance – especially in STEM fields. Thus, VAAWW aims to increase the participation and retention of people of color and women in STEM education and occupations by translating two decades of research on the stereotype threat; the goal of this synthesis being community-based research, and intervention- a missing link between the stereotype threat theory and the application thereof.

“Our goals for participation in the AAC&U Institute on High Impacts practices will be to develop strategies for furthering our work together as a team to enhance access and success for students both during their time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and post-graduation,” Symonette said.  “Through our involvement in the Student Success Institute, our collaborative work to date has included referrals to each other’s programs and providing training across programs. For example, Althea Miller has given presentations on Stereotype Threat to staff and undergraduate Peer Mentor Tutors in the Physics Learning Center. Additionally, the Physics Learning Center works closely with the McNair Scholars program to identify potential first-generation scholars who might not otherwise know about the McNair opportunities.”

“We have all learned from the Student Employment Work Model as a way to bring student input into shaping meaningful work experiences. We propose to use the Institute to deepen our knowledge regarding how to help students build a growth mindset, resilience, grit, advocacy skills and other strategies as proactive “antidotes” to challenges such as stereotype threat, isolation, and under-confidence. We look forward to learning from the experiences and expertise of colleagues from around the country to expand and deepen our knowledge and skills regarding inclusive high impact practices, equity initiatives, and strategies for assessing program effectiveness.”