Improving the Academic Skills of Hispanic Graduate Students

By Hoogeveen, Paul | The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, April 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

Improving the Academic Skills of Hispanic Graduate Students


Hoogeveen, Paul, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


Hispanic-Serving Institutions face several challenges in improving services for Hispanic and other minority students, many of whom are first-generation college goers. This is particularly true at California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), where Hispanics make up approximately 55 percent of the student population and 36 percent of the graduate enrollment. In 2010, CSUDH was awarded a $2.4 million grant via the U.S. Department of Education's (DOE) Title-V, Part B-PPOHA (Promoting Post-baccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans) program to fund a new enrichment called Promoting Excellence in Graduate Studies (PEGS). As PEGS neared the end of its five-year run, in November 2014, CSUDH announced that it had been awarded a second PPOHA grant in the amount of $2.9 million to fund a new, more comprehensive program - Graduate Writing Institute for Excellence (GWIE).

"Hispanic and other low-income students at CSUDH experience a range of significant academic challenges that include low graduation rates, ineffective writing and research skills, limited opportunities to conduct original scholarship, and lack of experiential knowledge such as academic and professional internships," said Dr. Leena Furtado, project director and principle investigator of GWIE. "The Graduate Writing Institute for Excellence is a multi-pathway, comprehensive, modern academic center offering an array of development services to advance the overall level of students' scholarly achievement and professional excellence."

Furtado said that the basis for developing GWIE was founded in the need to address three fundamental factors affecting student achievement: insufficient preparation, insufficient financing, and insufficient support. From this, GWIE was developed with three primary goals, each with its own set of measurable objectives. First, the program will "promote discipline-specific research, curricular modifications and enhancements, academic/professional services and activities to meet the specific educational needs of the target population within their programs of study." Second, it will "measurably advance the academic skill-sets of students from the targeted population, in the areas of graduate-level reading, writing, and research skills within their discipline." And third, it will "build practical and professional skills within the targeted student population via academic and/or professional partnerships and/or internships."

GWIE is intended to leverage the success of PEGS, which served over 4,800 students in its five-year run. PEGS programs included Independent Study for Research Writing, The Research Writing Virtual Lab, and Research Writing Workshops

"PEGS grant program services validated the additional enrichment and support required by students and faculty to improve student success and completion of degree program studies," said Furtado. "The PEGS grant helped CSUDH reach the threshold level of student excellence by supporting students across campus both in the graduate and undergraduate programs."

Nevertheless, she said, GWIE is not a direct continuation of PEGS, although it will build upon certain aspects of PEGS programs. One of the more successful means of implementing support in PEGS was oneon-one tutoring; GWIE will build on this through implementation of Cross-Aged, Peer-Assisted Student (CAPS) learning models.

"CAPS learning has been, de facto, an informal model utilized by PEGS since its inception, but one which will be improved upon with the new GWIE grant," said Furtado. "The unique leadership and academic characteristic of CAPS or formerly known as PEGS Graduate Writing Consultants (GWCs) are that they comprise of doctoral and completed master's program students. The new CAPS Mentors, like PEGS Graduate Writing Consultants (GWCs), will demonstrate academic and scholarly leadership due to advanced studies; moreover, they will receive specialized training in order to meet the needs of the particular students they serve. …

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