West Texas A&M University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion recently began to address the issue of low graduation rates among minority students by working with an outsourced vendor to produce a Campus Climate Survey to be administered starting Oct. 1.
“This is being given to all sophomores and juniors,” Dr. Rosemary Gray, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, said. “We’re going to learn and be able to plan and to understand our students and what their needs are in this 21st century.”
Faculty and staff on campus have been included in this project as well. College deans were asked to select a specific liaison through the Diversity and Inclusion Office.
“Our focus is really on freshmen, entering freshmen and transfer students,” Gray said. “Another purpose of this survey is to help increase our graduation rates, because based on our graduation rates they are about half or less for black African American and Hispanic students, so we want to increase the graduation rates.”
Gray worked with the Institutional Research Office to get that information and has chosen this particular survey because it is nationally-based and will allow for a comparison among institutions of higher learning across the U.S. that have also participated in the survey.
The results of the survey will be available in the summer and will be accessible for administration, faculty, staff and others who do any sort of planning involving the results. Student Government will also look at the results when they come in.
“I can’t represent someone I don’t know about, so just knowing what types of students are here, what they need assistance with, what are they feeling, so that we can focus on a positive,” Edward Akinyemi, Student Body President, said. “My biggest pet peeve is pointing out a problem but not bringing a solution, so hopefully we can find solutions to the problems we have here at WT.”
The survey, however, will not be conducted every year because Gray said that the office will need to have time to address the results. In future years, the University could consider an in-house survey.
“I think that if this is a good test run then we can start opening tests for more minority groups and not exclude the majority of the group either, because it is their campus also, so you have to make sure that we appease all students at WT, not just certain groups,” Akinyemi said.
In addition to the Campus Climate Survey, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion has also launched an Active Study Hall program held every Monday and Tuesday for freshmen and transfer students in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center. The Study Hall is led by student peer leaders who are a part of the ASH program.
“I want to make this an inclusion thing,” Rhemecka Graham, senior Business Management major and ASH program leader, said. “I know we are targeting a certain group of students but that’s only going to get us so far. I want us to become a part of WT, help and input things into WT. I want students to know their ideas are welcomed and encouraged.”
This year is the first year that the ASH program will be implemented on campus.
“I have a passion for minority students,” Graham said.
Leaders were required to go through leadership training before the start of school. Additional information on the Active Study Hall and the ASH program can be found on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s webpage.