ACC Convocation Speaker Pushes Inclusion
In order to meet the mandate to educate more Texans, community colleges throughout the state will have to reach minority students, said Dr. Luis Ponjuan, Texas A&M University associate professor Higher Education Administration.
“It is important to help these students because there are long-term financial implications,” Ponjuan said. “Texas is the demographic reality of the country. You play a critical role.”
Ponjuan was the guest speaker for the Alvin Community College Fall 2019 Convocation. His speech focused on improving educational outcomes for Hispanic students, a growing demographic in Texas.
Colleges and universities throughout the state are striving to meet the legislative mandate to have 60 percent of 25 to 34 year old Texans earn a certificate or degree by 2030 (60x30). The mandate is a challenge, Ponjuan said, since Texas ranks 36th
in the country for the percentage of the population with an Associate Degree or more.
Ponjuan said completion rates among minorities often rank far below that of white students and that needs to change in order to meet the 60x30 mandate.
As more Hispanic students seek out a degree or certificate, colleges must understand their needs. Many low-income or at-risk students face challenges outside the classroom that could impact whether or not they stay in college, he said.
“There are a lot of students who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from,” he said. “They don’t know where they will sleep that night. We don’t always have a clear vision of what their needs are.”
The first major step in overcoming these obstacles is to getting to know the students personally, discover their needs and help overcome obstacles to their education.
“Know their names,” Ponjuan said. “Find out who they are.”
Minority students often feel insecure about being in a college classroom which can often lead them feel like they’re not welcome.
“Find out how you make them feel like they belong,” he said. “We have to have this conversation.”
College faculty and staff members must look to improving several elements of the campus environment to help increase the success of minority students. Those areas include improving: the transition to college, academic experiences, completion rates and student engagement.
“You have to ask; you have to listen,” Ponjuan said. “We have to create opportunities for students to connect to faculty, staff and their peers. You have to create conditions that allow everyone to reach their potential.”
One important aspect to ensure minority students are successful is that everyone at the institution must be ready to help, whether it is a faculty member, an administrator or a staff professional.
“We have a lot of people in this room who are responsible for the mission and vision of ACC,” Ponjuan said. “Inclusion is everyone’s job.”
Texas A&M Higher Education Administration professor Dr. Luis Ponjuan speaks about increasing minority student success during the ACC Fall 2019 Convocation.