CollegeNET, Inc., a leading provider of web-based on-demand technologies for higher education and the developer of the Social Mobility Index (SMI), has presented its 2019 Social Mobility Innovator Awards to 10 student success professionals from six universities across the nation:
- Wichita State University, represented by Provost and Professor Dr. Richard Muma and Director of Student Success Kim Sandlin
- Craig Richardson, Professor of Economics and Founding Director, Center for the Study of Economic Mobility at Winston-Salem State University
- Alvin Atkinson, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Associate Director, Center for the Study of Economic Mobility at Winston-Salem State University
- John Gunkel, Vice Chancellor, Academic Programs and Strategic Partnerships at Rutgers University — Newark
- Jeff Orgera, consultant and former Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Retention & Success at the University of California, San Diego
- Lindsay Romasanta, Director, Student Success Programs at the University of California, San Diego
- Gwynn Benner, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success at the University of California, Santa Cruz
- Tony Marin, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at New Mexico State University
- Dacia Sedillo, University Registrar at New Mexico State University
The Social Mobility Index ranks nearly 1,400 four-year U.S. colleges and universities according to how successfully they enroll students from low-income backgrounds and graduate them into promising careers. The goal of the SMI — now entering its sixth year — is to help redirect the attribution of “prestige” in the higher education system toward colleges and universities that are advancing economic mobility, the most pressing civic issue of our time.
“Most higher education rankings evaluate colleges and universities as if comparing brands for consumer purchase,” says Jim Wolfston, President of CollegeNET. “The SMI, on the other hand, helps policymakers, students and families see which colleges and universities are doing the most to drive U.S. economic mobility. We hope the SMI encourages more institutions to embrace and expand their roles as conduits for restoring the American Dream.”
Expanding and Enriching Social Mobility
The 2019 Social Mobility Innovator Awards were presented in early July at CollegeNET’s Social Mobility Summit, in Portland, Oregon. During the Summit, the 10 award recipients participated in a roundtable discussion on best practices for student success. They provided insights and described innovative approaches for expanding economic inclusiveness and social mobility through higher education.
Wichita State University, for example, explained the school’s multi-year and institution-wide commitment to recruiting and retaining students from historically under-served and under-represented populations in Dallas-Fort Worth, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, which are located along the I-35 corridor. The impact of this innovative practice on the local and regional economy, and the importance of standardizing retention practices and coordination of services to increase the quality of student services, were also discussed.
Craig Richardson of Winston-Salem State University talked about his school’s Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM), which brings faculty and students together as they study barriers to economic mobility in surrounding, low-income communities.
Alvin Atkinson of Winston-Salem State University articulated the need to include student and community voices when it comes to faculty hiring.
John Gunkel of Rutgers University — Newark explained that his school has increased the number of under-served students from Newark by stressing the institution’s many great academic opportunities together with its rich engagement as an anchor institution in the city of Newark.
Jeff Orgera, formerly of UC San Diego, talked about the effectiveness of coordinating student success services across campus.
Lindsay Romasanta of UC San Diego discussed how listening to student narratives helps build inclusivity at colleges and universities.
Gwynn Benner of UC Santa Cruz explained how creating a sense of belonging makes a big difference for first-generation students.
Tony Marin of New Mexico State reinforced the importance of appreciating and serving first-generation students.
Dacia Sedillo of New Mexico State talked about the vital institutional pride that comes from recruiting and retaining first-generation students.
Discussing Social Mobility Issues on Campus
The Social Mobility Summit followed several regional conferences sponsored by CollegeNET in 2018 and 2019 that focused on student success and social mobility. These on-campus events took place at the University of California, Irvine; the University of California, Santa Cruz; the University of California San Diego; Wichita State University; and Winston-Salem State University. Other CollegeNET-sponsored student success events are scheduled to take place at Notre Dame de Namur University, in Silicon Valley, and New Mexico State University in late 2019 and 2020.
Challenging Obsolete Notions about University “Prestige”
CollegeNET also recently published an e-book on student success and social mobility in higher education. The e-book offers best practices from student success professionals who are pioneering innovative programs that support historically under-served and under-represented students’ academic, personal and financial needs. The e-book’s contributing writers challenge outmoded notions about university “prestige.” And they affirm higher education’s role as the most important rung on the ladder of economic mobility while leading their campuses toward greater diversity and economic inclusion.
Economic Inclusion Helps Spark Innovative Minds
In a keynote address at Old Dominion University’s Social Mobility Symposium earlier this summer, CollegeNET President Jim Wolfston stressed the importance of changing the core value system of higher education from the 1980’s pursuit of self-aggrandizement and wealth to the delivery of opportunity to all ambitious students, regardless of their economic status. “College education now constitutes the most important rung on the ladder of economic mobility,” says Wolfston. “But particularly when it offers a challenging environment populated with diverse ideas, personal backgrounds and viewpoints, a college does something even more important: it prepares students to encounter, navigate and appreciate the unfamiliar. Given that innovation always depends upon a person’s ability to consider what could be different from their own assumptions and experiences, economic inclusion is thus not only a solution to a social justice issue, it is a key strategy for sparking innovative minds.”
Sixth Annual SMI Rankings will be Released this Fall
See the complete 2018 Social Mobility Index rankings. (The sixth annual SMI rankings will be published during fall 2019.)