The final reflective journal is an excellent topic on concluding this course on the changing landscape of higher education. The chapter reading provided by Dr. Flowers was an intriguing one looking at new dynamics being created by increased diversity in higher education. The first key learning point was the increase of White students at historically Black colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In this course, especially in reading of changes of engaging people of color, usually that constituency is in the minority, but it is reversed at HBCUs. If we look at the design of HBCUs that were designed specifically for African American students, we can see some of the obvious academic, social, and cultural integration struggles White students would have, which I find really amazing, as this is the opposite at traditional colleges and universities! In looking at the topic of college choice for White students choosing HBCUs, we see convenience, cost, and availability of a desired academic program as some of the top reasons. College choice for a White student enrolling at a HBCU is not much different than choosing to attend any college or university. Challenges of engagement are very similar to what was learned for commuter and part-time students: there’s less time to be involved due to family and employment obligations. I could see how a White student would lack a connection with an HBCU. Given the design of HBCUs for African American students, this would be an uncomfortable fit for White students. What we’ve learned in Diversity in Higher education is that this situation, although uncomfortable for White students, will change their world view, as they will begin to understand African American students more, as well as develop the ability to work with different ethnicities.
Another key learning point is student engagement of Latino/a students. What I find interesting is the ideology of putting the family before the individual may inhibit engagement. Given that I am an ethnic minority (born in Canada but family from India), I can appreciate this ideology. There are parental pressures to come home and do chores, and although there was support in pursuing higher education, questions arose when I was going to be late so I could participate in campus events. This does “stretch” a student in different directions and puts added pressure on them. Being a first-generation student can also create a barrier to student engagement. My first paper in the MSHE program was on first-generation students, so I had the opportunity to research many articles on these challenges, including lack of support at home and being in an unfamiliar social setting. I believe it is critical for Latino students to seek peer support upon arriving to campus. This could come in the form of joining a club on Latin culture. The research, as per this chapter, indicates that ethnic organizations support minority students negotiate adverse campus climates. It could also could be enrolling in a Latino studies course in their first semester. One of my other professors, Dr. Chavez, mentioned that a high percentage of enrollment for Chicano studies courses were students of Latino/a background who were wanting to learn more about their culture. What a great way to meet peers through interactions and study groups!
Another key learning point is the differences between for-profit institutions and traditional universities. Hawthorne (1995) provides an interesting comparison that, “traditional universities accept money to provide education and possess a mission to provide a quality education, whereas proprietary institutions are in the business of providing an education in order to receive money.” It sounds simple, but it is very accurate. For-profit institutions are essentially selling education as a part of their business model. I am a firm believer in educational access, and proprietary institutions provide an additional opportunity for students looking to attain higher education. I can also appreciate the market proprietary institutions are targeting. Individuals who are career-driven and don’t have the luxury of a flexible schedule allowing them to attend campus-based courses. I look at myself, and I would be a fit for attending a proprietary institution, but Drexel University provided me with the flexible model I was seeking, so I am very happy in the choice I made. An important point worth noting is the engagement piece on students who have difficulties making connections with instructors and student service administrators are being dependent on the reliability of online matter and access. I look at my time at Drexel University, the connection I had to instructors has made my development and learning outcomes more effective. I felt through this process, the instructors have provided me more information that has been relevant to my learning.
The last key learning point is the engagement strategies presented. I want to specifically look at data-driven decision making. Historically, the institution I’ve worked at has not done an effective job using data to inform decision making. We are finally starting to do this, and I’m confident improvements will be made to the service models we have for students. Too many times I’ve seen decisions being made without accurate data to support those decisions. Many of those times, we’ve “gone back to the drawing board”. I’ve seen a lot of time wasted because of this. As this is the final reflective journal of this course, and as I near the end of the program, I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Flowers and the rest of the intelligent, passionate, and knowledgeable instructors I have had throughout the last two years. I will be attending the School of Education’s commencement, and am looking forward to meeting all of you in person. This program has taught me a lot. Although I’m excited to be finished shortly, I am a little sad the journey is coming to an end…but what an incredible journey it was!
This week's photo is from the top of Grouse Mountain overlooking the City of Vancouver.