Why student participation is key to initiatives like the MSI Summit | Information Center

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Editor’s Note

: President Keith E. Whitfield will present the UNLV Minority Serving Institution Student Success Summit on Friday, September 24 at the Students’ Union. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear stories from students, expert speakers, and participate in activities focused on leadership, careers, student research and teaching. This event is open to all students, faculty and staff, but places are limited. Sign up online. This story was written by Daniel Perez, graduate student in anthropology and member of the MSI Student Council.


In the wake of the latest US News & World Report ranking UNLV as the most diverse university for undergraduates, the university is exploring what it means to serve our particular student body.

In recent years, UNLV has achieved the official designation of Institution Serving Minorities, as well as the Institution Serving Asian and Native Americans, Pacific Islander (AANAPISI) and Institution serving Hispanics (HSI).





I am a member of the UNLV MSI Student Council, which partners with the Center for Academic Success to better educate historically underrepresented students on how to navigate their academic careers. We have invited Marcela G. Cuellar be an expert speaker at this year’s MSI Student Success Summit. Cuellar, professor of education at the University of California at Davis, received her doctorate in higher education and organizational change from the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA. His research focuses on access and equity in higher education, higher education institutions and emerging higher education institutions, as well as the success of Latinx students.

She will present at the summit on September 24 from noon to 1:00 p.m. virtually to the undergraduate student body and will hold a keynote address with a question-and-answer session at 6:00 p.m. with graduate students from UNLV.

What inspired your research on access and equity in higher education, with a focus on Latinx experiences in higher education institutions?

My parents had instilled early on that an education would be the way to really progress and move – not just socio-economically – but to have a greater global impact. My undergraduate experience at Stanford University shaped the positive – and the less positive – experiences that helped me understand that a college education is more than a degree or it’s about earning more. silver.

There is also what I would call a transformative aspect of education, which allows me to make sense of the world. This aspect helped me understand my parents’ trajectory from Mexico to the United States and clarified how opportunities are stratified in terms of education.

My undergraduate experience has been transformative in that it instilled in me a desire to help more students who ‘look like me’ have a similar experience that gives them tools that in turn help them make the world more equitable. Following my experience at Stanford, I worked with students from Upward Bound and other educational opportunity programs. The focus of my work in Upward Bound was on how to get more students to college, which, again, isn’t just about making more money. Yes, that’s part of it, but the goal was to help students understand how going to college contributes to your community – a broader view of your place in this world beyond yourself. These types of questions and topics became so intertwined for me that when I went to pursue my PhD at UCLA, I knew I wanted to explore things related to access and equity in education.

I think we have largely presented higher education as a private good – as a way to advance economically. My experiences with students in the classroom indicate a yearning for more than economic advancement. It sounds cliché, but the students are looking for meaning and purpose. Thinking back to my own college experience, I now realize that I was looking for the same things.

What can you share about MSIs and HSIs that are disrupting conventional knowledge about these institutions?

One thing I find fascinating about MSIs and HSIs is that they educate a majority of minority students. MSIs and HSIs hold this unique space. When we think of higher education, we tend to think of college as being made up of certain pillars. We think of Harvard or Stanford, and we tend to think of them as “elite” (ie, long-standing) institutions.

However, we must revisit this model and focus on the education of the majority of students from minority backgrounds. This model prompts us to set up HEIs differently by having greater clarity on who is educated and how the higher education landscape is envisioned for the future. Furthermore, HEIs are revealing of how we should think about higher education today compared to how it has been viewed historically. I believe that in about 100 years, higher education institutions will represent the standard model of higher education, in contrast to the institutions that we as a society have generally lauded.

Based on your experience with Upward Bound, what success strategies could you recommend to the UNLV, including the MSI Student Council, to complement this program to help students succeed in college?

The value of Upward Bound and similar programs is that they focus on fostering strong connections and mentoring. By fostering bonds with students, we can help them realize that their own hard work and determination is what leads to their success and not just luck.

One thing I will say about the MSI Student Council [at UNLV] is that it brings students to the table and allows an opportunity for new perspectives. By allowing students to provide input and by genuinely listening to students, we can understand how their perspectives might enable us to restructure unnecessary obstacles. For example, something that caught my attention recently was the notion of office hours. We often talk about the importance of office hours; and it’s something critical for students entering college that allows them to build relationships with faculty.

Some students, especially first-generation or low-income students, may not be familiar with the culture of office hours. I have heard students say, “Oh, I thought that was the time the teachers spent doing their work. ”Now some of my colleagues have suggested calling them“ student hours ”to make it very clear that these are the hours that we have allocated in our schedules to support students. I have a colleague who integrates office hours into teaching time, so that students don’t even have to restructure their time to be able to connect with professors. There are those professors who, rather than bringing students to their office, will sit in the (student union) and say to the students, “This is where I have my office hours”, because this is where the students are and where they feel at home. easy.

By doing things like that, we are disrupting hierarchies. Minor adjustments like this can help remove barriers that might otherwise continue to alienate students.

What are you most looking forward to for the next MSI Student Success Summit?

I look forward to engaging with students and learning more about the innovations happening at UNLV. I am delighted to be part of your community on this day, to feel the energy of this inaugural summit and to learn more about all of you. I hope the students realize how their presence at university impacts not only themselves and their families, but also future generations. I think students should be inspired by it.

What do you do for fun when you’re not busy improving higher education?

I love to travel and explore new environments. Unfortunately, with the current pandemic, this has been a bit limited. I also love Yelping for good food. Over the past couple of years, I’ve really looked more at health and wellness. I love turbo kickboxing and doing things that involve a lot of punches and punches. This is probably because it is also very therapeutic. I also love spending time visiting my family. But, with the pandemic, it has been a bit more difficult to do. I also love spending time at the beach, having grown up by the ocean in Oxnard. The ocean breeze is very soothing and relaxing for me. In general, I would say that I appreciate all of the beautiful gems that California has to offer. I’m a Californian girl through and through.


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