Virginia Tech is focused on diversity. College officials recently announced the university’s goal of increasing its population of underrepresented and underserved students—which includes minorities, first-generation college students, and those from low-income households—to 40 percent by 2020.
But what if Virginia Tech could achieve a 100 percent retention and graduation rate for these students? Or ensure that the six-year graduation rate for underrepresented students mirrored that of majority students? With the Student Opportunity and Achievement Resources (SOAR) program, all of these goals are indeed achievable.
By connecting various entities across campus—from academic departments to the Division of Student Affairs—SOAR helps students who are underrepresented and underserved by connecting them with university resources and opportunities.
“We recognize that we cannot meet the mandate of preparing students for service without equipping them with the tools and strategies they will need to work, live, and learn in a diverse and complex world,” said Menah Pratt-Clarke, Ph.D., vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity at Virginia Tech.
To help the university achieve its diversity objectives, BridgeEdU has played an advisory role in instituting the program. “Virginia Tech is not a bunch of buildings—it’s a collection of touchpoints in the lives of students,” said Tisha Edwards, president and CEO of BridgeEdU. “SOAR has impressive goals, but most impressive will be the impact that the Virginia Tech Diversity Team will make in these students’ lives by building frameworks to increase their successes. The impact will be felt well beyond the campus of Virginia Tech, and into the very fabric of our society.”
Both Edwards and Phyllis Hillwig, BridgeEdU’s COO, traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia, to participate in SOAR training. They presented on the importance of intrusive college advisement, and how it can benefit students of promise.
Specifically, intrusive college advisement is an intentional strategy that relies on personal relationships to address potential barriers that could negatively impact a student’s ability to successfully navigate the college experience. By taking a proactive approach—that is, moving beyond typical academic and transactional advisement to more impactful advisement—advisors are able to demonstrate that they care about the students.
The intrusive advising approach also ensures that each student has a sense of belonging and connection to campus and community, a growth mindset, and a strong sense of agency when it comes to education. As a result of participating in the program, SOAR students will ultimately close the achievement gap between students of promise and majority students throughout the entire Virginia Tech campus.
BridgeEdU will continue to advise the SOAR team during the fall of 2018.
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