August 2017 newsletter
Discover how one student tapped into her own experience to empower homeless women and how Augsburg College, Concordia University, St Paul and Gustavus Adolphus College have made use of their own immigrant origins to welcome the newest among us. Then check out our quick tips list for college students heading to class this fall.
Maria Cruz, a senior this fall at Augsburg College, grew up in and out of homelessness — she and her siblings moved around the Minneapolis area but often found themselves without a place to live. “We moved around a lot. We lived in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, St. Louis Park, Richfield and Osseo,” Cruz said. “We were homeless more than five times. This had a big impact on me.”
When Cruz, a double major in political science and international relations, was approached by her advisor about an opportunity to do a community service project, she knew exactly the community she wanted to work with — homeless women. “As I looked into the resources available, there didn’t seem to be many for this community,” Cruz said. “There were resources for kids but I knew if we supported the women it would help the whole family.”
The community service opportunity that Cruz’s advisor connected her with was the Phillips Scholars Program, which supports potential leaders with outstanding academic credentials who intend to dedicate a portion of their lives to community service. Six competitively selected Phillips Scholars are eligible to receive a $6,000 junior-year scholarship, along with a $4,000 summer award to support the development and implementation of a self-designed service project to address unmet needs in Minnesota communities. Cruz’s application was one of six selected, with all of the projects now underway.
“My idea originally was to hold group sessions where we would have resources available for homeless women to easily access,” Cruz said. “We’d have presenters and people talk about issues these women were facing.”
As Cruz began recruiting women for the project she realized that getting homeless women in one spot was going to be difficult and that many of these women needed more one-on-one support. So she decided to change the structure of the project and coordinate individualized support for each woman. “The goal is ultimately to get women out of homelessness, but from the beginning we wanted to start with financial literacy: building credit, getting a bank account and saving money,” Cruz said. “There are a lot of issues around homelessness but financial success is very important.”
Once this structure was in place Cruz still had more hurdles to jump. She quickly recognized that the resources that were available were extremely hard to access. “I kept getting shut down. I wouldn’t hear back for weeks — these women relied on these resources,” Cruz said. “This frustrated me. It’s not always a successful story, but it’s important to keep persisting.”
Cruz finally had a break through; the women she was working with decided to hold group sessions without her support. “From the beginning we wanted these women to come together to talk and work with each other on issues,” Cruz said. “It took a while, but finally they got together and were working as a group. I am really proud of them. I thought that’s what they really needed, and we achieved it. There’s a lot of work to do but empowering these women and increasing the awareness around homeless women has been a great start.”
By Tom Lancaster
Whether you are headed to campus for the first time or going back for the final year, college can seem overwhelming. We reached out to student success thought leaders from Minnesota’s Private Colleges to gather advice for students headed to campus this fall. Here are some tips to help students take advantage of all that college has to offer.
1. Be okay making mistakes
Mistakes can be the foundation to long lasting, transformative learning. Take time to figure out what led to those mistakes and learn from them. If the causes are unclear, ask for help. Each mistake is a learning opportunity — capitalize on it.
2. Be open to new ideas
Be challenged and energized by things you haven’t thought about before. Understanding things in new ways will help you grow and develop your own identity. Take your time and be patient when fleshing out new ideas; find the answer that’s right for you.
3. Make time for reflection
Reflection is one of the keys to growth. Reflect on why you got the grade you did, ask questions of your self — be honest. Think about what has made you happy and successful and then replicate it. Identify weaknesses that you’d like to eliminate and make that a priority. Set a specific time when you look back on the week and honor that time.
4. Make connections outside the classroom
Although the classroom is extremely important, most of your time will be spent outside of class so use this time to make lasting relationships. Connecting with peers, professors, coaches and advisors will be time well spent. These relationships will last longer than you might imagine — make these relationships a priority.
5. Find a mentor
Be deliberate in creating a mentor-mentee relationship. Find someone with whom you connect and ask them to be your mentor. The truth and candor that comes from this type of relationship can be life-changing. These relationships often last beyond college and can help you transition into the working world. Lean on these mentors and leverage their experience.
6. Get involved with an on-campus organization
Connect with students and faculty who have similar interests as you. Those interests may be something you’ve been doing for years or something you’ve just discovered. The first few meetings may feel forced or awkward, but this will pass. Engage on a deeper level — and consider volunteering for leadership positions.
Check out some more advice for new and returning students that includes quotes from student success professionals.
By Tom Lancaster
Many of Minnesota’s private colleges were founded by immigrants — immigrants traveling many miles and starting a new life. This history still informs our colleges and directs them to connect with new Americans in their communities.
Creating a hub for Hmong history and culture
Higher education institutions can be places where culture and tradition are preserved. The Center for Hmong Studies at Concordia University, St. Paul is one such place. The Center was founded in 2004 from the understanding that Concordia’s community was changing, according to Paul Hillmer, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Science where the Center is housed. “Concordia recognized it was uniquely situated in an area of St. Paul where many Hmong had settled and wanted to make long-lasting relationships with the community,” Hillmer said. “Lee Pao Xiong, who has been the director from the beginning, has been instrumental in the formation and leadership of the Center.”
Looking regionally, nationally and internationally, the center works with students, community members and academics. Every other year it hosts the International Conference on Hmong Studies, which brings together people from around the world who are interested in Hmong history and culture. “From the beginning, the center has been a community resource — a place where Hmong history and identity can be maintained and a resource for other higher education intuitions.” Hillmer said. “The Center combines documenting the past, enriching the present and charting the future. It tries to serve as many people as possible.”
Concordia was founded by German Lutheran immigrants, and this immigrant heritage still informs the university's vision today. “Connecting with the Hmong community fits directly with our vision of ‘offering exceptional opportunities for student from all back grounds,’” Hillmer said. “The immigrants may look different, but the story stays remarkably the same from generation to generation.”
Providing a home for many faiths
In 2015, Augsburg College created a new position — Muslim chaplain. The neighborhood around Augsburg College and Minneapolis as a whole has welcomed a large Muslim immigrant population. As enrollment of Muslim-American students grew, Augsburg hired Fardosa Hassan for the new position.
“When they created the position and I went out into the Muslim community, people thought Augsburg already had a Muslim chaplain,” Hassan said. “It was clear that the community had already embraced Augsburg.”
Although Hassan’s main role is to welcome Muslim students and help them be successful, she serves all types of students. “I am here to help students find the right classes, to help with personal issues and to support students to ensure they can be successful,” Hassan said. “It’s important that Muslim students have someone who looks like them and has the same traditions as them, but I work with lots of different students.”
Augsburg has a rich tradition of serving new Americans. It was founded in 1869 by Norwegian immigrants and continues to serve Minnesota's diverse immigrant communities. “Augsburg has done a great job of understanding the relationship as a two-way street,” Hassan said. “Augsburg supports the Muslim community but the Muslim community supports Augsburg too. They both contribute to each other.”
Reflecting Minnesota’s changing demographics
Gustavus Adolphus College was founded by Swedish immigrants; many of the first classes weren’t taught in English but in Swedish. Driven by the college’s new strategic plan, Gustavus continues to focus on diversifying the student body.
One of the communities Gustavus connects with is the Latinx community in Minnesota, said Jesús Hernandez Mejia, assistant dean of financial aid. He described some of the ways they aim to build these connections. “One of the things we are doing is helping undocumented high school students get connected with the Minnesota Dream Act,” Hernandez Mejia said. “Many parents and students are nervous about it, so we help them feel more comfortable and safe during the process. We also have some very close connections with high schools that have large Latino populations. Cristo Rey High School in Minneapolis has noticed how well we serve students and now they bring their students down to Gustavus to learn about opportunities we offer.”
The Latinx population is growing not only around Gustavus but all over Minnesota, and Gustavus wants to be sure these students have access to great higher education options. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in Minnesota increased 41 percent from 2005-2015. “The Latino population is growing — anywhere you go you find a Latino population — and we are working to ensure they know about Gustavus and the kind of education they can earn here,” Hernandez Mejia said.
“From our foundation Gustavus has focused on immigrants and helping them go out and serve the community,” Hernandez Mejia said. “The faces might look a little different, but the core of who they are is the same.”
By Tom Lancaster
Students at our colleges are never just a number — not with an average 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Classes are taught by faculty (rather than teaching assistants), and 63 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students. Working closely with professors enhances the quality of education our students receive.
Source: U.S News and World report 2017 edition
* The Minnesota Private College Council’s 17 member institutions
Nebraska-bound St. Kate's team documents solar eclipse
One of 50 groups nationwide studying the eclipse, the all-female undergraduate research team from the St. Catherine University collected data from the stratosphere.
Tables turned: Saint Ben’s students mentor teachers at 3-D workshop
Four College of Saint Benedict students help K-12 educators integrate technology into their classrooms.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to speak Sept. 21 at Saint John’s
Former Florida Governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush will be interviewed at Saint John’s University for the 11th annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture.
St. Scholastica creates Inclusive Excellence position; Native leader appointed
The College of St. Scholastica has appointed Karen Diver, former Special Assistant to the Obama White House on Native American Affairs, as Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence.
Saint Mary’s breaks ground on Cascade Meadow expansion
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota broke ground earlier this month for the expansion of its Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center in Rochester.
Macalester's Marlon James posts what it's like to be a Black man in Minnesota
Macalester College English professor Marlon James spoke to NPR on being a Black man in Minnesota after Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of killing Philando Castille.
CSP expands nursing program
Concordia University, St. Paul is expanding its nursing offerings with the addition of a pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
St. Olaf students use new technology to document ancient carvings
Two St. Olaf College students are using new technology to preserve a 7,000-year-old story told by ancient rock carvings.
Gustavus announces record-setting $40 million gift commitment
The landmark gift will position Gustavus Adolphus College among the elite liberal arts colleges in the nation for years to come.
Fall campus visits
The schedule of fall campus visit events for prospective students has been added to the Council website.
Transfer Days scheduled
Beginning in September, transfer representatives from some of our colleges will stop by several community colleges in the Twin Cities area to answer questions about how to transfer to a Minnesota private college. Community college students do not need to register to attend.
Not who you think: The truth about today’s college students
Washington Post, Jul. 14, 2017
Counterpoint: Are two years after high school better, or four? Both.
Star Tribune, Jul. 25, 2017
The unexpected value of the liberal arts
The Atlantic, Aug. 1, 2017
What is college good for? (Hint: More than just a job)
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 1, 2017
Why men are the new college minority
The Atlantic, Aug. 8, 2017