December 2012 newsletter
While Minnesota’s Private Colleges support diversity as a whole, our campuses also promote culturally-specific programming that meets the unique needs of different groups.
One such effort was the second annual Kente Summit for Collegiate Black Men, which took place at Macalester College, Nov. 9-10. The event featured speakers, discussions, breakout sessions and networking opportunities for black men. It was sponsored by the Minnesota Private College Council.
The event’s goal was to create a supportive space for black men at Minnesota’s Private Colleges, said Carlos Sneed, assistant dean of diversity at Hamline University and a co-chair of the event.
“Many black collegiate men do not have peer support groups, faculty and staff role models or a family history of college attendance or degree attainment,” he said. “They may also face self doubt and dilemmas around issues like academic preparation, financial aid or careers, in addition to campus climates that are not completely hospitable or welcoming.”
Sneed said that hiring and retaining diverse college faculty and staff and creating a culture of inclusion where discrimination, marginalization and oppression are addressed head-on are key parts of improving the college experience for black men. Events like the summit, which aim to provide networking and community development opportunities, as well as supportive spaces and resources, are also essential.
Sneed noted that there are plans to reconvene the group in the spring.
We asked two summit participants about their experiences and the significance of the event. Here’s what Sherick Francois ’14 from Gustavus Adolphus College and Cyrus Hair ’15 from Macalester College shared with us.
Q: So, neither of you is originally from Minnesota. What was it like starting college here?
(Francois is from the island nation of St. Lucia, but his family now lives in New York. Hair is from Georgia.)
Francois: Coming to Gustavus was definitely a culture shock. When I first got here, I was not too happy and kept to myself. Eventually I found a group of people I hang out with. There are obstacles and it isn’t easy being one of the few African-American males on campus, but it’s from these obstacles that you learn, grow and figure out who you are. Coming to Gustavus was one of the biggest decisions of my life and I don’t regret it.
Hair: Last year when I came up to Minnesota, especially coming to a private school, it was a real culture shock. I wondered if I’d be able to fit in here. There aren’t many African-Americans at Macalester, though there are a lot of international students. I come from a family that doesn’t make a lot of money, so I don’t have the same amount of money as many students here. I did meet a few people who came from a background similar to me and now they’re my friends.
Q: Was the Kente Summit meaningful to you personally? How?
Francois: It was important because it allowed me to be able to come together with a group that I feel comfortable with, with my brothers, to talk about things that are important to us. Even though it’s uncomfortable at times, we have to keep our heads up and maintain our identity.
We talked about how we, as African-American men, tend to change who we are, to be “nice” so that people think positive things about us. We discussed how we can still be ourselves in these situations.
The conference also explored prejudice and racism on campus. Though it’s not as prominent or in-your-face as it was in the ’60s, it still exists. The conference was a place to speak about this. Many of the men said there wasn’t a place to do that on their campus. We vented our frustrations, had fun and talked to each other, with the goal of accepting the idea of what it means to have a black male identity.
Hair: I went to the summit last year and loved the whole concept. This year, because it was at Macalester, I knew I wanted to be involved. I was in a volunteer role where I helped set up and worked the registration table. I was also involved because I‘m a co-facilitator of the Men of Color Collective at Macalester, a group that helps facilitate campus conversations about race.
When they asked me to give a speech at the summit, I thought, “Wow, why did they choose me to do this?” It was an honor. My speech was about our ideas of black masculinity and how as black men, we’re not alone and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Since one of the things about black masculinity is that we’re afraid to express our emotions or say, “I love you,” I turned to my friend and mentor, Sedric McClure, on stage and told him I loved him. I also talked about how we have to keep the conversations going even after the summit and how we can make a difference through mentoring.
We talked about how there were still only about 65 of us from eight private colleges in Minnesota there. Many of us came from high schools where there were many black men, so it was pretty sad to see our numbers. Increasing the representation of black men in higher education was definitely a goal.
Before I went last year, I didn’t know what to expect because it sounded a little radical and intense. I was also afraid I’d get there and people wouldn’t think I was black enough, because I look different. I’m mixed; my mom is Micronesian. I was bullied about this in high school. But everyone was all smiles and so supportive. I thought, “This is a good group of kids. I fit in here.”
It’s been great both years. A lot of us came away wanting more.
Q: Why are events and programming like this important for African-American men at Minnesota’s Private Colleges? Are there other events or programs that have been helpful to you?
Hair: Efforts like the summit definitely give you a support system. This was a refresher to remind us that we’re capable of pursuing our dreams. We’re here already — we just need to keep on going.
Francois: Gustavus has been doing several things to help students. For instance, there are group sessions called “Breaking Barriers” in which students have the opportunity to speak about issues of race and orientation. Also, we have the D Center, which students can always visit and have discussions not necessarily pertaining to race, but just general conversations about issues of life.
Q: Now that the summit is over, has anything changed for you? Has anything new or interesting come from the experience?
Francois: I believe that the summit has allowed me to funnel my anger better and respond to certain questions differently than in the past. In addition, I think it has enabled me to realize things won’t always be easy, but at the same time one must make the best of the opportunity he or she has.
Hair: Right now I’m working with some African-American men who attended to create a Kente Brotherhood group. We’ve got students from several private colleges interested and we’re writing up a mission statement. Then we’ll try to get everyone together to discuss the group in the spring over Skype.
Also, I connected with someone on the summit planning committee and I’m going to start working for a new nonprofit called New Lens next semester. Along with students from four private colleges, I’ll be mentoring 8th grade African-American males in the Twin Cities.
Charitable contributions to Minnesota colleges and universities, which declined significantly during the recession, grew for both Minnesota Private College Council (MPCC) member institutions and the University of Minnesota (U of M) in 2011. Total annual contributions (used for capital expenditures, financial aid, endowments, etc.) at MPCC institutions have recovered to the 2008 level. Much of the rebound can be attributed to the generosity of alumni.
Contributions to the 14 MPCC institutions that responded to a voluntary survey totaled $179 million in 2011, while the U of M received $273 million. However, giving to these MPCC colleges has rebounded faster than at the U of M. Charitable contributions peaked in 2008 for both MPCC colleges and the U of M and both experienced a decline in 2009. MPCC contributions are back to 2008 levels, while U of M contributions lag by about $35 million.
Sources of gifts differ
The contributions to MPCC colleges and the U of M break down very differently. MPCC alumni gave $75 million in 2011, accounting for 42% of total MPCC giving. This grows to 50% when parent contributions of $14 million are included. The U of M received $35 million from alumni in 2011, accounting for 13% of its contributions — less than half of the total for MPCC. The share of MPCC alumni who gave was 20% — more than twice the U of M’s rate of 8%.
As a large research university, the U of M does very well in securing donations from corporations and foundations — $130 million in 2011 or 48% of total contributions. MPCC member institutions received $34 million from corporations and foundations or 19% of total contributions.
What you can do
The rise of charitable contributions, for both MPCC members and the U of M, is a positive sign of the economic recovery that has a big impact on higher education. As the economy continues to recover, consider what more you can do for your own alma mater. Whether it is public or private, your institution will welcome increased support. And if you are looking for an efficient way to make a donation to all 17 member institutions of Minnesota’s Private Colleges, consider contacting the Minnesota Private College Fund.
In recent years, higher education policy has gone from a wonky topic discussed by insiders to something discussed around dinner tables and the office water cooler. Higher education’s rising profile in Minnesota is due to several business and civic groups’ interest in the subject; they’ve demonstrated this interest through the release of reports and recommendations on what state policies they believe are needed to support higher education institutions, students and workforce development.
As we head into the 2013 legislative session, four groups’ ideas will likely help shape Minnesota’s higher education policy. Several themes appear frequently in the groups’ proposals:
- more collaboration between employers and higher education to better align college offerings to workforce needs,
- an expansion of post-secondary education options (PSEO) in high school and
- ensure that students have access to affordable higher education throughout their lifetime, whether to finish a degree or start a new one.
Here are some of the specifics of each group’s reports and recommendations:
The Itasca Project
The Itasca Project, a collaboration of the state’s top CEOs, recommends four focus areas on the theme of collaboration between higher education, the business community and the state. In "Higher Education Partnerships for Prosperity,” the group recommends that Minnesota:
- align academic offerings with workforce needs,
- create an environment that encourages research and innovation,
- form new collaborations across higher education to optimize system-wide assets and efficiency and
- graduate more students from higher education.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce recommendations include:
- align K-12 academic standards and assessments more closely with college admission requirements,
- expand postsecondary education options (PSEO) for high school students and integrate career and workforce awareness into the K-12 system,
- expand performance-benchmarked funding and improve cost control efforts in higher education,
- aim to produce more certificates and degrees in areas demanded by workforce needs,
- improve affordability of higher education for students, including spending 30 percent of the higher education budget on student aid,
- reduce the amount of remedial education needed and attempt to better utilize students’ prior learning,
- emphasize public investment in research and technology and its role in the economy and
- encourage the business community to take on a larger role in producing skilled workers.
The Center for Policy Studies
In October 2012, the Minnesota-based Center for Policy Studies released a report by Curt Johnson, “From Lagging to Leading: Making Minnesota Postsecondary Education a National Model.” The report states that:
- Minnesota should move to a proficiency and outcomes platform and create a learner-centered system,
- postsecondary educational options (PSEO) programs should be explained earlier and made more accessible to a broader array of students, with the Office of Higher Education possibly taking the lead in doing this and
- access to online learning and opportunities should be increased for all students and online learning should be geared to proficiency documentation.
The Citizens League
The Citizens League, a civic group, is also working to identify critical issues in the state’s workforce and higher education. Now the Citizens League is focusing on two areas where improvement is needed: the manufacturing skills gap and degree completion among adults who already have some college credits.
The Citizens League also recommends improving the choices that Minnesotans have in terms of higher education and optimizing students’ time in the higher education system. It has begun work on three new projects in order to work toward these goals:
- a “Return on Investment” website helping students understand the financial effects their educational and career decisions may have,
- a “Cost of Credits” project that attempts to quantify how much money is spent when students change career paths and are left with nontransferable credits and
- an effort to remove biases surrounding career and technical education that will help students make better and more cost-effective career choices.
At Minnesota’s Private Colleges in fall 2012, 18.3% of new freshmen, 19.1% of all new entering students and 21.5% of new transfer students were students of color.
- A cohort organized through St. Olaf College's TRiO Student Support Services provides students interested in pursuing a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with peer guidance and encouragement. Read more in the college's online story.
- Just four years out of college, Hamline University alum Matrika Bailey-Turner is busy putting her social justice and women’s studies double majors to work. Bailey-Turner graduated from Hamline in 2008 and now works for the global partnerships team at the United Nations Foundation.
- The College of Saint Benedict recently celebrated its inaugural tree lighting ceremony, referred to as “Christmas at Saint Ben’s.” In addition to the lighting of the 35-foot tree, choirs led more than 300 students and staff in the singing of a few Christmas carols. Organizers hope that the lighting will become an annual event.
- Angela Kraft, a senior at Bethany Lutheran College, will graduate in December and go on to attend the prestigious international Math in Moscow program. Kraft has partaken in numerous competitive research opportunities, presented at Mathematical Association of America and American Mathematical Society joint meetings, and participated in summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates programs.
- Concordia University, St. Paul’s volleyball team captured its sixth-consecutive NCAA Division II National Title on Dec. 8 with an epic five-set victory over Tampa. Concordia, which improved its current NCAA tournament win streak to 36 straight matches, tied the NCAA record (all divisions) in the sport of volleyball for consecutive National Championships.
- The College of St. Scholastica has been getting local and national media attention for its CSS Complete plan, which robustly engages Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other means of learning, to enable students who have some college to complete their baccalaureate degree. A good intro is President Larry Goodwin’s Huffington Post piece.
- Alissa Case, director of the Culturally Responsive Teaching program at Saint Mary’s University, and Asma Haidar, a student at The Blake School, are featured on the LearnmoreMN blog this month. Read their post “Academic success depends on being valued.” Consider joining the conversation by adding your comment.
- Find it hard to keep up with higher education news? Here are a few recent articles worth reading:
- Debra Townsley: Affordability in Higher Education Is Achievable (Huffington Post © 12/06/2012)
- Rethinking Grants and Loans (Inside Higher Education © 12/05/2012)
- Donna Randall: College-Student Partnership Yields Career Success (Huffington Post © 11/28/2012)
- The Net-Price Myth (Chronicle of Higher Education © 11/26/2012)
- Making the Case (Inside Higher Education © 11/19/2012)