Though most UH students unite with the common goal of being a tier-one university graduate, a number of students face daily personal challenges which can pose serious threats to this dream.
The series of devastating events that have taken place over the past few years including the coronavirus pandemic and the rise of police brutality have highlighted the urgency to address the needs of individuals and groups who are facing unusual challenges in completing their education.
Through a collaboration between a number of institutions in the Houston area, the Houston Guided Pathways to Success was designed to improve college completion rates by minimizing equity gaps.
“The Houston GPS Equity Walk began as an opportunity to extend the work of Houston GPS in examining institutional policies, practices, and structures through an equity lens to enable all students in the region to achieve their educational and career goals,” said vice provost Teri Longacre.
To reach this objective, the UH team is focusing on improving course outcomes and providing student transition tools.
The project has been supported with $900,000 in grants provided by the Greater Texas Foundation, Houston Endowment and other notable organizations.
Faculty are aiming to improve course outcomes by “examining course redesign opportunities and engaging in professional development focused on inclusive practices,” Longacre said.
Student transition tools are being provided through “enhanced onboarding guidance for new students and families to ensure a successful start and foundation for success throughout the undergraduate experience,” Longacre said.
These efforts are specifically intended to target marginalized groups including low-income students, first-generation students and students of color, according to national studies.
Projects aimed at initiating policy change are expected to be completed this summer, and will be assessed soon after implementation.
“As part of the Equity Walk, institutional teams have received training and guidance from the USC Race and Equity Center aimed at informing the design and implementation of strategic equity projects leading to policy or practice change,” said Longacre. “Our goal is to ensure that equity remains a key focus in our work to support the success of all students extending beyond the scope of our grant activities.”
This is the basis of the project’s title, the Houston GPS equity “walk”, which reflects the intention to apply knowledge gained from the USC Race and Equity Center training in a way that will directly impact students.
According to UH assistant vice provost for student success Nicole McDonald, this project is especially timely given the difficult circumstances affecting Houston over the past couple years.
“Over the past two years, we have learned much about how fragile our communities are and their vulnerabilities with regard to economic resources and safety,” McDonald said. “As we look at these challenges across our region, there are opportunities for Houston GPS institutions to make a real difference in the lives of students.”