Montclair State University will lead a $2.6 million, two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institutional Resilience and Expanded Postsecondary Opportunity (IREPO) program to address the needs of the most vulnerable students, as well as build institutional resilience, in the ongoing global pandemic.
Montclair is the lead partner with two rural Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – Albany State University in Georgia and Alcorn State University in Mississippi – and the Newark Board of Education on At Home in College in the Age of COVID-19: Improving Instruction, Access, and Engagement in Minority-Serving Institutions, a project seeking to help students overcome obstacles exacerbated by the pandemic and make the leap from K-12 to their college years.
“For this specific grant program, what’s new about it is that it is specifically focusing on the challenges we’ve realized moving through the pandemic in higher education and K-12,” says Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education David Hood. “It provides opportunities for higher ed and K-12 districts to form partnerships that really begin to strategically look at how those institutions were impacted by COVID and come together to research best practices and deliver outcomes on how we provide instruction in the future and how we can support students who experience lots of different challenges.”
The program includes faculty training, student supports, a dual enrollment program with Newark Public Schools, and modalities and best practices modeled and improved throughout the pandemic.
Broadly, the grant will:
- Provide funding for faculty development at Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) and HBCU institutions (Albany State University and Alcorn State University) to improve the modalities developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Allow Montclair State to launch The Future College Graduate Institute Dual Enrollment Program with Newark Board of Education. Along with the state of New Jersey’s Opportunity Meets Innovation Challenge (OMIC) funding, Montclair will now be able to serve 150 students instead of 75 students in each cohort.
- Allow Montclair to work collaboratively with Albany State University and Alcorn State University to implement high impact components of the University College Model on their respective campuses.
Assistant Provost for Special Programs, EOF and Academic Success Daniel Jean will run The Future College Graduate Institute Dual Enrollment Program – a college access partnership that will strengthen the enrollment pipeline for Newark high school scholars.
Successful completion of the dual enrollment program will create a pathway to automatic admission to one of Montclair State’s Summer Bridge programs. Ultimately scholars who successfully complete the dual enrollment program as well as the Summer Bridge will have the opportunity to earn up to 19 credits prior to their initial fall semester at Montclair, or up to 12 credits if they choose to enroll at another institution.
Accelerating their time to a degree is key, says Jean. “The dual enrollment program will allow these high school scholars to engage in the college experience in and out of the classroom. This fully funded curricular and co-curricular experience will provide the pathway to successful careers and provide a structured opportunity for scholars to deliver COVID-related service to their community.”
Says Jean, a Newark native: “To be able to give back to the community that I come from is an unbelievable reward for me. Having federal and state resources will go a long way to impact the pipelines in Newark. It will impact every high school and community in Newark.”
Montclair State Assistant Provost for University Advising and Career Services Danielle Insalaco-Egan, who co-wrote the grant, believes the high-impact practices that will be enacted within the partnerships will yield “inescapable engagement” to create a greater sense of belonging for students. “Innovations such as embedding mentoring in the classroom, scaling early warning programs, and utilizing a proactive, data-informed advising model will provide students with a care network of supporters who will help them stay on track toward timely degree completion.”
Also exciting for Montclair State is the opportunity to connect with Alcorn State and Albany State, says Hood.
“Through my network we were able to identify two HBCUs and we were able to form what I believe will be an amazing consortium,” says Hood. “That’s where you are going to see the richness and the power.”
The combination of these “three very distinct and diverse higher education” institutions coupled with the Newark high school students will yield “some very powerful learning coming out of that collaboration and tools for best practices,” adds Hood.
Alcorn State Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Ontario Wooden is in perfect harmony with Hood.
“I met David at North Carolina Central University. We were both deans there. We developed this great professional relationship. So when he reached out about collaborating, I reached out to one of my colleagues at my undergrad alma mater Albany State and pulled together three institutions at various developmental levels with their university colleges.”
Wooden says the similarities between Hispanic-Serving Institutions and HBCUs cannot be understated. “There are a number of support programs developed at all of our HBCUs that in some ways inform work that is being done at HSIs. I think some of the history and cultural heritage of both groups is shared and informs this work at the university colleges.”
Wooden is particularly excited about the grant’s course redesign element, helping to “bolster those students who come from high schools that didn’t have a ton of highly qualified teachers,”
“At the university colleges, we’ve been thinking about that deficit and learning how to support those students in being successful,” says Wooden.
“We’re going to spend some time with our faculty, their data, what’s working in their courses and what’s not working and developing something that reimagines and re-energizes learning by the end of the two-year project.”
“We are delighted to partner with two academic powerhouse institutions to facilitate sharing of best practices that can transform student success,” says Albany State University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Angela Peters. “The pandemic brings forth many challenges, yet many opportunities. With this partnership and the focus on building institutional resilience in the ongoing pandemic, we have the unique opportunity to cultivate and invest in human capital, our students and faculty.”
“It’s really about the partnership,” Hood concurs. “Instead of going it alone we decided to join forces.”
“The challenges and the opportunities whether in rural Mississippi or southwest Georgia or in the urban areas of Newark and Montclair, the challenges that we and our students face, are real and very similar in nature,” says Hood.
“I’m so excited to see all of the benefits that are going to be reaped, not so much for the institutions but for students. I am so passionate about the work. It’s so rewarding and so fulfilling. I love to see students have the opportunity to have a better life and achieve so much.”
Adds Jean, “You can sense my excitement. This is what our institution is here for. President Koppell made it clear: We are here to provide access and opportunity. We are fulfilling the mission of Montclair State University.”
Story by Staff Writer Mary Barr Mann
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