Funded by a $3 million Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Title V grant from the U.S. Department of Education (P031S190311), SXU’s Comprehensive, Aligned Supports for Attainment (CASA) initiative will strengthen the University’s capacity to enhance educational outcomes by eliminating equity gaps and increasing retention and graduation rates for Latinx, low-income and other historically underserved student groups.
The initiative will (1) maximize student success through improved retention, progression, and completion; (2) create clear and integrated academic and career pathways for students to reach their educational and career goals, in service of the common good; and (3) create a culture of equity based on the integration of best practices and culturally validating inclusive high-impact educational practices across curricula.
The Student Success Academy is a comprehensive academic success program featuring a three-week summer bridge component and a one semester hour course during the fall for a select group of incoming first-year students. The program assists first-year students in developing the necessary skills and academic confidence to succeed in advanced college learning. The course will cover a variety of topics, such as, critical reading, financial literacy, research skills, learning styles, test-taking skills, and major/career exploration.
Participating students will work with small-group learning communities that offer one-on-one academic attention as well as a social support network of peers as they enter the college experience. The Student Success Academy will also offer customized support to all students who earn a 2.0 GPA or below after the first semester, focused on strength-building and self-discovery to build academic confidence.
A Sophomore Engagement program will be initiated to renew student momentum and sense of belonging while reintroducing them to campus support services that will assist in avoiding potential second-year pitfalls. Express workshops for sophomores will be held throughout the academic year, as well as a Sophomore Resource Fair. A Sophomore Year of Service will offer a variety of opportunities to volunteer in support of SXU's Mercy mission and core values.
Holistic, customized guidance for undecided students from Latinx and other historically underserved populations will be provided through the CASA initiative. A suite of personal and career development courses will be offered each year.
The CASA initiative will institute a comprehensive student financial literacy program that engages students in regular educational opportunities about financial literacy and empowers them to meet the financial obligations of student loans after graduation. An online Personal Financial Literacy course, offered through the Graham School of Management, will cover topics such as personal money management, student loan repayment strategies, investment instruments and retirement planning. A suite of financial literacy applications, including the Student Connections Borrower Connect ™ program, will be made available to all SXU students.
SXU's Learning Center will provide supplemental instruction in support of improving academic outcomes for underserved students. A math specialist will serve students who require additional assistance with college-level math courses, and a Multilingual Writing Specialist will assist students taking the First-Year Seminar to expand college-level academic writing abilities. Learning assistants will be embedded in select courses, providing students an opportunity to learn from their peers.
The CASA initiative will grow and support the University-wide framework to enhance curricular and co-curricular programs through engaged learning educational experiences. Faculty and student services staff will create a comprehensive plan for the integration of engaged learning, with the goal of engaging each student at SXU in at least one practice during each of their years in college. A series of workshops will be offered for faculty and staff to build culturally relevant practices into curricula and programming. A Community Advisory Board will be established to create local partnerships to enhance engaged learning practices.
A Faculty Innovators in Teaching (FIT) program will be established to promote intercultural and inclusive pedagogies to serve SXU's diverse student body. This program will centralize faculty development opportunities to integrate intercultural competency, equity awareness and learner-centered strategies. Faculty will be invited to participate in Intercultural Pedagogies Training and ESCALA certification.