A pilot study to help close the equity gap and improve the graduation rates of underrepresented minority students in the apparel merchandising and management (AMM) program will receive a $48,000 grant from the CSU.
The project, titled “Developing Culturally Relevant Activities to Support Undergraduate Persistence: A Pilot Student with Supplemental Instruction and Grad-to-Undergraduate Peer Mentoring,” is one of five winners of the CSU Create Award (Creating Responsive, Equitable, Active Teaching and Engagement Awards Program), which supports faculty efforts to bolster student success and reach the CSU Graduation Initiative 2025 goals.
AMM Assistant Professor Helen Trejo will serve as principal investigator on the project, along with co-principal investigators Assistant Professor Claire Whang and JC Cañedo, a lecturer in the department.
Trejo said she was pleasantly surprised the pilot received the award, adding that the AMM team will work hard to make sure it is effective for all participants.
“I think the project can help stimulate inclusive participation with faculty, undergraduate, graduate students, and alumni,” Trejo said. “Including undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni is especially unique and can give us better insight into their perspectives to help reduce equity gaps and meet graduation goals.”
The new aspect of the pilot, Culturally Relevant Supplemental Instruction (CRSI), will include activities that celebrate cultural differences, affirm diversity and validate the home cultures of students. The plan also calls for the implementation of grad-to undergraduate peer mentoring.
The pilot program is a companion to the Fearless Classroom initiative, which is a method of instruction that encourages a psychologically safe classroom community that is inclusive, equitable and promotes mutual trust and respect and where instructors are empathetic, compassionate and show humility in interactions with students. A total of 196 faculty members and all eight academic colleges have participated in the program, implementing it in 220 classes and reaching 7,290 students since launching in 2019.
In the fall, AMM will host focus groups with students to determine what they would like to see in the supplemental instruction piece, Trejo said. Also planned for fall is the development of a peer mentoring program involving alumni from the new graduate program.
The idea for the project stems from an equity gap in persistence rates between underrepresented minority students and their non-underrepresented peers. Data from 2017-20 showed that for first-year students in the program, the equity gap was greater than 10 percent, with some signs of improvement in 2019-20. From this data, the faculty members outlined key strategies for closing the gaps.
Enhancing Math Education
Cal Poly Pomona was also represented in a separate CSU Create Award, which was given to faculty members who collaborated across CSU campuses.
Biological Sciences Professor and Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching Director Paul Beardsley served as co-principal investigator, working with two psychology faculty at San Diego State University and the Motivate Lab, on “Developing Instructional Cultures that Support Student Motivation in Math,” which received $175,000 in funding.
Their project involves expanding the already established Motivating Learners Course (MLC) online training for faculty that is being offered to universities across the country. MLC has been offered to faculty at five CSU campuses, including Cal Poly Pomona and San Diego State, in the past two years, with nearly 50 participants from biology and chemistry faculty at CPP. Funds from this project will be used to make a version of MLC that is specifically focused on mathematics. The plan is to enroll 40 instructors and graduate teaching assistants of foundational math classes with historically high DFW rates, the percentage of students in a course who earn a D or F grade or withdraw, and equip them with strategies to help reshape student mindsets and adapt learning materials related to math and close equity gaps.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the meaningful Motivating Learners in Mathematics Course to Cal Poly Pomona and to be able to have examples in the course that are all directly focused on teaching mathematics,” Beardsley said. “This should make the course more relevant and useful for faculty supporting our students in these critically important courses.”