Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
PORTALES—Four employees and a student regent from Eastern New Mexico University recently attended the BEAMS (Building Engagement and Achievement for Minority Students) Summer Academy in Puerto Rico. The Academy was sponsored by The Institute for Higher Education Policy and is an outgrowth of ENMU's ongoing participation in the Greater Expectations: Inclusive Excellence Initiative.
Eastern's team included Renée Neely, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs; Suzanne Balch-Lindsay, interim director of Retention Activities; Barbara James, director of the Campus Union and Auxiliary Operations; Mary Ayala, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Diego Espinoza, student regent.
"Data shows us that student success, persistence and achievement all improve considerably when students are 'engaged' in the educational process," said Ayala. "This factor is even more dramatically true for minority students.
"The funding for the BEAMS project allowed us to participate in special administrations and extra data evaluations of our institution's National Survey of Student Engagement. We were able to compare our results to those of several different groups of institutions, and we had access to 'data crunchers' who aided us in interpreting the data and focusing in on areas where we could improve our students' overall experience of engagement."
Ayala said that The Summer Academy let Eastern work with experts, consultants and peer institutions and to craft a "Plan of Action" specifically tailored to campus needs. One "striking element" that emerged from the data was that Eastern's freshmen report their level of engagement on campus is equal to or above national norms, while Eastern's seniors report that they are far less engaged.
"Eastern will benefit from the project if our action plan helps us find ways to engage students more in their educational experience," said Ayala. "Part of our plan includes presenting what we've learned to different constituencies on campus, seeking input from focus groups, and inviting others to help us achieve the project goals. Student engagement and success involve absolutely everyone on campus."
Student involvement was a key focus, explained Ayala. Universities were asked to have a student representative on their teams. Students were involved in all activities and workshops and elaborated on their experiences as students in an open panel discussion.
"Diego did a great job representing ENMU on the Student Panel," said Ayala. "It was stressed numerous times that students have a different definition of student success and of student engagement then what the faculty and staff believe. The academy was a great setting for students to get a first-hand experience of what educators across the country are doing to make the higher education experience better."