Closing the Opportunity Gap: Identity-Conscious Strategies for Retention and Student Success

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This book offers a novel and proven approach to the retention and success of underrepresented students. It advocates a strategic approach through which an institution sets clear goals and metrics and integrates the identity strengthen work of cultural / diversity centers with skill building through cohort activities to enable students to successfully navigate college, graduate on time and transition to the world of work. Underlying the process is an intersectional and identity-conscious, reasonably than identity-centered, framework that addresses the complexity of students’ assets and needs as they encounter the unfamiliar terrain of college. In the current landscape of higher education, colleges and universities most often divide their efforts between departments and programs that explicitly work on developing students’ identities and separate departments or programs that work on retaining and graduating higher-risk students. This book contends that the gap between cultural/diversity centers and institutional retention efforts is both a missed opportunity and one that perpetuates the opportunity gap between students of color and low-income students and their peers. Identity-consciousness, the central framework of this book, differs from an identity-centric approach where the identity itself is the focal point of the intervention. As an example, a Latino men’s program will also be developed as an identity-centered initiative if the outcomes of the program are all tied to a deeper or more complex understanding of one’s Latino-ness and/or masculinity. Alternately, this same program will also be an identity-conscious student success program whether it is designed from the ground up with the students’ racial and gender identities in mind, but the intended outcomes are tied to student success, such as term-to-term credit completion, every year persistence, engagement in high-affect practices, or timely graduation. Following the introductory chapter focused on framing how we bear in mind risk and success in

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