Bringing It

Bringing It #105: Metro College Success Program, Bonner Partnership, and Job Opportunities

May 23, 2023

Dear friends,

This issue of Bringing It returns to our practice as part of the Paradigm Project of spotlighting innovative programs that point toward new models of inclusive, holistic, and engaged undergraduate education.

The Metro College Success Program (Metro) based at San Francisco State University has created a comprehensive approach to student learning and support for first generation, low income, and diverse students. It includes–and goes beyond–the important but more narrowly focused outcomes of undergraduate student retention, graduation, and first-job employment.

Metro is facilitated by leaders who move across areas that are sometimes siloed in higher education – student access and success, academic affairs, civic engagement, and faculty development. The program’s purpose is aligned with the mission of San Francisco State University, an urban public university that references academic excellence, as “pursuing knowledge, inspiring creativity, and supporting our diverse community and advancing social justice and positive change in the world.”

Metro has become an incubator of transformation to address the equity gap on campus, in higher education, and in the broader society. The two-year cohort-based program is rooted in a social justice framework that helps students understand and analyze systemic injustice and develop as changemakers in their academic and career pathways and in their own communities. Metro integrates structured development and training for program instructors and staff and actively seeks to support educators who have backgrounds similar to Metro students.

Metro’s staff are frequent conversation partners with BT2P, and the program is an important part of our campus network of exemplars. We learned much about holistic student support from their short summary below, and we anticipate that you will too.

In this issue, we are also pleased to announce a multi-year partnership as part of the Paradigm Project between BT2P and the Bonner network to foster transformative change in higher education by more fully integrating civic engagement into the missions of colleges and universities.

Finally, we highlight several important employment opportunities from our friends at Campus Compact and James Madison University in the civic engagement movement.

Metro College Success Program: Student Success for Social Change

By Rama Ali Kased, Mary Beth Love, Savita Malik, and Alycia Shada

The Metro College Success Program (Metro) is an award-winning program established in 2007 at San Francisco State University to increase equity in college completion through engaging, supportive, rigorous, and socially relevant education. The program redesigns the first two years of college to increase retention and bachelor’s graduation for low-income, first-generation, and diverse students. Its focus is on interrupting the cycle of disadvantage that historically underserved first-time freshmen (FTF) face due to systemic racism and injustice in K-12 schooling.

Metro serves about one-third FTF and 50% of all first-year underrepresented minorities (URM) at SF State. Metro students are cohorted in career-themed Academies for their first two years. A dedicated team of student services staff and student leaders provide wraparound services to Metro students to ensure students receive the support they need to succeed academically and personally. Each Academy has a faculty coordinator who teaches the students in a first-year experience course focused on education equity and social justice. The coordinators are actively engaged with their students to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.

The program is organized into thirteen academies, with each academy comprising 140 students. At least one academy is in each of the six colleges on the campus. The curriculum scaffolds content across the four semesters using real-world challenges the students face daily. Many of our students experience first-hand the social crisis plaguing their communities. They, along with their families and neighbors, frequently experience housing and food insecurity, compounded by the need to endure long commutes to evade the burdening costs of rent in San Francisco.

The curriculum connects these heart-wrenching experiences with sophisticated political economy analysis and exposure to civic engagement strategies to rectify these issues. Our students deeply engage with discussions on how engaged communities and social movements can bend the arc toward a more just and equitable society. The goal of the curriculum is to inspire a commitment for a better future and use it to fuel the hard work of learning. Moreover, our shared learning community gives students an academic home where they can build long-term peer support.

Metro is also committed to supporting the professional development and well-being of its faculty. One of the program’s hallmarks is its Faculty Learning Community (FLC) that allows instructors to deepen their understanding of critical pedagogical principles, experiment with new teaching methods, and receive constructive feedback from colleagues. All Metro instructors participate in 45 hours of professional development, which fosters a supportive community of educators committed to continuous improvement. Through structured opportunities to reflect on their teaching practices, faculty members identify areas where they can grow and develop as educators. The FLC ensures that the Metro program remains at the forefront of effective teaching practices while creating a supportive and collaborative community of educators.

The Metro program is supported by the Metro Data Student Success System (MD3S), which provides timely data and strategic opportunities to enhance the program’s effectiveness. MD3S works to inform and ensure that each program division provides the most effective retention service strategies thereby increasing students’ retention and graduation rates. The impact of the Metro program on student outcomes is significant. During the first two years of university, when national data shows that many students drop out, Metro has improved student outcomes sharply. Metro students consistently outperform their matched comparison group in retention and graduation rates.

Metro provides a transformative learning experience that inspires students across the disciplines to advocate for a more just society. Through a nurturing and inclusive atmosphere, Metro empowers students to surmount systemic barriers hindering their education while encouraging civic engagement to address policies negatively affecting their families and communities. The program’s accomplishments are evident in the outstanding achievements of its students, underscoring the importance of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate the equity gap in college completion

BT2P and Bonner Partnership

We are pleased to announce a multi-year partnership as part of the Paradigm Project between BT2P and our friends at The Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation to advance transformative change in higher education by integrating civic engagement more fully into the missions and purposes of colleges and universities. For the past year, David and Paul have collaborated with Bonner leadership and with participating campuses to strengthen pathways for student civic engagement beyond the limited number of students in the four-year Bonner programs. In the process, we have engaged broader themes such as faculty and staff role realignment, campus-community partnerships, and badging and certificates. Over the next years, we will continue to deepen this process on participating campuses and share learning to support change at other institutions. The partnership announcement will be recognized at the 2023 Bonner Summer Leadership Institute, May 31 to June 3, at Montclair State University.

Job opportunities in Civic Engagement

We are pleased to publicize several employment opportunities in the civic engagement movement. Our friends at Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities that supports the public purposes of higher education, is hiring for five positions. This is a great opportunity for academic and nonprofit staff with various levels of experience to support the civic engagement movement.

James Madison University, a nationally recognized leader in democratic and civic engagement and a strong collaborator with BT2P, is hiring a Director of Community Service-Learning. This position facilitates student placements in community agencies, supports refugee resettlement through Every Campus a Refuge, coordinates service-learning courses, and engages JMU’s long tradition of alternative breaks. Application review begins on May 24th.

With gratitude for all that you do,
David, Paul, and Todd