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La Sierra awarded $2.6 million to increase student success


by Darla Tucker
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Students (left to right) Anthony Schmidt, David Wuchenich, Kevin Kawamoto and physics professor Ivan Rouse in classroom instruction in 2014. [Photo: Natan Vigna]

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) La Sierra University, a 93-year-old institution recognized for its diverse population and its service-learning programs, recently received a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance educational services and help eliminate barriers preventing Hispanic students and under-served populations from achieving academic success.
The award is known as a Title V grant which falls under the Higher Education Act. La Sierra is one of 96 Hispanic-serving institutions of higher education across the United States to receive a portion of $51 million in grant funds intended to help Hispanic and low-income students achieve greater academic success leading to graduation. The grants will assist with faculty development, curriculum development, academic tutoring and mentoring and other services.
“We are delighted by this good news,” said university President Randal Wisbey. “It is an honor to receive this valuable and substantive grant from the Department of Education as it will enable the university to build upon our strengths and better serve all of our students.”

La Sierra University, a private, co-educational liberal arts institution has a student body that is approximately 42 percent Hispanic. Additionally, the university is home to many students who are first in their families to attend college, and who will benefit from a supportive environment that allows them to complete the educational process and reach their potential.
La Sierra will receive $524,919 to implement the program this school year and approximately $525,000 for each subsequent year of the five-year program. Goals include increasing retention and graduation rates by developing integrated and holistic student support services and building upon a student-focused classroom environment that emphasizes personal interactions through group study and collaboration with faculty.

  Associate physics professor Elvis Geneston (left) and student Benjamin Figuerroa work in the physics lab at La Sierra University in 2014. [Photo: Natan Vigna]

Project strategies include early needs assessment and a summer immersion program. A scaffolded degree pathway will help ensure students are progressing toward graduation, and an AVID for Higher Education student success program will coordinate tutoring, career advice, counseling and other services.
“Various focus groups on campus put considerable thought and effort into designing the most effective strategies that build on our strengths of personal interactions with students and existing initiatives toward success, like our Center for Student Academic Success,” said Marvin Payne, director of Sponsored Projects Administration at La Sierra University. “We will provide an integrated approach where academics and student services unite to provide a comprehensive support system.”
According to a September report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the country’s Hispanic population totaled 55 million as of July 1, 2014, an increase of 1.5 million, or 2.1 percent, since July 1, 2013. Of the states, California had the largest Hispanic population in 2014 with 15 million. Riverside and San Bernardino counties saw its Hispanic population grow by 47,000 during the same time period to reach nearly 2.2 million, half of the area’s population, according to a media report.
The U.S. Department of Education announced the Title V grant awards Sept. 29 as part of its recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month held annually between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. “Hispanics will soon represent nearly one in three American workers, and in this competitive global marketplace, a skilled workforce is a necessity,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a released statement.
About La Sierra University
La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.
U.S. News & World Report for six years named La Sierra University the most racially diverse university in the western United States. In addition, in July 2015, Money magazine ranked La Sierra University eighth in the nation for providing value-added education that helps students surpass expectations. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 the Corporation for National and Community Service announced La Sierra’s inclusion in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll awards. The awards include the prestigious 2013 Presidential Award, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. The awards recognize La Sierra’s students for providing thousands of hours of service including international economic development projects by La Sierra’s World Cup-winning Enactus team, and community projects through La Sierra’s campus-wide, Service-Learning program.
In December 2008 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching included La Sierra on its 2008 Community Engagement Classification lists consisting of 119 colleges and universities around the United States. La Sierra University achieved re-classification status in 2015.
The Seventh-day Adventist denomination established La Sierra University in 1922 on acreage formerly part of the Rancho La Sierra Mexican land grant. Today the institution provides more than 120 bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for approximately 2,500 students. Programs are offered in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, the School of Education, the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Evening Adult Degree Program.
“To Seek, To Know, and To Serve” is the key to the mission that drives La Sierra University, with all areas of campus encouraging students to develop a deeper relationship with God.

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