We are excited for our students!
A prime objective of the Proyecto Exito grant is to develop a student center:
“Establishment of a Student Engagement Center which will focus on integrating the Latino student experience into the Mesa College culture. Additionally, an innovative Student Navigators program will be housed in the Student Engagement Center, allowing peer-to-peer interactions and mentoring to take place. This Center will offer creative programming focused on leadership development, socio-cultural experience, and academic support. It will promote Latino culture and explore Latino identity and self-awareness and provide a space where family members learn how they can support their student. Existing programs such as Puente will use this center, and the Chicano Studies faculty will frequent the Center, creating a central location for Latino student support.”
The development of this type of center takes the entire campus community. The space had already been identified from the old academic skill center on the 2nd floor of the Student Services Building. A work group needed to be pulled together to develop a shared vision of the center. In October of 2016 we kicked off this endeavor with an open forum to engage campus community. Faculty, staff and administrators discussed ideas and the various needs the center will be able to meet for our students.
The work group began meeting to review themes for the center, including clarifying the purpose of the center, who would use it, what are the needs, furniture and technology, look and feel, and what should be its name. Feedback was also provided from students in the Puente program who went through a visioning process of a student center. In December of 2016 we followed up with a student forum to solicit more input from students and to have further dialogue on an official name for the center.
Through the guidance of the work group, plans have progressedwith numerous meetings and discussions surrounding the layout of the center, which will allow multiple activities, meetings, and workshops to take place at once. This center will provide a place for students to support and connect with each other. Additionally, they will be able to connect with faculty and staff to receive additional help as needed. These things will be possible by dividing the space into areas that will serve different functions, for example: workshop and engagement areas, in addition to quiet study areas.
It is our goal that this will be a “safe space” for our students to be who they are, express themselves, and be affirmed for their accomplishments. Decorations will be colorful and symbolic of the diverse Latino cultures and countries. Not only would this be a safe space for Hispanic expression, but an educational space to open up this beautiful world for those who may not be aware; an inclusive space where students will be able to share their stories, inspire and empower one another. Versatile furniture and wireless connectivity will further enhance student’s ability to engage the center’s resources no matter what their individual needs may be.
Additionally, we are planning to extend the center for some family engagement. Hosting workshops, and informational meet and greets, where families can get a taste of campus life and support. Discussions continue to involve ways of increasing student access to counselors, financial aid, outreach, and peer navigators & mentors.
The remodeling of an existing community college building, that involves structural changes, must go through a process at the state level that can take 6-8 months. Instead of operating in its current state during this time, we have decided to implement the conversion of the space into two phases. First phase: all the furniture and equipment so that the center can function as it is intended to; the second phase is the physical construction once approved by the state. This construction will consist of the division of the space by a movable partition, re-carpeting and painting. The goal is to be completed by the beginning of the spring semester, 2018.
Beyond the purpose, programing, and remodeling of the center; the name and its identity has been a robust process with strong campus conversations with faculty, students, staff and administrators. At the beginning of April, the center work group forwarded two names to the executive team, and the name AVANZA Engagement Center was approved! The name, a cognate of the Spanish word for advance, was chosen as it represents concepts such as forward thinking, movement, and coolness as reasons for student support.
We would like to thank everyone who has, and will continue to participate in the process as we build the AVANZA Engagement Center!!