Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 7:57 am | Fair 36º


CSU Channel Islands Allocates $2.6 Million Grant to Support Vulnerable Students

The more than $2.6 million grant CSU Channel Islands just received from the U.S. Department of Education will enable the university to start a program called Project OLAS (Optimizing Learning, Achievement and Success), an initiative designed to help students navigate the first two years of college.

Director of Hispanic Serving Institutions Initiatives Amanda Quintero, Ph.D., said the first two years of college are critical for so-called “at-risk” students, who are those still completing developmental math and other foundational courses well into their second year. 


Struggling to complete necessary foundational courses may cause the students to fall behind when they should be choosing a career trajectory.

“A lot of students entering their second year have not yet declared a major. It is critical to their success to have declared a major at the end of their second year, so we’re going to develop programming that exposes students to major pathways to a career,” Quintero said. “We are going to be more intentional about involving students in internships and service learning and other opportunities.”

The five-year grant, which will equal about $525,000 a year, was available to Hispanic-Serving Institutions, which is why CI was able to compete for the funding. CI was given the HSI designation because more than 25 percent of its students are Latino.

Among those who will benefit from Project OLAS include Ventura County high school students who are first in their families to pursue a college education. Many families in Ventura County are not familiar with the college-going experience, so Quintero plans to involve families in Project OLAS, too. 

“Any time we’re dealing with a large first generation population it’s really important to include parents because families often don’t have access to the resources they need to help guide their children through the college application process,” Quintero said.

She also plans to send representatives (both staff and peer mentors) into select high schools to help students develop goals that involve a university education and a career.

Once they enter CI, Quintero said she plans to surround Project OLAS students with peer mentors who will guide them in class and through extra-curricular activities designed to support them. 

Project OLAS will also support living-learning communities of freshmen students who are involved in an activity proven to be effective at retaining students, such as undergraduate research projects.

The group involved in the undergraduate research project would live in the same dormitory, on the same theme floor, giving them the opportunity to build enthusiasm about their common goal, and find out that learning is all around them.

“We want to blur the lines between where learning takes place,” Quintero said. “Living-learning communities will provide many opportunities for learning to take place outside the traditional classroom.”

President Richard R. Rush said he has seen the challenges some students face when they enter CI without the preparation they need.

“I want those students to know they have come to the right place,” Rush said. “Thanks to this generous grant from the U.S. Department of Education, CI can offer a strong network of support to see these undergraduates through to graduation day and onto a career of their choosing.”

— Kim Gregory represents CSU Channel Islands.

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