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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

College and Career Readiness

November 2018


What does the research say about the relationship between cultural awareness in higher education settings, in particular the role of nonfaculty staff, and educational outcomes for students of color?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on the relationship of cultural awareness in higher education settings and educational outcomes for students of color. In particular, we focused on identifying resources related to the cultural awareness of nonfaculty staff, including health services, business services, policing, and housing. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Cooper, M. A., & Leegwater, L. (2018). Postsecondary equity through the lens of policy change. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 50(3–4), 102–106. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In recent years the fight for equity in higher education has intensified. Institutional leaders, advocates, and policymakers alike are seeking scalable solutions that rapidly close equity gaps among this nation’s most underserved populations. Too many hardworking students still struggle to afford a college education, and historically underserved students remain underrepresented. Gaps in degree attainment, gaps in achievement, and gaps in opportunity persist. Without targeted efforts to narrow these inequities, the existing gaps will grow. While institutionally-focused stakeholders often draw on the tools closest at hand in addressing equity—pedagogical and curricular changes, stronger student support structures, more extensive research on equity-related issues—it is equally important for them to join forces with other policy focused voices to help drive improvements at scale. This push for equity-minded policy is not new, but it must be taken up by all higher education stakeholders in order to make a real difference in the lives of these students. Since its inception 25 years ago, the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s (IHEP) has been one of the leading policy-focused voices working to close equity gaps and promote college access and success among the nation’s underrepresented populations by working to advance policy change. IHEP continues to develop innovative policy- and practice-oriented research to guide policymakers and education leaders. Addressing equity requires that all members of the higher education community leverage each of the tools at their disposal to close these gaps. While driving policy change is IHEP’s tool, it is also a tool everyone should have in their toolbox and one education leaders should wield together when the opportunities arise to advance institutional, state, and federal policies that ensure all students can reach their full potential by participating and succeeding in higher education.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Duke-Benfield, A. E., & Saunders, K. (2017). Benefits access for college completion: Lessons learned from a community college initiative to help low-income students. Washington, DC: Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This report analyzes how students were served by Benefits Access for College Completion (BACC), a 2.5-year initiative designed to increase access to public benefits (such as SNAP or Medicaid) for eligible low-income students. These crucial supports reduce students’ unmet financial needs and help them finish school. Launched in 2011, BACC funded seven community colleges to develop and implement sustainable policies and practices for embedding benefits access strategies into their operations. This report, ‘Lessons Learned from a Community College Initiative to Help Low-Income Students,’ outlines challenges and successes experienced by college sites as well as statewide systems. Among colleges participating in BACC, no two institutions employed the same benefit access strategy. However, all the institutions found that increasing access to public benefits was more effective when combined with other services in which students already engage, such as financial aid, counseling, and advising. In addition, CLASP found that colleges’ success with integrating and sustaining benefits depended on: (1) Changes in student flow and business processes; (2) Actions to overcome cultural barriers within the institution; (3) The capacity to produce and use data; (4) The importance of collaboration and teamwork within the colleges; (5) New relationships with local and state benefits agencies; and (6) The need to overcome student stigma. Drawing on data from an evaluation of BACC, the report also demonstrates how increased access to benefits improves student progress toward degree completion. This is especially true for students who bundle multiple benefits while enrolled.”

Gardenshire-Crooks, A., Collado, H., Martin, K., & Castro, A. (2010). Terms of engagement: Men of color discuss their experiences in community college. New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Community colleges provide access to higher education for millions of Americans who might not otherwise be able to pursue it. However, despite the pivotal role these institutions play in promoting social equity, they continue to struggle with low student persistence and completion rates, particularly among male students of color. It is this dilemma that spurred Lumina Foundation to launch the Achieving the Dream initiative in 2003 as a bold national effort to improve student outcomes and reduce achievement gaps at community colleges. This study draws on the experiences of 87 African-American, Hispanic, and Native American men who were enrolled in developmental math courses at four Achieving the Dream institutions to find out more about what affects the success of men of color in community college. The fieldwork explored how students’ experiences in their high schools and communities, as well as their identities as men of color, influenced their decisions to go to college and their engagement in school. The students offered their perspectives in their own words in three rounds of focus groups and interviews during the 2007-08 academic year. Key findings include: (1) There was no ‘average upbringing’ among the men in this sample; their family situations and economic backgrounds were diverse, and the time that had elapsed between high school and college ranged from one year to 10 or more. Nevertheless, the men shared common motivations for enrolling in college. Those most frequently cited were to increase their earning power and to be a role model for their children; (2) These men identified low expectations and negative stereotypes based on their race, ethnicity, and gender as salient elements of their experiences in their high schools, communities, and sometimes on their college campuses. While the nature and intensity of these experiences varied across racial and ethnic groups, men in all groups recounted that they had been unfairly judged by their appearance; and (3) Though most of the men initially found their community college to be more welcoming than their high school, they reported negative encounters over time with some faculty and staff. The men explicitly rejected stereotypes based on their race or ethnicity and said that such attitudes did not affect their self-image or behavior. By contrast, norms related to their identity as men—characterized principally by self-reliance—exerted a powerful influence on their ability to engage in college. Whether placing a priority on paid work over school, avoiding making friends on campus, or failing to seek out academic or financial help, these men frequently acted in ways that reinforced their masculine identities, while at times hindering their chances of academic success. By reporting how these men perceive their college environment and its challenges, this study hopes to take an important step toward understanding what community colleges can do to better meet the needs of their male students of color. The report concludes with some recommendations for how community colleges can ensure that these students receive the benefits of supports that can help them succeed and outlines a number of strategies that have already shown promise in improving the outcomes of underprepared community college students. Individual chapters include footnotes.”

Karp, M. M. (2011). How non-academic supports work: Four mechanisms for improving student outcomes (CCRC Brief No. 54). New York, NY: Community College Research Center, Columbia University. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “College success requires more than the ability to master college-level academic skills. Students must learn to navigate an unfamiliar campus, satisfy bureaucratic requirements, meet new expectations (Shields, 2002), and engage in new types of interpersonal relationships (Dickie & Farrell, 1991). Academically vulnerable students—those who are most likely to encounter difficulties in understanding and enacting college expectations—are often enrolled at two-year colleges and open-access, four-year commuter colleges. Improving non-academic support systems at these institutions could improve outcomes for students at risk of postsecondary failure. Non-academic support activities are presumed to encourage academic success but are not overtly academic. While structured programs that encourage non-academic support often also have an academic component, academic and non-academic supports address different skills and encourage student success via different processes. This Brief, based on a longer literature review, identifies the processes by which non-academic supports can help students remain enrolled in college, earn good grades, and earn a credential. Identifying these processes allows a deeper understanding of how interventions may help create successful college students and the conditions that may lead students to become ‘integrated’ or ‘committed.’ By articulating the processes by which non-academic supports help students succeed, this Brief also provides practitioners with a better understanding of the elements necessary for successful non-academic support efforts. The major theories of student persistence (Bean & Metzner, 1985; Braxton, Hirschy, & McClendon, 2004; Braxton, Sullivan, & Johnson, 1997; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Tinto, 1993) argue, in various ways, that persistence in postsecondary education is influenced by a combination of pre-existing characteristics, external forces, and institutional factors. They also argue that to stay enrolled, students must believe that higher education is an important part of their lives, and that this belief is harder to develop for nontraditional students, including part-time, commuter, and older students. These theories—particularly Tinto’s—are the dominant frame through which researchers and practitioners view student success, but they provide little guidance for community colleges. Because they are based on the experiences of students for whom the four-year, residential model—replete with opportunities for integration and connectedness—is the norm, they do not accurately represent the experiences of many students attending two-year institutions. Further, many of the dominant theories lack a clear understanding of how student persistence occurs. Empirical tests of theories rooted in Tinto’s integration framework demonstrate that integration and commitment are related to student success, but they do not explain how students become integrated. Many efforts to put these theories into practice have floundered due to an incomplete understanding of what contexts, structures, and experiences lead to students’ postsecondary integration. This Brief aims to extend these theories by shifting attention toward the mechanisms by which student success occurs.”

Karp, M. M. (2011). Toward a new understanding of non-academic student support: Four mechanisms encouraging positive student outcomes in the community college (CCRC Working Paper No. 28). New York, NY: Community College Research Center, Columbia University. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This paper examines the ways in which academically vulnerable students benefit from non-academic support. By reviewing theories of student persistence as well as program evaluation literature, the author identifies four mechanisms by which non-academic supports can improve student outcomes, including persistence and degree attainment. Programs associated with positive student outcomes seem to involve one or more of the following mechanisms: (1) creating social relationships, (2) clarifying aspirations and enhancing commitment, (3) developing college know-how, and (4) making college life feasible. Identifying these mechanisms allows for a deeper understanding of both the functioning of promising interventions and the conditions that may lead students to become integrated into college life. Notably, each of these mechanisms can occur within a variety of programs, structures, or even informal interactions. The paper concludes by discussing avenues for further research and immediate implications for colleges.”

Kruse, S. D., Rakha, S., & Calderone, S. (2018). Developing cultural competency in higher education: An agenda for practice. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(6), 733–750. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “As a result of changing national values and unrest, demographic and population shifts, and ever-changing admissions practices and policies, implementing a diversity and cultural-competency agenda within university settings has become a priority across the UK, Europe, and US. Furthermore, public institutions across the UK, EU, and US are now more racially and ethnically diverse than ever [Snyder, T. D., C. Debray, and S. A. Dillow. 2016. ‘Digest of Education Statistics 2016.’ NCES 2016-006. National Centre for Education Statistics; Sursock, Andree. 2015. ‘Trends 2015: Learning and Teaching in European Universities.’ European University Association. Accessed October 28, 2017.]. Yet, cultural competency efforts on campuses remain largely under theorized [Bezrukova, K., K. A. Jehn, and C. S. Spell. 2012. ‘Reviewing Diversity Training: Where We Have Been and Where We Should Go.’ ‘Academy of Management Learning and Education’ 11 (2): 207-227] and diffuse [Sue, S., D. C. Fujino, L. T. Hu, D. T. Takeuchi, and N. W. Zane. 1991. ‘Community Mental Health Services for Ethnic Minority Groups: A Test of the Cultural Responsiveness Hypothesis.’ ‘Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology’ 59 (4): 533-540]. This article seeks to outline an agenda for this work, highlighting outcomes of cultural competency learning and underscoring the role of campus leadership in the development of supportive characteristics. These characteristics include attention to shared knowledge, professional learning at all levels of the organization, inclusive instructional methods, integration with other campus initiatives, and inclusivity of diversity foci. Posited are six supportive conditions for successful implementation.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Buckley, J. A., Bridges, B. K., & Hayek, J. C. (2006). What matters to student success: A review of the literature. Washington, DC: National Postsecondary Education Cooperative. Retrieved from

From the Introduction, Context, and Overview section: “This report attempts to address this set of critical issues by synthesizing the relevant literature and emerging findings related to student success, broadly defined. Our goal is to develop an informed perspective on policies, programs, and practices that can make a difference to satisfactory student performance in postsecondary education.”

McGrath, D., & Tobia, S. (2008). Organizational culture as a hidden resource. New Directions for Community Colleges, 144, 41–53. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Although community colleges have long been the access point to higher education for low-income students and students of color, there is much work still to be done if the institutions are to fulfill their democratic promise. In this article, the authors draw upon a growing body of work described as the new equity agenda (Arbona and Nora, 2007; Bensimon, 2005; Hurtado and Carter, 1997; Rendon and Hope, 1996; Shaw and London, 2001), and supplement it with an analysis of the nature and role of organizational culture to suggest new strategies to improve the support and promote the success of underrepresented and at-risk students. They illustrate how culture can serve as a resource to better support and assist at-risk students and review some of the relevant literature for its cultural implications. They, then, offer recommendations for the development of culturally sensitive institutions through professional development for faculty and staff to enhance their ability to understand and respond effectively to students. They also offer recommendations for professional development for senior managers to enhance their ability to manage the cultural dimensions of their institutions.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Mosholder, R., & Goslin, C. (2013). Native American college student persistence. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 15(3), 305–327. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Native American students are the most likely racial/ethnic group tracked in post-secondary American education to be affected by poverty and limited access to educational opportunities. In addition, they are the most likely to be required to take remedial course work and are the least likely to graduate from college. A review of the literature was undertaken to analyze the research and opinions directed toward improving Native American student persistence and academic success at the post-secondary level. Five factors emerged during this review that support Native American student post-secondary persistence. These are skill development, family and peer support, appropriate role-models, awareness and use of financial aid, and a culturally sensitive school environment.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Museus, S. D., Nichols, A. H., & Lambert, A. D. (2008). Racial differences in the effects of campus racial climate on degree completion: A structural equation model. Review of Higher Education, 32(1), 107–134. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Racial minority student persistence is of paramount importance to higher education policymakers and practitioners. This study was aimed at understanding racial differences in the direct and indirect effects of campus racial climate on degree completion using structural equation modeling techniques and a nationally representative sample. The findings of this analysis highlight the importance of examining conditional effects and indicate that students from disparate racial backgrounds may experience and react to their campus racial climates in different ways. Implications for research and practice are discussed.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Nosaka, T., & Novak, H. (2014). Against the odds: The impact of the Key Communities at Colorado State University on retention and graduation for historically underrepresented students. Learning Communities: Research and Practice, 2(2), 3. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Learning communities are a high impact activity that can influence students’ likelihood for success. Colorado State University (CSU) created the Key Communities (Key) program, which is open to all students but targets students that have persistently lower graduation and retention rates. The majority of Key students are under-represented (ethnically diverse, low-income, and/or first generation to college) and/or students with lower levels of academic preparation. This paper describes the structure and purpose of Key and shares the results of an institutional level assessment of Key’s impact on graduation and retention. Since participation in Key is not randomly assigned, this analysis utilizes propensity score matching to estimate Key’s treatment effect. Results show that Key has a positive impact on graduation and retention for all students, but Key is incredibly effective for students who come to CSU with characteristics that have historically put them at risk for attrition.”

Rendón, L. I. (2006). Reconceptualizing success for underserved students in higher education. Paper presented at the meeting of the 2006 National Symposium on Postsecondary Student Success, Washington, DC. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “How can a member of an underserved group attain academic success in American higher education? In this analysis, I (1) describe the characteristics of underserved student populations, (2) discuss the factors that have been identified in the literature as having an influence on the success of underserved students, (3) critique five National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) commissioned papers on student success, (4) introduce a model to characterize success for underserved students, and (5) provide future directions for theory development and needed research.”

Schreiner, L. A., Noel, P., Anderson, E., & Cantwell, L. (2011). The impact of faculty and staff on high-risk college student persistence. Journal of College Student Development, 52(3), 321–338. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this study was to identify the attitudes and behaviors of faculty and staff that impact the success and persistence of highrisk students. Using an exploratory qualitative approach, 62 successful high-risk students from nine different colleges and universities were interviewed and asked to identify and describe someone on campus who had been most influential in their ability to persist. The 54 campus personnel who were identified by these students were interviewed twice to learn what they do to help students succeed and persist. Seven themes on how college personnel positively influence high-risk student success and persistence were identified.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Strayhorn, T. L. (2008). The role of supportive relationships in facilitating African American males’ success in college. NASPA Journal, 45(1), 26–48. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Drawing on Sanford’s notions of challenge and support, coupled with Tinto’s theory on retention, this quantitative investigation sought to measure the association between supportive relationships and success in college for a sample of Black men. Results suggest that supportive relationships are associated with higher levels of satisfaction but not academic achievement as measured by grades. Implications for future policy, practice, and research are discussed in the context of academic and student affairs.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Strayhorn, T., & Terrell, M. (Eds.). (2010). The evolving challenges of black college students: New insights for policy, practice, and research. Herndon, VA: Stylus Publishing. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Presenting new empirical evidence and employing fresh theoretical perspectives, this book sheds new light on the challenges that Black Students face from the time they apply to college through their lives on campus. The contributors make the case that the new generation of Black students differ in attitudes and backgrounds from earlier generations, and demonstrate the importance of understanding the diversity of Black identity. Successive chapters address the nature and importance of Black spirituality for reducing isolation and race-related stress, and as a source of meaning making; students’ college selection and decision process and the expectations it fosters; first-generation Black women’s motivations for attending college; the social-psychological determinants of academic achievement, and how resiliency can be developed and nurtured; institutional climate and the role of cultural centers; as well as identity development; and mentoring. The book includes a new research study of African American male undergraduates who identify as gay or bisexual; discusses the impact of student-to-student interactions in intellectual development and leadership building; describes the successful strategies used by historically Black institutions with at-risk men; considers the role of parents in Black male students’ lives, and the applicability of the ‘millennial’ label to the new cohort of African American students. The book offers new insights and concrete recommendations for policies and practices to provide the social and academic support for African American students to persist and fully benefit from their collegiate experience. It will be of value to student affairs personnel and faculty; constitutes a textbook for courses on student populations and their development; and provides a springboard for future research. Following an introduction by Colrrell Strayhorn, this book contains the following: (1) Knowing God, Knowing Self: African American College Students and Spirituality (Dafina Stewart); (2) Choosing College as a Life or Death Decision: First-generation African American Women’s Reflections on College Choice (Rachele Winkle-Wagner); (3) Buoyant Believers: Resilience, Self-Efficacy, and Academic Success of Low-Income African American Collegians (Terrell Strayhorn); (4) Focusing on Achievement: African American Student Persistence in the Academy (Fred Bonner); (5) Triple Threat: Challenges and Supports of Black Gay Men at Predominantly White Campuses (Terrell Strayhorn, Amanda Blakewood, and James DeVita); (6) Challenges and Supports of Student-to-Student Interactions: Insights on African American Collegians (Belinda McFeeters); (7) ‘A HomeAaway From Home’: Black Cultural Centers as Supportive Environments for African American Collegians at White Institutions (Terrell Strayhorn, Melvin Terrell, Jane Redmond, and Chutney Walton); (8) The Uniqueness of an HBCU Environment: How a Supportive Campus Climate Promotes Student Success (Robert Palmer and Estelle Young); (9) College-Bound Sons: Exploring Parental Influences on the Pre-Entry Attributes of Black Males (Darryl Holloman and Terrell Strayhorn); (10) Mentoring and African American Undergraduates’ Perceptions of Academic Success (Tonya Saddler); and (11) New Directions for Future Research on African American Collegians (Terrell Strayhorn).”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Swail, W. S. (2003). Retaining minority students in higher education: A framework for success. (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In the last decade, the rates of enrollment and retention of many students of color have declined. Access and completion rates for African American, Hispanic, and Native American students have always lagged behind white and Asian students, as have those for low-income students and students with disabilities. Because students of color often make up a much smaller percentage of students in studies, their experiences and needs are often lost and go undetected. As the authors note, the United States will become significantly less white over the next 50 years, so these issues are becoming more urgent. We must have institution-wide programs to improve the graduation rates of minority students. Pre-college preparation, admission policies, affirmative action, and financial aid are important factors, but campus-wide support, from the chancellor’s office to the classroom, is critical to success. This ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report is intended as a reference for key stakeholders regarding the realities of and strategies for student retention. It is our hope that it will serve as a compass for those with the complex task of improving retention.”

Takayama, K., Kaplan, M., & Cook-Sather, A. (2017). Advancing diversity and inclusion through strategic multilevel leadership. Liberal Education, 103, n3–4. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In this article, the authors describe how five institutions have employed the dynamic relationship between university-wide leadership efforts (the macro level); interactions and initiatives within the school, college, or department (the meso level); and efforts by individual instructors and activists (the micro level) to create change at their institutions. A range of disciplines, from health care to organizational development—as well as various areas of work within higher education, such as the study of teaching and learning—have generated scholarship focused on the micro, meso, and macro levels of complex systems. Each case described herein highlights catalysts for, considerations regarding, and approaches to advancing diversity and inclusion through these levels of leadership. The authors have framed these cases in relation to the mandates, challenges, and possibilities within their respective contexts and have aimed to make visible the complexity of the ongoing work in each instance. While the cases show that catalysts for change can emerge at any level, they also indicate that lasting institutional change relies on strategic expansion across all levels. The article closes with a set of questions that may provide a starting point for readers to review their own institutional contexts for advancing diversity and inclusion.”

U.S. Department of Education. (2016). Advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Office of the Under Secretary, Author. Retrieved from

From the Introduction: “While highlighting the Obama Administration’s efforts to promote diversity in institutions of higher education, this report shows the continuing educational inequities and opportunity gaps in accessing and completing a quality postsecondary education. The following are key findings from the analysis:

  • Higher education is a key pathway for social mobility in the United States.
  • During the past 50 years, the U.S. has seen racial and ethnic disparities in higher education enrollment and attainment, as well as gaps in earnings, employment, and other related outcomes for communities of color.
  • Gaps in college opportunity have contributed to diminished social mobility (e.g., the ability to jump to higher income levels across generations) within the United States, and gaps in college opportunity are in turn influenced by disparities in students’ experiences before graduating from high school.
  • The participation of underrepresented students of color decreases at multiple points across the higher education pipeline including at application, admission, enrollment, persistence, and completion.
  • The interaction of race and ethnicity, family income, and parental education can influence educational and labor market outcomes.”

Winkle-Wagner, R., & Locks, A. M. (2013). Diversity and inclusion on campus: Supporting racially and ethnically underrepresented students. New York, NY: Routledge. Retrieved from

From the description: “As scholars and practitioners in higher education attempt to embrace and lead diversity efforts, it is imperative that they have an understanding of the issues that affect historically underrepresented students. Using an intersectional approach that connects the categories of race, class, and gender, Diversity and Inclusion on Campus comprehensively covers the range of college experiences, from gaining access to higher education to successfully persisting through degree programs. Authors Winkle-Wagner and Locks bridge research, theory, and practice related to the ways that peers, faculty, administrators, and institutions can and do influence racially and ethnically underrepresented students’ experiences. This book is an invaluable resource for future and current higher education and student affairs practitioners working toward full inclusion and participation for all students in higher education.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Winkle-Wagner, R. (2015). Having their lives narrowed down? The state of black women’s college success. Review of Educational Research, 85(2), 171–204. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Contradictory trends emerge relative to Black women’s college success: They have doubled their enrollment rates in thirty years but their graduation rates remain behind those of White and Asian women. This integrative, interdisciplinary review of both student- and institutional-level factors explores the role of individual characteristics and backgrounds, relationships, and institutional support structures relative to Black women’s success in college. The findings reveal that African American women’s lives may be narrowed down in research that includes them through (a) an emphasis on individual factors in college success instead of institutional (within college campuses) or larger sociostructural issues (race, class, or gender inequities in the larger society), (b) a lack of analysis of within-group difference among Black women, and (c) framing the notion of success as persistence or completion of a student’s degree program instead of self-identified or unique notions of success such as collective uplift, well-being, or satisfaction.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Additional Organizations to Consult

Institute for Higher Education Policy –

From the website: “IHEP is committed to improving college access and success in higher education for all students—with a special focus on underserved populations—by providing timely research to inform public policy decisions.”

National College Access Network –

From the website: “Drawing on the expertise of hundreds of organizational members in almost every U.S. state, NCAN is dedicated to improving the quality and quantity of support that underrepresented students receive to apply to, enter, and succeed in postsecondary education. Today, students of color, low-income students, and those who are the first in their families to attend college experience disproportionately lower rates of postsecondary success. For example, the odds of a high-income student enrolling in postsecondary education directly after high school are more than 3 times higher than those of a low-income student.

Fortunately, this inequitable outcome isn’t inevitable. When students receive specialized early awareness information, pre-college advising on admissions and financial aid, and mentoring, college entrance and completion rates rise dramatically. Students served by NCAN members regularly outperform other low-income students in enrolling in and graduating from postsecondary education and in many cases close the graduation gap with higher-income students. NCAN members touch the lives of more than 2 million students and families each year and span a broad range of the education, nonprofit, government, and civic sectors.

NCAN provides member organizations with professional development, networking, benchmarking, tools, and news from the field so they can deliver college access and success services more effectively and to more students. NCAN also advocates at the national level for policies to improve access and success for all students.”

National Postsecondary Education Cooperative –

From the website: “The National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) was established by NCES in 1995 as a voluntary organization that encompasses all sectors of the postsecondary education community including federal agencies, postsecondary institutions, associations and other organizations with a major interest in postsecondary education data collection. NPEC’s mission is to ‘promote the quality, comparability and utility of postsecondary data and information that support policy development at the federal, state, and institution levels.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “at risk students” AND “cultural awareness”

  • “college students” “academic persistence” “at risk students” “campus environment”

  • “college students” “academic persistence” “at risk students” “campus police”

  • impact of non-academic staff on college campus

  • “minority group students” college students” “academic persistence”

  • “non-academic” “college students” “academic persistence” “at risk students”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.