Campus seeks to increase graduation rates

Brett Johnson

Individuals with nationally recognized perspectives on how to graduate from college will be sharing their knowledge with Sacramento State students on Monday during Graduation Initiative Unity Day.

Graduation Initiative Unity Day will take place in the University Union Ballroom from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Many of the presentations and workshops on graduation success will be held in different rooms throughout the day, and attendees will have the option of selecting which they wish to attend.

The California State University system is part of 24 public higher education systems that pledged to increase the six-year graduation rate and decrease the graduation gaps for low-income and minority students by 2016. The Graduation Initiative Unity Day was created with the intention of better educating students and faculty on the initiative and how it can be achieved.

“The Graduation Initiative Unity Day is the first of its kind on campus and symbolizes the paramount importance of promoting graduation success for every Sac State student,” said Marcellene Watson-Derbigny, associate vice president of Student Academic Success.

Jennifer Engle, director of higher education research and policy at the Education Trust, will be delivering the keynote speech at the event. Education Trust is an organization working with CSU in its graduation initiative.

Watson-Derbigny said Engle was selected to deliver the speech based on her work narrowing the achievement gap and her global expertise on increasing graduation rates.

Engle was also the leading author for numerous publications including, “Demography is Not Destiny: Increasing the Graduation Rates of Low-Income College Students at Large,” a report that sought to inform policymakers on the success of underrepresented students.

“I’ll be focusing my presentation on what the national data tells us about the gaps in college going and college completion for low-income and minority students,” Engle said. “Completion gaps are not inevitable and can be closed by working to improve the campus experience for these populations.”

There will be a panel of experts from different backgrounds presenting information on good college graduation strategies. Each expert will have a different focus in his or her presentation but each topic will be centered on graduation success.

One of the experts on the panel is Nancy Shulock, executive director of the Institute for Higher Education and Leadership Policy.

“I will be talking about the projected shortage of college educated workers in California, which (makes) it important for the future of the state, and not just individual students, to increase degree completion,” Shulock said.

Shulock also said she will speak about the advantages of college degrees in terms of likely future earnings.

Su Jin Jez, associate director of Sac State’s independent education doctorate program, is another panelist. One of Jez’s presentation topics will be the Early College High School Initiative, a nationwide program that aims to get low-income students to graduate high school with transferable college credit.

“Since I’ve been asked to focus on college readiness, my remarks probably won’t be as applicable for current Sac State students,” Jez said. “My advice will be useful for practitioners, policymakers and the families of K-12 students.”

In addition to the many speakers that day, there will opportunities for students to directly engage in the topic of graduation success through workshops.

“How to Pay for College Without Going Broke,” “Enhancing Your Success in College by Enhancing Your Self Esteem” and “Internet: Valuable Tool or Academic Distraction” are some of the scheduled workshops.

The event will close with a round table discussion with the keynote speaker and campus stakeholders in the Summit Room, on the third floor of the Union.

“All students come to Sac State with the heartfelt aspiration to achieve their lifelong goal of a college degree,” Watson-Derbigny said. “This event embodies our commitment to help partner with students to deliver on that promise to put them on the path to success and to ensure that graduation is their ultimate mark of achievement.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]