Posted: 9/10/09

TAMIU Gets $50,000 Award for Innovative Student Success Program



WASHINGTON, D.C. – Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) will receive a $50,000 grant to implement a program to increase the retention rate and engagement of first-year, first-generation Hispanic students, the non-profit organization Excelencia in Education has announced.

TAMIU was one of only 20 colleges and universities from across the nation chosen to receive the award, supported by the Walmart Foundation. The TAMIU program awarded is LIDER, Leadership and Involvement for Diversity, Engagement and Retention, created by the University’s Office of Student Affairs.

Colleges and universities received grants for work in one of four areas: 1) Helping first-generation, low-income Hispanic students gain college entrance, 2) Improving retention rates for students enrolled in college, 3) Helping Hispanic students transfer from two-year to four-year colleges, and 4) Increasing college graduation rates for Hispanics.

“We’re excited to be selected as a recipient of the SEMILLAS grant, which will help us to further our commitment to Hispanic student success by replicating our most promising and innovative programs,” said Dr. Ray M. Keck, TAMIU president.

Excelencia staff and members of the “Growing What Works” initiative will work with the selected institutions throughout the 2009-2010 academic year, and then share their findings. Excelencia in Education, is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.

"The Walmart Foundation is pleased to support the 'Growing What Works' initiative in its efforts to promote Hispanic student success,” said Michelle Gilliard, senior director of Workforce Development and Education for the Walmart Foundation. “We are hopeful that with help from the SEMILLAS grants this impressive group of colleges will be able to build the foundation for successful educational programs that will serve as models for universities across the nation,” she added.

The SEMILLAS grants, supported by the Walmart Foundation, are part of Excelencia in Education’s “Growing What Works” national initiative. The initiative aims to accelerate Hispanic student success by refining and replicating model educational programs that are proven to advance Hispanic achievement in two-year and four-year colleges. The long-term goal of the project is to increase the use of these effective programs for the country’s fast-growing Hispanic college age population.

Semillas is the Spanish word for seeds. It also stands for Seeding Educational Models that Impact and Leverage Latino Academic Success.

According to the US Census Bureau, Hispanic young adults are less likely to have earned an associate degree or higher than other young adults. In 2008, eight percent of Hispanic 18 to 24 years-of-age had earned a degree, compared to 14 percent of all young adults. Hispanic adults, 25 years and over, were also less likely to have earned an associate degree or higher than other adults, with 19 percent of Hispanics earning a degree, compared with 29 percent of blacks, 39 percent of whites, and 59 percent of Asians. Meanwhile, census projections estimate that Hispanics will be 22 percent of the nation’s college-age population by 2020.

“Today’s undergraduate population looks very different than it did a generation ago,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, “All of the institutions selected to receive these grants understand this reality and have actively worked to create a climate on their campuses where Hispanic students are welcomed as an asset, regardless of their needs. This kind of supportive environment is critical to promoting Hispanic student success.”

For additional information on TAMIU’s LIDER program, contact the Office of Student Affairs at 326.2280.

A full list of SEMILLAS grant winners may be found at edexcelencia.org/programs/what_works

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu