OCTAE Connection - Issue 243 - December 3, 2015

OCTAE Newsletter

December 3, 2015

OCTAE/MSI November Convening: The MSI Success Agenda

Representatives from two-year minority serving institutions (MSIs) attended a two-day convening at the invitation of the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) in November. There they engaged with representatives of several federal agencies, congressional staff, philanthropic organizations, academics, and each other to discuss the roles and prospects for MSIs in the years ahead.  The large turnout and the enthusiasm and interest of the MSI representatives made the convening a great success. 

The first morning began with a kickoff discussion on the importance of two-year MSIs with OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Mitsui, OCTAE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell, and Michael D. Smith, director of the White House My Brother’s Keeper initiative.  This was followed by a session with updates by each of the White House initiatives (the White House Initiative on HBCU’s, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education). A third plenary session featured researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, the Community College Research Center, MDRC and the Department of Education discussing new developments and future directions in research on MSIs.  The second and third sessions set the stage for subsequent discussions by highlighting the current successes of MSIs as well as areas that need to be strengthened. 

After lunch, attendees from the MSIs were offered the opportunity to talk with representatives of more than 13 federal departments and agencies about opportunities available to MSIs through the initiatives and programs of those agencies. 

The first day’s activities culminated with presentations by six impressive students from two-year MSIs.  The students discussed the barriers they faced initially, both during and after enrolling in college, and focused on the importance of mentors, teachers, and support structures to their success.  The students also explained the importance they place on serving as mentors to their fellow students. 

On the second day of the convening, MSI representatives engaged in discussions about philanthropic support for MSIs with representatives of the Helmsley Trust, the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, the Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and USA Funds.  Many MSIs have benefitted from philanthropic support, but it became clear from the discussion that many more opportunities for collaboration are available. 

The afternoon of the second day began with a discussion among MSI representatives of the First in the World:  An Introduction to Evidence Based Grants program.  The purpose of this program is to test promising interventions with rigorous evaluation and, once the initiatives demonstrate success, to disseminate them to multiple institutions and diverse student populations.  The discussion emphasized the need for successful interventions that can be taken to scale. 

The convening was capped off with a conversation about the need to build on existing communities of practice, to develop new and more communities of practice around particular areas of interest and concern, and to take the initial steps to inaugurate a new, national community that encompasses all MSIs. 

Throughout the two days, the MSI attendees had the opportunity to participate in a variety of small breakout sessions designed to address particular issues and areas of interest and need.

The convening was an obvious success, evidenced by the call of the MSI attendees for future annual convenings, and all walked away with a better vision of the future of MSIs in preparing the nation’s students.  As a result, OCTAE plans to hold additional two-year MSI convenings.  We expect these future convenings to draw larger audiences and to enlist the participation of even more two-year MSIs as we work jointly to better serve students by improving the reach and the capabilities of these institutions. 

For additional information on the convening, see the blog written by Mark Mitsui, OCTAE's Deputy Assistance Secretary for Community College, or email him at mark.mitsui@ed.gov. You may also email Mark if you are interested in joining an MSI community of practice. Also, while many of the topics discussed in the communities of practice will pertain to minority serving institutions, your college does not have to be a minority serving institution in order to participate. And participation is free, so sign up soon!