Southeast’s College Access Partnership Award Program Honored for Innovation

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 14, 2013 – Southeast Missouri State University senior Lisa Nolan of St. Louis, Mo., says the University’s College Access Partnership Award (CAP-A) Program has set her on the path for success.

Nolan is quick to relay her vision of what lies ahead for her, and she is more than enthusiastic about her future career. She has CAP-A to thank for that, she says. After all, she arrived at Southeast thinking she wanted to teach English but now realizes she is better adapted for school social work.

Nolan plans to graduate from Southeast next May and immerse herself in high school social work, serving as a liaison between a school and families of underprivileged students.

This is Nolan’s fourth year as a participant in CAP-A at Southeast. The program was honored Sept. 30 with the Missouri College Personnel Association’s 2013 Innovative Program Award.

“I would not be the student I am today without it (CAP-A),” Nolan said.

CAP-A supports the University’s recruitment effort of underrepresented and underserved students in Southeast’s service region by connecting financial and academic support services to college access and completion programs that work with targeted student populations. The program provides a need-based grant that matches an award from the partner organization or the student’s Pell grant.

The award was presented at the Missouri College Personnel Association’s Annual Conference.

The Innovative Program Award is presented to outstanding student affairs programs in Missouri higher education which demonstrate innovative practices and produce quality results in student learning, development, engagement, satisfaction and organizational performance. Programs receiving this award are to be role models for student affairs practices in Missouri.

“The CAP-A program won the award over two tough competitors,” said Trent Ball, Southeast associate dean of students and director of student retention.

“In a time where many need based financial aid programs are being cut or reduced, Southeast created partnerships to help the students receiving this type of assistance from our partners (financial aid or systemic support) to connect to our academic support services and continue their success,” Ball said.

CAP-A also has provided Nolan with an on-campus mentor with whom she meets regularly.

“Someone is always there to help you,” she said.

Under the program, Nolan and other CAP-A participants are required to meet monthly with their mentor, stay in regular contact with them online and attend two seminars a semester. The participants sign a contract upon entering the program, which Nolan says “holds you accountable.

“I love it,” Nolan says. “I love the staff that comes with it. They are just honest people, and their goal is to help you graduate. I have a pretty close relationship with almost everyone on the staff. It’s a real positive program, and it’s been helpful to me.”

The program’s not always easy, she admits, acknowledging staff members sometimes tell students what they don’t want to hear.

“You’re going to have people checking up on you,” she says, while admitting this is in the best interest of the student.

With the state award, CAP-A’s nomination is now forwarded to the national association, The American College Personnel Association/College Educators International, for consideration for the national innovative program award.

Beginning with two organizations and seven students in 2009, the program currently works with 14 partners and has served more than 100 students. Working across five units within Southeast’s Academic Support Centers, the CAP-A Program provides students with access to mentoring and advising support, financial support and financial literacy training, educational and developmental seminars, academic intervention activities as well as leadership opportunities and integration into the campus community.

Ball says the program has been successful in evolving from a pilot to a fully supported and pivotal campus program.

“Students in the CAP-A program have become resident assistants, student government leaders, admissions and presidential ambassadors and participated in Southeast’s Emerging Leaders Program and President’s Leadership Academy,” Ball said. “The University has developed substantial partnerships with community-based state and national organizations that are referring their students to Southeast — and those students are experiencing success.”

Currently, CAP-A students are from across the state in programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, College Bound, College Summit, GEAR UP, INROADS, The Kauffman Scholars, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, the TRIO Programs, UNCF — Cedric the Entertainer’s Charitable Foundation and the Ryan Howard Family Foundation, the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and The Wyman Center. In 2011, Southeast Missouri State University’s CAP-A Program entered an expanded partnership with The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis and The Wyman Center as part of the Persistence Power grant from the TG Educational Foundation.

This year, the program assisted Southeast in reaching two critical milestones. For the first time in the University’s history, more than 1,000 African American students are attending Southeast, and the retention rate of first-time, full-time African American students from the fall 2012 cohort to fall 2013 is 74 percent while the overall rate for all students in the cohort is 72 percent, Ball said.

Ball says CAP-A provides programming, support and opportunities for underrepresented and underserved students — minority, first generation, limited income and non-traditional — and has assisted those students in closing the achievement gap and surpassing the general population’s retention rate, qualifying the program as “a role model for support programs throughout the state.”