California State University, Long Beach
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Alliance Supports Retention Efforts

Published: February 20, 2017

Members from the Long Beach Ministers Alliance and university administrators during a meeting at the Miller House.
PHOTO BY KAREN HOLDEN
Members from the Long Beach Ministers Alliance and university administrators during a meeting at the Miller House.

The return of Black History Month underlines the importance of CSULB’s relationship with the Long Beach Ministers Alliance, a 15-member coalition of pastors, churches, ministries and community advocates, to support the university’s push for African-American student retention.

CSULB President Jane Close Conoley and Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Taylor regularly come together with with a group of local ministers to discuss community issues and how those issues impact the city of Long Beach, Taylor explained.

“One of the highlights of our ongoing relationship is the fellowship,” she said. “It is a very supportive group. When there was campus unrest last spring, the Ministers Alliance reached out to the campus and President Conoley to ask how they could be supportive. We work on different projects together. They are a wonderful group to work with in partnership.”

One goal of the relationship is to assist churches in creating a college-going culture in their congregations, Taylor said.

“CSULB made contact with the Ministers Alliance as part of an initiative to answer parents’ questions about how their children and fellow congregants could make it to college in the first place,” she said. “Last year, we had eight meetings where church members responded to a survey to find out what they actually knew about getting their students into a university. For instance, one finding was that many did not know the benefits of taking Advanced Placement Courses in high school. They were unfamiliar with other opportunities as well, like the College Promise program at Long Beach City College. We shared the need for SAT preparation and provided workshops to assist.”

There is a big role for students in the CSULB-Ministers Alliance partnership.

“Student retention is a campus-wide goal and part of our Graduation Initiative 2025, and a number of CSULB students attend local churches,” she said. “When they attend Sunday services, they provide an extension for information, mentoring and guidance for younger students in the church.”

As they get to know students better, CSULB and the Ministers Alliance also get to know their parents, too.

“In working together to create the college-going culture, we learned that some parents and members never finished high school,” she said. “We have the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) on Atlantic Boulevard led by Michele Scott. Its goal is to support students in their efforts to receive their General Education Degree, and Scott has shared with me that several parents have joined the EOC and finished their high school degrees. That is an amazing contribution to our community and a highlight of our association with the Ministers Alliance that continues.”

Taylor emphasized that CSULB’s relationship with the African-American community is an important piece of student retention.

“Our relationship with the community is vital in terms of student success,” she said. “That is where the power of word of mouth comes in. Through that, members of the Ministers Alliance and the students they serve can learn about what the university has to offer such as the EOC and the Educational Opportunity Program, Student Support Services and the College Assistance Migrant Program, among dozens of others. Area residents become more comfortable with interacting with the university. It is a wonderful exchange.”

The vice president believes the link between the Ministers Alliance and the university confirms the commitment to outreach by the Division of Student Affairs.

“We are committed to the university and the community,” she said. “We have a number of programs that serve outreach functions including the Ministers Alliance. We also reach out to community college counselors to exchange information related to admissions. We have talent search programs here on campus that result in more than 1,000 contacts a year with 10-15 high schools. Our Upward Bound program saw 100 percent of its last cohort go to university.”

Taylor believes the university’s relationship with the Ministers Alliance recognizes the changing face of CSULB. “We have an initiative on campus to increase the number of students of color,” she said. “We are working closely with our African-American and Cambodian communities, and we are expanding our efforts with other communities as well. Word of mouth is the most powerful source of communication we have.”