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Postbaccalaureate Opportunities Dedicated to Equity & Retention (PODER)

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) a five-year grant in the amount of $3 million from the Title V, Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA) Program to expand and enhance its offering to graduate students.

Student in regalia with steeple in background

The University’s PPOHA project, Postbaccalaureate Opportunities Dedicated to Equity & Retention (PODER)* will work to improve and expand graduate student facilities, services, and offerings at OLLU in San Antonio and its sister campuses in the Rio Grande Valley (OLLU-RGV) and Houston (OLLU-Houston). Of the 1,730 total graduate students enrolled in Fall 2018, 45% were Latinx and 40% were first-generation (both statistics are consistent with historical rates.)

Specifically, PODER Has Two Aims:

  • Aim 1: Expand post-baccalaureate educational opportunities and improve academic attainment of Latinx students through culturally responsive pedagogy, integrated information literacy and research education, and dedicated spaces for graduate students.

  • Aim 2: Expand the post-baccalaureate academic offerings in the Rio Grande Valley to include a Master of Science in Psychology – Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), a Psychological Services to Spanish Speaking Populations (PSSSP) Certificate, and a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), as well as enhance program quality across OLLU campuses and online programs. In addition, OLLU will pilot a blended instruction model to promote shared learning for graduate students across campuses.

To ensure project implementation is iterative and sustained, OLLU will develop a system to include student, faculty, and staff stakeholders for continuous quality improvement of graduate programs and services. The project includes a robust evaluation and research plan. By incorporating the research component alongside the evaluation component, we aim not only to ensure a successful, full fidelity implementation of grant activities, but also to share lessons learned with similarly situated Hispanic-serving institutions.

Key Activities

    • Tri-campus videoconferencing upgrade
    • Graduate student spaces
      • Graduate Student Center in SA
        • House the Director of the Graduate Student Center and Graduate Student Services, group and individual study space, kitchenette and space to relax and socialize
        • Incorporate Universal Design (e.g. mobile tables and chairs with adjustable heights, signage and doors in Braille, etc.)
        • Student-led design
        • Culturally responsive artwork
        • Services offered both in person and online will include:
          • Mentoring
          • Student financial education program
          • Family-centered activities
          • Professional development
            • In-person workshops
            • Networking events
            • Recorded, closed-captioned webinars
      • Graduate student lounge (relaxation and wellness space) in Houston
    • Revitalization and expanded academic programs (with remote learning options)
      • MFT in RGV (including creating a community clinic)
      • MAT in SA and RGV
    • Faculty professional development (for all faculty)
      • Culturally responsive pedagogy
      • Mentoring best practices, particularly for Latinx graduate students
      • Blended learning strategies
    • Research and evaluation (conducted by Education Northwest and Rick Sperling, PhD)
    • Institutionalization (using evaluation data to determine which activities are affecting the desired outcomes & anticipating that increased tuition revenue spurred by PODER will offset costs)
        • Personnel (MFT Program Coordinator and the Director of Graduate Student Center and Graduate Student Service)
        • Travel costs for San Antonio faculty to travel to RGV for the blended courses
        • Recurring IT-related costs for the graduate student center (multifunction printer rental.)

* In Spanish, the word “poder” is both a noun and a verb, signifying power and ability. As OLLU is dedicated to truly serving Latinx students, we thought it fitting to choose a project title that was not only reflective of the community we serve (i.e. using the heritage language), but also one that speaks directly to the agency and self-determination of our students. Additionally, we use the term “Latinx” to be intentionally inclusive. Latinx refers to “female, male, transgender, gender queer, and gender nonconforming individuals who racially, ethnically, and/or culturally identify as descendants of Latin America—including South and Central America as well as colonized and borderized territories of North America” (Castro & Cortez, 2017).