Supporting the Student Experience
St. Olaf College has received a $1.1 million gift to support the student experience on campus, with a focus on advancing equity and inclusion. The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, make this gift following their investment in the college’s George Floyd Fellowship for Social Change last year.
Their gift provides $150,000 over the next three years to immediately fund initiatives directed by the college’s vice president for equity and inclusion, such as antiracism education and faculty/staff retention. It also provides funds for the hire of a retention specialist for students. The remainder of their gift will create an endowed fund that will initially support Supplemental Instruction (SI), and then will continue to support work to advance equity and inclusion. These funds will especially help strengthen inclusion for first-generation students, students from low-income households, and students, staff, and faculty of color.
“We are most grateful for this gift,” says St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74. “The donors were especially motivated to improve the student experience for Oles who are from marginalized groups. Their generous support will give us the ability to begin new initiatives immediately and the flexibility to support our continuing work in years ahead.”
“Marginalized members of our community, specifically Black, Indigenous, and People of Color [BIPOC], have a lower sense of belonging at the college,” says Vice President for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón Gautier, who served as the inaugural director of the Glenn and Myretta Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion. “There is a lot we can do as a community to increase inclusion, agency, and connection.”
Pabón says these funds will play an important role in supporting the retention and inclusion of staff and faculty of color; enhancing learning opportunities for staff, students, and faculty; increasing support for staff and faculty who are advancing efforts within the campus community; and enhancing student support.
The work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism is many times underfunded and built on the backs of those who are impacted or [who] care for it. This gift allows us to change that narrative and support the efforts, ideas, and work that will make us a stronger, more equitable, and inclusive community.
“The new retention specialist will focus their energy and attention into understanding our students’ experiences, then helping direct our response to support them where needed,” says Vice President for Student Life Hassel Morrison. “This will help all our students thrive.”
Initially, over the next three years, earnings from the new endowed fund will support Supplemental Instruction sections for historically difficult courses. While all participants benefit from SI, it has the greatest positive impact for students from groups underserved by education. Since 2016, the SI program has expanded from 43 sections to 125, providing 15,236 contact hours for over 1,200 students (or 40 percent of the college) each year.
“Our academic enrichment specialist, Nayeli Trujillo, has done a great job with this program,” says Director of Advising and Academic Support Kathy Glampe. “We have found that SI has been especially important to students this year. With COVID-19 restrictions, it is harder to meet other students in classes, create study groups, or even find a person with whom you can study due to masking and social distancing. In addition to helping academically, SI also helps Oles make supportive friends.”
These actions are part of several initiatives the college is undertaking to address inequity. News about these actions can be found on the college’s website. More will be identified as this work continues to advance.
“The work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism is many times underfunded and built on the backs of those who are impacted or [who] care for it,” says Pabón. “This gift allows us to change that narrative and support the efforts, ideas, and work that will make us a stronger, more equitable, and inclusive community.”