New Cultural Academic Centers Expand Student Support

HSU students will soon have access to two new Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence, where they’ll create community, build on their academic achievement, and affirm their identities as students of color.

Dr. John Johnson, top, and Araceli Diaz, are the new coordinators of the African American Center for Academic Excellence, and the Latin@ Center for Academic Excellence, respectively.

“We’re excited to open the new Latin@ and African American Centers for Academic Excellence, to add to the many existing student support programs on campus,” says Radha Webley, associate vice president of Retention and Inclusive Student Success, which oversees a number of student programs. “Together, they’ll help support hundreds of students in achieving their personal and academic goals, by providing academic mentorship and leadership opportunities; fostering connections to faculty, staff and campus life; and, importantly, creating opportunities for cross-cultural community-building and collaboration.”

The African American Center for Academic Excellence (AACAE) and the Latin@ Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE), are the new additions to a suite of support offices.

All of these programs operate under the umbrella of RISS, or Retention and Inclusive Student Success, which also coordinates campus programs like the MultiCultural Center, the Indian Tribal & Educational Personnel Program the Educational Opportunity Program, and more. The mission of RISS, and all the programs housed therein, is to support students, help them feel engaged with campus, help them feel included in the student experience, and to support opportunities for collaboration among students.

The new centers, which will welcome the first groups of students in Fall 2015—continue working toward that goal, with the more specific task of targeting traditionally underrepresented students.

“The new centers are important because they deliver support students need in a culturally-relevant way. New students will get to interact with staff and upperclass mentors who share their experience and know the challenges and opportunities they face. We hope that any student who comes to the Latin@ and African American centers will really feel at home,” says Adrienne Colegrove-Raymond, who directs the Centers for Academic Excellence.

John Johnson is the coordinator of the African American Center for Academic Success. He joins Humboldt from Edward Waters College, where he was Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Previously he was director of the Institute of Black Culture and Assistant Director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs at the University of Florida in Gainesville. No stranger to California public universities, he earned his doctorate in Social Psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 2011.

For Johnson, he finds excitement and opportunities in the center’s potential impact as a new resource on campus. He explained, “The mission of the African American Center for Academic Excellence stands on five pillars: to educate the campus about Black cultural expression, politics, history, and scholarship; advocate on behalf of students; innovate to make the most of our resources; elevate by improving the campus climate; and celebrate by acknowledging student achievements.”

“We want to help create relationships, among the students (who come to the center) among faculty and students. Creating those relationships can go a long way,” says Araceli Diaz, who joins campus as the coordinator of the Latino/a Center for Academic Excellence.

Before coming to HSU, Diaz was a College Success Advisor at College Access Advisor at Benito Juarez Community Academy High School. She has a wealth of experience to draw from in helping students understand higher ed. “I was often the first person to talk to these students about university, so I can see how important it is to have someone help explore opportunities that exist on a college campus.”

The centers will be housed on the second floor Nelson Hall East in renovated offices, featuring computer access and small meeting spaces. The schedule will include drop-in hours, study sessions, mentor sessions, and more. The shape of daily life in the centers is up to the students who utilize the services. “I want students to put their voices into the center,” says Diaz.