Humboldt Receives $2.8 Million Grant to Increase Retention and Graduation Rates for Underserved Students

Founders Hall
A new University project aims to support underserved students and increase graduation rates.

Cal Poly Humboldt received a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (DHSI) Program to increase retention and graduation rates and enhance the community-college transfer success of Hispanic, low-income, and underserved students through the Caminar Juntos (Walking Together) project. 

“This grant aims to provide comprehensive support to Hispanic and low-income students, including social and life learning seminars. It will also focus on faculty and staff development, particularly in culturally responsive training, and enhance our existing initiatives and programs while creating new ones,” says Maria Gonzalez, Higher Educational Initiatives administrator. 

In 2013, Cal Poly Humboldt was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution, meaning more than 25% of the full-time student population is Hispanic or Latinx. The DHSI Program provides grants to assist HSIs in expanding educational opportunities for and improving the attainment of Hispanic and Latinx students. These grants also enable HSIs to expand and enhance their academic offerings, program quality, and institutional stability. 

Working closely with existing campus partners, Caminar Juntos will establish new programs to support student success, including a Redwoods Innovative Learning and Transition Center, along with working collaboratively with the  Retention through Academic Mentoring (RAMP) program. The center will help transfer and first-year students through to graduation with the Guided Pathways framework. Guided pathways provide all students with clear enrollment avenues, workshops, course-taking patterns, and support services. The center will also offer undergraduate opportunities to discover “High Impact Practices,” such as undergraduate research.

“The summer bridge program is crucial in helping students transition from two-year colleges like the College of the Redwoods to a four-year campus. This program is extended and designed to help students who have already been accepted for admission at Humboldt and are identified as at risk of dropping out. It aims to address the retention rate problems that have been statistically prevalent over the last five years,” Gonzalez says. 

In addition to the learning center and summer bridge program, Caminar Juntos will provide year-round workshops and seminars, curriculum adoption, training, and pedagogy resources for the cultural center advisors on campus. Humboldt faculty, staff, and mentors will also be given professional development opportunities to create positive, inclusive, and identity-safe environments for students. The program will offer training on culturally responsive academic advising for underrepresented students and host faculty inquiry seminars each year. 

“It's crucial for staff and faculty to have opportunities for professional development and resources to support traditionally underrepresented populations on campus, such as Hispanic and low-income students who may be facing real challenges like financial stressors and basic needs insecurities,” Gonzalez says. “The goal is to provide students with adequate support systems to ensure their success and graduation.”