A recent study released by the Graduate School of Education argues that minority-serving institutions can provide a higher education experience tailored to the needs of minority students.
The study, released by the school’s Center for Minority-Serving Institutions and authored by Professor Marybeth Gasman, looks into the teaching styles, community and professors at MSIs that help their students succeed.
Minority-serving institutions are schools that work to provide education for students of color, specifically low-income students or students of underrepresented minorities. Such schools include historically black colleges and universities like Spelman College as well as lesser known schools which serve Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“The study found that MSIs have unique and compelling ways of serving students,” Gasman said in an email.
According to the study, MSIs can engage students and create communities where they are encouraged to excel.
“At black colleges, the research shows us that African American success is believed in — people assume that you’re going to succeed, instead of assuming that you’re going to fail,” she said. “Sometimes, black students [who don’t attend MSIs] suffer because of these stereotypes that people hold, and sometimes those people are professors.”
These institutions can also help minority students learn about the importance of higher education and push them to succeed in a way that other schools might not be able to, according to the study.
“Most of those [minority-serving] institutions, they do go out of their way to make sure [minority students] have… a supportive college experience,” Gasman said. “Majority institutions, like Penn, can learn how to ensure success among its growing diverse student body. There is much to be learned from MSIs in this area.”
Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access William Gipson agrees that MSIs can provide a valuable college experience — however, he is confident that majority institutions, and Penn especially, are also great schools for minority students.
Though Penn is not an institution specifically for minority students, students involved in minority groups on campus said that the intercultural interactions on campus have enriched their college experience.
Tangible Change, a Penn group funded by the Vice Provost for University Life, works specifically to bring together different cultural groups.
For Nursing junior and Co-Chair of T-Change Rachel Bernard, this sort of intercultural activity is central to Penn. “It’s something to bring the whole campus together,” she said.
“It’s what makes everyone really unique,” T-Change Co-Chair and College senior Natalia Llado Calderon said. She added that the diverse student body was one of the reasons that she came to Penn, as these interactions are “definitely something that would have never happened back home” in the Caribbean.
According to Gasman, Penn can learn from MSIs to celebrate diversity.
“The best thing [students] can do for themselves is to mix and mingle with people of all different backgrounds … and get as robust an experience as possible,” she said.
Penn is able to provide this unique interaction, Gipson said, adding that, “peer interaction — the way our students engage each other across all kinds of distinctions and ethnicity and race — that’s part of the Penn experience, and I think that adds to the experience of a vibrant, diverse, engaged student population. That’s powerful.”
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