Training collaboration helps CAHNRS campuses better serve Latinx students

Escala logo graphicGaining skills to help Latinx students succeed, 16 CAHNRS faculty and staff members from across Washington state took part June 2022 in a national training program through ESCALA Educational Services.

Spanish for “striving,” ESCALA is a consortium of higher education consultants based in the U.S. Southwest who seek to increase retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students in higher education. The organization works with Hispanic-serving intuitions to close the gap in access and completion rates for Latinx and Hispanic students, helping them transform their institutional culture.

College participants from Pullman, the Tri-Cities, Prosser, and Mount Vernon took part via Zoom, June 6-10. They explored learning behavior and motivation and evaluated their own perspectives, deepening their understanding of cultural difference and how it impacts instruction and learning. The program sought to change the culture of STEM to best promote Latinx student success, with a focus on altering strategies to meet students’ needs.

Training was supported by Culturally Responsive Education in STEM (CRESCENT), a National Science Foundation-funded program offered regionally in collaboration with WSU, Heritage University, and Yakima Valley College.

Head shot of Rayapati
Naidu Rayapati, Director, WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, Prosser.

“With increasing number of students from Latinx and other communities of color in our college, ESCALA training is an opportunity to empower faculty with a broader understanding of changing demographics in the classroom,” said Naidu Rayapati, director and professor at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser. “It helps us recalibrate teaching and mentoring activities to promote culturally appropriate pedagogy for the success of linguistically diverse students at WSU, and helps to advance an inclusive culture to better serve our diversifying student body.”

Sponsoring more than a dozen faculty, the CRESCENT project is a great example of successful partnerships between IAREC and Heritage University, a Hispanic Serving Institution, to provide higher education opportunities for future generations of students from under-served communities, Rayapati said.

“I’m hopeful that the CRESCENT project will sponsor more faculty and early career researchers, such as post-docs, in future to benefit from the ESCALA training,” he added.

Portrait of Nancy Deringer
Nancy Deringer, Interim Associate Dean for Student Success and Academic Programs

Nancy Deringer, Interim Associate Dean for Student Success and Academic Programs in CAHNRS, said her office is giving the trainings its full support.

“ESCALA training highlights the need to re-tool our syllabi, assignments and assessments so there is high-context engagement with all our students,” she noted. “We are focused on student success, and this training is one way to ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of all learners. I want to thank Heritage University, Yakima Valley College, and Dr. Rayapati for their collaborative work in bringing this important training to the faculty and post-doctoral scholars of CAHNRS.”