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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

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Claudia Ramirez Islas' art is featured at this year's conference. Claudia Ramirez Islas' art is featured at this year's conference.

SDSU Ignites Leadership at Arizona Conference

The importance of parental involvement is one of many topics at this year's conference.
By Diane Slagle

What’s something simple that parents can do to help their college student succeed and graduate in a timely fashion?

Two words: stay involved.

A delegation of San Diego State staff and graduate students are in to Phoenix for this year’s National Association of Student Personnel Administrators conference, March 10-14. NASPA is a national organization for Student Affairs administrators in higher education. The title of this year’s conference is “Ignite Leadership: Influence Change.”

Presenting at the conference will be Eric Rivera, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Reynaldo Monzon, Director of SDSU’s Student Testing, Assessment, and Research office. They’ll be sharing news about just how much parent involvement really matters.

When parents stay involved,
students succeed.

Rivera and Monzon found that two-thirds of parents join the Aztec Parents Association, which includes a subscription to "News for Aztec Parents." These parents are in the loop, regularly updated about what’s happening on campus and about issues related to their student, and these parents tend to stay involved.

Numbers prove students succeed with parent involvement

When Rivera and Monzon looked at student success, relative to parental involvement, they found a clear correlation. The two-thirds of students with involved parents:

  • Get better grades
  • Have higher retention rates (are less likely to drop out)
  • Are less likely to be placed on academic probation
  • Graduate sooner

“We know there are many factors that contribute to student success,” Monzon said. “The data we found on parental involvement is significant. The university wants students to grow in independence, but at the same time, we also foster that strong relationship with parents, because when parents stay involved, students succeed.”

Rivera concurred, adding, “We are excited about the finding of this research as it supplies evidence to something we’ve suspected for years. We had the foresight back in 1996 to work more comprehensively with the parents of SDSU students,” he recalled.   “And we developed strategies that we now see are effective in helping students succeed. Parental involvement increases the likelihood of student success and graduation in a timely manner.”

SDSU a model in parent partnership 

After their presentation, Rivera and Monzon will take part in a panel discussion along with Christiana Bashian and Eunice Flores from SDSU’s Office of New Student and Parent Programs. This discussion will focus on SDSU’s integrated approach to partnering with parents.

Michelle Guerra, assistant director for the university's Office of New Student and Parent Programs, notes that SDSU is unusual in offering a centralized model for parent programs. This is a one-stop-shop where parents can come with questions and issues. Guerra’s office is regarded as a national model, she said. Staff frequently consults with other universities eager to replicate SDSU’s success.

"Our approach is deliberate, intentional, and consistent, and that makes a real difference in parents' experience," explained Guerra. "We have everything in place: communications, events, services, programs, activities — starting at orientation and all the way to commencement."

"We make it clear to parents that we share the same goals," said Guerra.  "It's not 'us and them.'  We both share an interest in the success of their student.  We empower parents to be part of the process, as our partners, and the parent programs lay the foundation to make that happen."

Student art “Immigration: A Vision of Hope” to be featured at conference

A number of graduate students from SDSU’s Master of Arts Program in Postsecondary Educational Leadership with a Specialization in Student Affairs will also be attending the conference. Many will be serving as volunteers, but one will be presenting — both in person, and via her original artwork.

Claudia Ramirez Islas attended her first NASPA conference as an undergraduate in 2010. “I went to this conference and for the first time in my life, I met people with similar views on social justice, making a difference in the lives of students...I met Latinas I could identify with and look up to.  The president of NASPA right now [Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin] is a Latina.”

Ramirez Islas, who came to the U.S. from Mexico City at the age of seven, has felt the sting of being stigmatized for being different. “At one point, because I was an undocumented minority, I was basically told I wasn’t going to be able to do the things I wanted to do. They didn’t set the bar high for me.”

So she decided to set the bar high for herself.

“I now want to pursue a position as a student affairs professional so I can make decisions at a policy level that will help undocumented students and others with socioeconomic hardships to get into college. This is a strong motivation for me.”

At NASPA this year, Ramirez Islas will present initial findings from interviews she’s conducted with admissions professionals at a number of universities around the country.  “How does your institution touch on the topic of immigration? How do you support undocumented students?” She hopes eventually to compile a listing of institutions that do accept and support undocumented immigrants as students.

The NASPA conference will also feature a series of paintings by Ramirez Islas.  NASPA was so impressed with her artwork that it shipped an installation, measuring 11 by 32 feet, to Phoenix. The work will be on display for the duration of the national conference.  The goal of her collection, says Ramirez Islas, “is to shed new light on [immigration] and create an opportunity for the viewer to step into the shoes of immigrants and see the world through their eyes.”