Adams State University witnessed creation of a National Center for Historically Underserved Students in mid-November. Twenty-two participants from across the nation joined Adams State faculty and staff for a think tank to launch the organization. The three-day conference concluded with the signing of a draft Declaration on the Rights of Historically Underserved Students.

“Research consistently shows that students from underserved populations enter and complete college at much lower rates than other groups. In addition to racial and ethnic minorities, this includes students who are socioeconomically challenged, are the first in their families to attend college, or are academically underprepared. The latter category applies to nearly 60 percent of first-year college students,” said Adams State President Beverlee J. McClure.

President Beverlee J. McClure (left) and Vice President Chris Gilmer display the Declaration of Rights of Historically Underserved Students at the conclusion of November’s Think Tank.

She added the center will also support and advocate for veterans, adult students, LGBTQ students, women and transgendered students, the disabled, and young men of color. She cited statistics that show 54 percent of students whose parents have only a high school diploma will attend college, compared to 82 percent of students whose parents have a college degree. Worse, only 36 percent of students whose parents did not finish high school will attend college.

“No student should be a statistic. Every student who works hard should become a graduate. Through this national center, we will work to identify and rectify barriers to educational equity and success,” McClure said.

Gilmer said the center will provide a platform to discuss practices that improve higher education for historically underserved students. It will also develop an advocacy group to address the issues and challenges in higher education. Primary activities will include convening experts to support the center’s mission, improving public schools, building family literacy and intergenerational learning, improving developmental education, and conducting a research study.

Adams State alumnus and former trustee Dale Mingilton ‘85 (right) at the think tank with mass communications major Alondra Chaparro ‘17. A retired banker, Mingilton is now executive director of the Adams 14 Education Foundation, Adams County, Colo.

“This is a call to action for America’s historically underserved students and those persons and systems entrusted with their success. We hope to circulate this declaration nationally,” said Dr. Chris Gilmer, vice president for Academic Affairs, who coordinated the think tank. The conference included a well-attended campus forum at which think tank participants discussed their work and responded to audience questions. The conference was sponsored by Adams State’s Title V Office, funded through federal grants for Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Among the think tank group were Shirlethia Franklin, Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to the U.S. Attorney General and White House Liaison to the U.S. Department of Justice; and Luisa Del Carmen Pollard, CEO of Clemente and Associates and Acting Division Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Adams State faculty and staff also participated, as well as President McClure and ASU trustees Arnold Salazar and Wendell Pryor.