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Panel OKs SIUE initiative to improve Black student retention, graduation rates

The Higher Learning Commission has approved an initiative planned by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to focus on improving the retention and graduation rates of Black students.

The Quality Initiative — or QI proposal — is an institutional change effort that will launch during the fall 2021 term, the university said Tuesday.

As part of HLC accreditation requirements for universities, SIUE is required to identify and implement a large-scale quality initiative between years five and nine of the decennial accreditation cycle. A QI may be designed to begin and be completed during this time, or an institution may continue a project that is already in progress or achieve a key milestone in the work of a longer initiative. The QI is intended to allow institutions to take risks, aim high and learn from partial success or failure.

The Higher Learning Commission is an independent corporation that was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. HLC accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the United States.

“I am grateful for the feedback and ideas that we received from the campus community. Their suggestions, the recommendations of the Anti-Racism Task Force, and the work of our QI leadership ​team​, which included Courtney Boddie, Geoffrey Edwards, Jessica Harris, Elza Ibroscheva and Matthew Schunke, informed this effort,” said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Denise Cobb. “Our Quality Initiative invites all members of SIUE’s community to participate in the work of transforming our campus and ensuring that Black students have opportunities and supports to thrive.

“All Anti-Racism Task Force action items that directly align with this focus will be rolled into the QI and create even greater accountability. The Chancellor has dedicated at least $500,000 in the QI to advance these goals, and we will build on the efforts already underway.”

The university’s QI purpose is to acknowledge structural racism as a predictor of educational and career outcomes among Black students, and to build a multi-level program designed to enhance their daily experiences by reducing incidence, prevalence, and impact of minority stress and cultural trauma in students’ lives both within and outside SIUE. The interventions designed for this QI will directly address students, and indirectly address faculty and staff concerns as they to eliminate obstacles currently impeding the academic progress of Black students.

The QI’s goals are:

– Support Black students along the educational pipeline by developing a pathway for their enrollment at SIUE
– Improve retention and graduation rates of Black students by achieving annual increases in retention, and by increasing the six-year graduation rate
– Develop and nurture pathways to graduate and professional school and/or employment for Black students graduating from SIUE
– Provide ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion education, training and resources, through various modalities, to support self-awareness and professional development
– Enhance efforts to recruit and retain Black faculty and staff

For more information, visit SIUE’s QI website at

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