Community for Excellence receives grant to support student success

CSU’s Collaborative for Student Achievement has received a COSI grant totaling $600,000 to empower students with the necessary resources to succeed in college as delivered through the university’s cross-department Community for Excellence program.

Colorado State University has received a significant grant from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative to help COSI scholarship students succeed on campus.

COSI awarded the Collaborative for Student Achievement a four-year grant totaling $600,000 to empower students with the necessary resources to succeed in college as delivered through the university’s cross-department Community for Excellence program.

The new grant — an annual award of $150,000 for four years — continues to fund two positions within the Community for Excellence to help students who are receiving COSI-supported scholarships navigate college.

According to Taé Nosaka, associate executive director of the Collaborative for Student Achievement, Key Communities/Community for Excellence, the two COSI grant coordinators provide one-on-one support to students as well as host programs and workshops on areas such as academic success, financial aid and community building, among other topics.

COSI grant coordinators Danielle Pacheco (left) and Rachel Taylor.

In addition, the newly hired COSI grant coordinators — Danielle Pacheco and Rachel Taylor — offer academic and career coaching as well as engagement with campus resources and opportunities.

“They connect the students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college, with the best that CSU has to offer,” Nosaka said. “As first-generation college students, CSU can be difficult to navigate, so our staff are clearing pathways for their success.”

CSU will serve approximately 400 COSI students who are also connected to one of the COSI-supported scholarship organizations such as the Denver Scholarship Foundation, the Adams County Education Consortium and the Weld County Bright Futures.

Established by the Colorado legislature in 2014, COSI provides financial support to ensure affordable access to postsecondary education opportunities to those most in need.

“COSI’s investment in CSU shows that this is a place that does really great work when it comes to mentoring the COSI scholars on our campus,” Nosaka said. “We’re really proud of that.”

Community for Excellence

The Community for Excellence (C4E) creates an asset-based approach to equitable learning experiences for students from their first semester to their last.

In addition to recognizing the critical importance of educational partners in students’ home communities, Nosaka said C4E leverages the power of a network of campus partners to facilitate belongingness through scholar contact relationships and connections to existing programs and services, resulting in increased retention and graduation with an explicit focus on students of color and/or limited income and/or first-generation college students.

In all, Nosaka said the Community for Excellence supports more than 1,600 CSU students from the 60-plus partnership programs.

Nosaka pointed to CSU’s Access Center, Student Diversity Programs and Services, the Academic Advancement Center and the Office of Financial Aid as key partners.

“The Access Center has been instrumental in fostering the relationships with all of our partners throughout the state of Colorado,” she said. “Staff from Student Diversity Programs and Services, the Access Center, the Academic Advancement Center, along with the Collaborative for Student Achievement, all serve as ‘scholar contacts’ to students once they arrive on campus.”

Ryan Barone, assistant vice president for student success, works with CSU’s Student Success Initiatives and was the principal investigator of the pervious COSI grant in 2018. He said SSI, a collaborative effort designed to increase graduation rates and eliminate opportunity gaps, has supported C4E from its inception.

Barone explained that the shared focus of SSI and C4E on creating equitable learning cultures inside and outside of the classroom in a network of support spanning pre-collegiate partners and CSU-specific resources represents a model student success program for the state.

“Colorado State University has been an original partner with the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the state of Colorado since the inception of COSI in 2014,” said Barone, who also is on the COSI Board of Directors as the representative for all four-year institutions in the state. “Our relationship has only grown, with the current grant being the largest and most impactful for our students, their families, and subsequently for the state of Colorado.”

Nosaka added that C4E works to connect with students before they even set foot on campus by connecting them with a dedicated staff member who will support them through graduation.

“We are committed to providing support for our students,” Nosaka said. “We have made a promise to all of our partners within the Community for Excellence that if they send students to CSU, students get the best of what CSU offers.”