Aiding student success: UTSA establishes Center for Research and Policy in Education

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(Jan. 17, 2012) -- In order to improve education for students from preschool through college, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) has established the Center for Research and Policy in Education (CRPE). Housed in the UTSA Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, the center will research and inform the educational community about critical factors that affect the academic success of key student groups.

"South Texas, and particularly San Antonio, has a population that demographers expect to see mirrored across the nation over the next decade, so it seems fitting to establish a center here to focus on educational processes and policies that will affect the next generation of students," said Betty Merchant, dean of COEHD. "This new center will coordinate and facilitate research collaborations on critical educational challenges such as student access, retention and graduation, informing policymakers of the systems needed to allow all students to achieve their personal best. At the end of the day, we hope to have a positive impact on education policy."

Through the center, UTSA scholars will work with local, regional and national education experts across the country to create a knowledge base on important educational topics that affect students from preschool through graduate school. A sampling of research topics includes kindergarten and college readiness, Latino student success, diversity in education, first-generation college student support, college retention and graduation, diversity in education and educational costs.

In one of its first projects, the center is partnering with the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) and Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop and distribute educational policy briefs on topics related to the academic success of Latino/a college students. Hispanics, the nation's fastest-growing minority, are expected to comprise 30 percent of the nation's population by the year 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

UTSA education scholars Amaury Nora and Laura Rendon will serve as co-directors of the center. Both are professors in the UTSA Department of Leadership and Policy Studies. Vijay Kanagala, UTSA's first post-doctoral associate in educational policy, will manage the center's daily activity.

Nora, COEHD's associate dean for research, specializes in student persistence models, retention models that integrate economic theories and psychosocial factors, and the role of college on diverse student populations. Currently, he is the editor of The Review of Higher Education, the journal for the Association for the Study of Higher Education. He also served on the National Advisory Board for the evaluation of the national GEAR UP initiative and on the technical review panel as consultant on the "Educational Longitudinal Study: 2000" for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Rendon's research interests include access, retention and graduation of low-income, first-generation college students and the transformation of teaching and learning to emphasize wholeness and social justice. She served as the lead researcher on large-scale projects funded by the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation and U.S. Department of Education. She also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Bill and Melinda Gates Completion by Design Project to promote community college student success. Rendon is chairwoman of the board of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, which deals with P-20 education projects such as GEAR UP across the nation.

Kanagala earned his Ph.D. in educational leadership with a higher education emphasis from Iowa State University. His research interests include persistence, transition and campus life experiences of students of color with special emphasis on South Asian American and international college students.

"Human and social development is one of the five major research areas we are focusing on to push UTSA to Tier One,"said Robert Gracy, UTSA vice president for research. "The Center for Research and Policy in Education is a critical building block for us. Through the center's work, we expect to develop new and exciting research partnerships that will improve education for our children and for their children.

To learn more about the center, contact Vijay Kanagala at 210-458-7394.