EPOCHS Program Wins 'Examples of Excelencia' Award

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There is more to Cal State Fullerton's EPOCHS program than increasing the number of Hispanic students who complete a graduate degree. It creates a community that provides support and guidance so that students — including those who are underrepresented and disadvantaged — can see their educational goals succeed. "It makes us feel welcome," says Maria Salazar, a graduate student studying Spanish. “It gives us a chance to connect with people. I'm thankful for that."

In the six years since its inception, Enhancing Postbaccalaureate Opportunities at Cal State Fullerton for Hispanic Students, or EPOCHS, has increased the number of Hispanic graduate students from 691 to 1,091. It also has created a setting that empowers such students as they move forward in pursuing their advanced degrees.

In recognition of its achievements, EPOCHS has been recognized by Excelencia in Education!, a national initiative to systematically identify and promote evidenced-based programs and departments effectively boosting Latino enrollment, performance and education.

Enhancing Postbaccalaureate Opportunities at CSUF for Hispanic Students

epochs logo

EPOCHS stands for “Enhancing Postbaccalaureate Opportunities at CSUF for Hispanic Students” and provides services to underserved students plus activities to improve campus climate at CSU Fullerton to improve retention and graduation. EPOCHS began in October 2010 with a 5-year grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Title V, pt. B, PPOHA with an overarching goal to increase the number of Latino/a students who achieve a master’s degree at CSU Fullerton. (Background: in 2009, though 33% of undergraduate students at CSUF self-identified Hispanic (consistent with regional demographics), only 15% of graduate students were Hispanic.).

 

Sustaining EPOCHS

The EPOCHS program provides services to students, including: new grad student orientation with Spanish workshops for families, grad student handbook, bilingual English/Spanish newsletter, tutoring and academic skills workshops, graduate student assistant program, faculty/grad student mentoring program, and grants to support graduate student research. EPOCHS’ activities to improve campus climate: faculty advisor workshops on cultural competency and outreach activities (events, workshops, tabling) with community groups (high schools, community colleges, non-profits). EPOCHS is designed and marketed for Latino/a students, but its services are open to all students. A dozen (Latino/a) graduate assistants provide much of the groundwork for EPOCHS’ services; their “voice” contributes to EPOCHS’ success. 

Sustaining EPOCHS’ services and activities:  CSUF, one of the largest universities in the California, has 5500 graduate students in 54 graduate degree programs. Most services and activities have been sustained, following the sunset of the U.S. Dept. of Education’s grant end in early 2016, with funding from other areas including grants and philanthropy. 

Improved Latino/a student achievement and engagement under EPOCHS:

  • Enrollment of Hispanics in CSUF graduate degree programs increased by 80% (557 students) from 2009 to 2016: 686 Hispanic students to 1243 Hispanic students. (This increase at CSUF of Hispanic grad students occurred despite an overall decline in grad student enrollment at So. Calif. CSU’s by all ethnicities.)
  • Hispanic student percentage of total enrollment improved from 15% (2010) of the graduate student body to 23% (Fall 2016).
  • 2-year graduation rate improved:  30.1% of Hispanic students in the 2010 entering class graduated in 2 years.  43.7% of Hispanic students in the 2013 entering class graduated in 2 years.
  • 3-year graduation rate improved: 2010: 51% of Hispanics graduated in 3 years; in 2015 it was 63% and nearly on par with White (66%).  
  • EPOCHS’ performance targets exceeded:  by 250% for Hispanics students in academic tutoring.
  • EPOCHS’ Mentoring Program has high mentor application rate among faculty:  annually (2010-17), 50-70 faculty apply for 25-35 mentor positions. 
  • EPOCHS’ Faculty Development:  100% faculty attending workshops reported increase in understanding of challenges faced by Hispanic students; 31% said this increase was “vast.”
  • 95% of the graduate student mentees in the EPOCHS Mentoring Program reported they were very satisfied with the Program

Graduate Learning Specialists

The Graduate Learning Specialists (GLS) program provides free one-on-one tutoring/academic coaching to all graduate students at CSU Fullerton, in writing, class presentations, resumes and applications, literature reviews, term papers, research, and statistics.

GILES T.BROWN GRADUATE STUDENT TRAVEL GRANT

Funded by the Giles T. Brown Endowment for Graduate Studies, this grant was established in Fall 2015 and supports the travel of CSUF graduate students to participate in conferences to present their research.  It funds travel and conference registration expense for CSUF graduate students participating in professional conferences and other professional activities (performances, art exhibitions, etc.) wherein the student is presenting his/her research and/or presenting creative or performing activities.

Graduate Student Handbook

EPOCHS has produced a Graduate Student Handbook that makes available important information to all students.

Orientation

In order to help new graduate students, EPOCHS hosts a Graduate Student Orientation, an event that provides information on funding, graduate student policies, research, and advice for both students and their families.

Faculty/Student Mentoring Programs

CSUF's Faculty/Graduate Student Mentoring Program, established in 2011 and sponsored by EPOCHS (Enhancing Postbaccalaureate Opportunities at CSUF for Hispanic Students), aims at helping graduate students—in collaboration with their professors—grow academically, professionally, and personally. The Mentoring Program differs from "regular" academic advising in that students and faculty participate in mutually beneficial relationships by discussing research, career development, and "life" in graduate school. The Mentoring Program is a joint effort between students, faculty, and administrative staff.

The Faculty/Graduate Student Mentoring Program at CSUF facilitates mentoring relationships by:

  • Matching students and faculty members: this alleviates the stress of students having to find a mentor on their own;
  • Providing a framework for the relationship which encourages structure, goal setting, and accountability;
  • Providing faculty with training on how to effectively assist their mentees; and
  • Hosting cultural events throughout the year to encourage dialogue outside the academic realm in order to better solidify the mentoring relationship.