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Latina/o Graduate Students SOAR: Strengthening Opportunity, Access and Resources (SOAR) is a Title V Grant from the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. that was awarded to California State University, Fullerton to help further its efforts to increase academic success and support to Latina/o and educationally disadvantaged graduate students. The grant is implemented through the Office of Graduate Studies, and extends to September 30, 2019.

SOAR Grant Initiatives

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SOAR Goals and Achievements

The SOAR grant focuses on following three overall goals.

1 - Supporting Student Academic Achievement

To improve systems for effective advising and peer support enhancing academic achievement of Hispanic and/or disadvantaged graduate students. SOAR has sought to meet this goal by providing:

  1. Advising for applicants who are applying to graduate programs.
  2. Advising for new and continuing graduate students on academic success, financial aid, graduate students life, and campus resources.
  3. An online Learning Community for facilitated peer mentoring and networking.

As part of our communications strategy, SOAR has reached 100% of our Hispanic continuing and prospective graduate students since its inception in Fall 2014. SOAR regularly shares information with prospective and continuing graduate students on key topics such as: student employment (Graduate Assistantships, Research Assistantships, or Teaching Assistantships), campus resources, funding opportunities, and the graduate school application process.
Since Fall 2014, SOAR advisors have met with students one-on-one at an increasing rate.

in-person advising

Advising survey student feedback:
“Adviser was very helpful in answering my questions Adviser was KNOWLEDGABLE in programs and financial aspects”
“Very helpful in the application process, gave me multiple resources for graduate school and more. I felt like I got a lot of information that can help.”
“The advising was extremely helpful I feel much more confident to begin the graduate school application process.”
“Because of the Information provided by the advising manager, I now have a clear path to continue my graduate education.”

SOAR advising efforts has also contributed to an increase of completed applications and enrollment by Hispanic students every year since the grant has been active.

completed hispanic application matriculated hispanic students

2 - Improving Student Educational Engagement

To enhance the quality of the academic experience by improving the learning engagement of Hispanic and/or disadvantaged graduate students.

  1. A Graduate Student Success Center (GSSC).
  2. Engagement activities within the GSSC; including workshops and networking activities.
  3. A Hispanic Graduate Student Club (SOARing Graduate Student Association).
  4. Scholarships for Hispanic and/or disadvantaged graduate students.

The Graduate Student Success Center, since its opening in Spring 2016, has been heavily utilized by graduate students at CSU Fullerton. As is evident, a larger percentage of Hispanic graduate students have visited the GSSC than are represented by the graduate student population at CSUF.


Total # of visitors

Total #  of unique visitors

Total # of unique Hispanic graduate students visitors

% of Hispanic graduate student visitors

% of Hispanic graduate students enrolled at CSUF

Spring 2016






Summer 2016






Fall 2016






Spring 2017






Summer 2017






Fall 2017






Spring 2018






*Adequate data was not available at this time.

Graduate students who have visited the GSSC have reported that attending the center has improved their academic success at CSUF. Students have stated that the center provides them with knowledge of resources, professional development, motivation, and emotional support.

GSSC survey student feedback:

"Connecting with other CSUF Latino/Hispanic graduate students has been pivotal to my success as a first generation Latina grad student. Connecting with students like myself and sharing our experiences as grad students has been helpful to not feeling alone and isolated in my pursuit of higher education. Having the friendly front office staff (students) has also been a great help! They often are my only "human" contact of the day, they greet me and offer words of encouragement. They also follow up on conversations we have had and things I have shared.” – Graduate student, Spring 2017

“As a student new to CSUF, the graduate center has provided me with a place to smoothly transition not only to campus but into a rigorous master’s level program.” – Graduate student, Fall 2017

“It makes me feel special as a grad student but more than that, it creates a place to meet others in my program to work together. Even if we are reading silently together in the same room, the shared experience and physical proximity gives a sense of community through shared struggle.” – Graduate student, Spring 2018.”

The Elevar Scholars Program, an initiative that attempts to improve the experience of historically under-served communities in graduate school, has awarded $365,000 to graduate students.

angela gutierrez
Angela Gutierrez
Doctoral Student

Employed at the Graduate Student Researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research
How did Elevar help you complete your graduate program?
The Elevar Scholars program helped me during the completion of my Master of Public Health degree by linking me with formal and informal mentors that helped me navigate graduate school and by providing funding that allowed me to spend more time focusing on completing my thesis and attend academic conferences.

What was the most important thing that you learned from the program?
Keep an open mind and try new things, as going outside your comfort zone challenges you to grow and become more well-rounded.

In your current position, do you find yourself applying what you learned from the program?
As a researcher working on various local and national efforts, I find myself drawing from things I’ve learned during my time at CSUF. Some of these things include fundamentals of Public Health, but also include navigating the graduate school process and developing marketable skills necessary for the workforce.
areli gonzalez
Areli Gonzalez
Student Services Advisor at Westcliff University
How did Elevar help you complete your graduate program?
The scholarship helped in many areas. I was able to connect with fellow social scientists and this allowed me to have a bigger network within my program and on campus. Having these connections motivated me to finish my program and maintain these relationships outside of school.

What was the most important thing that you learned from the program?
The most important thing I learned was that networking was key. Networking has been one of the tools that used the most when looking for new professional positions. Meeting and talking with my network kept me grounded and motivated.

In your current position, do you find yourself applying what you learned from the program?
Yes. In this new position I’m always trying to connect to my co-workers and supervisors. Bouncing off ideas or asking are usually things that I do on a daily basis and things that I learned from the program.
maria alejandra lozano ortiz
Maria Alejandra Lozano Ortiz
Graduate Student: Graduating in the Spring
How did Elevar help you complete your graduate program?
The Elevar Scholars program helped me connect with my faculty mentor and other graduate students on campus. The workshops helped me build a sense of community outside of my graduate program. Being an Elevar Scholar also provided me with some financial relief from the cost of graduate school.

What was the most important thing that you learned from the program?
The most important thing I got from this program was a sense of community and belonging. Through the Elevar Scholars program, I was able to build relationships with my peers as well as faculty members and staff. Moving forward, I feel more confident in my ability to seek a community that is as supportive as this one.

In your current position, do you find yourself applying what you learned from the program?
Although I am still in graduate school, I hope that after graduation I am able to stay in touch with my faculty mentors and fellow graduate students. These connections will help me transition into my next academic goal: pursuing a doctoral degree.
horacio sanchez
Horacio Sanchez
Graduate Student
How did Elevar help you complete your graduate program?
The Elevar Scholars Programs has provided me with the networking and support to navigate my Graduate Program. Our Elevar mentors provided workshops and useful information on how to continue my graduate education by pursuing a Doctorate program. This was particularly helpful for me since this is my next career step. Also, the Elevar Scholars Program provided me with financial help in the form the Elevar Scholars scholarship. This was also extremely helpful since it helped me ease some of the financial burden from summer classes.

What was the most important thing that you learned from the program?
The most important thing I took away from the program was the networking I was able to establish with other Elevar Scholars like myself. This networking has allowed me to identify students in the College of Letters and Natural Sciences at CSUF with whom I've shared research presentation experiences and tips on how, when, and where to apply to present at conferences. Also, talking to my peers has allowed me to see other perspectives on how to approach Graduate work. Having input from someone who's going through a similar program is very enlightening and serves as motivational support going forward.

In your current position, do you find yourself applying what you learned from the program?
Yes! One of the things I apply on an almost daily basis is a time management strategy we learned at one of our three Elevar workshops. This strategy has impacted the efficiency and quality of my schoolwork as well as freed up time for myself since Graduate work could be very isolating at times. The benefits reflect not only on my academics, but also on my social life, something that our Elevar Mentors understood very well and encouraged us to pay as much attention as our Graduate program.

3 - Strengthening University Environment for Graduate Studies

To expand learning opportunities for Hispanic and/or disadvantaged students through improving university systems.

  1. Strengthening connections between curriculum and careers through program development
  2. Faculty development to strengthen student experiences as GA’s and TA’s.

Through SOAR, efforts have been made to improve hiring procedures that would enhance the hiring of Hispanic and/or disadvantaged teaching assistantships and graduate assistantships. In 2017, graduate students from various programs participated in workshops geared towards the development of their skills as a GA/TA. CSUF faculty have also participated in workshops on the challenges to achievement in higher education faced by Hispanic and/or disadvantaged graduate students.

Faculty development survey feedback:
“Understanding and effectively communicating the expectations to diverse student population is critical to their success.  Caring and nurturing environment fosters commitment and motivate students to pursue higher goals.” – CSUF faculty, Fall 2017
“I never imagined that students did not have the necessary support in the process of selecting schools and the choices available for financing their education.” – CSUF faculty, Spring 2018