N.C. A&T Receives Innovation Grant in Strada’s Beyond Completion Challenge

By Jackie Torok / 01/27/2022 College of Education, Leadership Studies and Adult Education

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is one of 15 universities to receive an innovation grant of up to $250,000 in the initial phase of Strada Education Network’s $10 million Beyond Completion Challenge.

The Beyond Completion Challenge is designed to help higher education institutions identify and expand new solutions that will improve career and life opportunities for more students of color, first-generation students, those who struggle to afford education, and adult students and workers.

The grant awarded to North Carolina A&T – which falls into the challenge’s building institutional capacity to improve career outcomes funding category – supports Project ARROW: Adults Re-engaging and Realizing Opportunities in the Workforce.

“The mission of North Carolina A&T is to advance knowledge through scholarly exchange as well as to transform society with exceptional teaching, learning, discovery and community engagement,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “Project ARROW further demonstrates our commitment to training and building the skillsets of minority communities whose challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest.”

“We aim to use an inclusive lens to explore barriers that are both common and unique to minoritized adult learners and use that understanding to design best practices that are culturally affirming,” said Project ARROW lead principal investigator (PI) Geleana Alston, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Leadership Studies and Adult Education. “In parallel, we are examining our campus spaces and infrastructure to create a more inclusive campus for all students regardless of their age and prior career experiences.”

The Project ARROW team consists of researchers, context experts, and administrators with experience in adult education, equity-oriented practices, student success, and grant administration, among other expertise. Co-PIs are Tonya Amankwatia, Ph.D., assistant vice provost for Distance Education and Extended Learning; Pamela Basheer, assistant director for Experiential Learning; Regina Williams Davis, Ph.D., interim vice provost for Student Success and University Registrar; Dawn Nail, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for Academic Excellence; Jacqueline Roebuck Sakho, Ph.D. assistant professor in the Department of Leadership Studies and Adult Education; and Stephanie Luster-Teasley, Ph. D., vice provost for Undergraduate Education.

Project ARROW results will inform institutions on best practices for promoting degree completion and career preparedness for these learners, particularly at historically Black colleges and universities. Grant funding will support staff capacity to collect qualitative and quantitative data, analyze patterns and disseminate findings.

Strada is collaborating with the Taskforce on Higher Education and Opportunity for the Beyond Completion Challenge to reimagine higher education to better serve students’ needs. Strada launched the grant challenge with the understanding that students need an educational experience that connects learning with employment so that all students can secure a good job, do meaningful work, and lead a fulfilling life. 

“As we recover from a worldwide pandemic, we understand that our economy and our education system are changing dramatically,” said Strada’s Ruth Watkins. “We must shift our focus beyond completion of credentials and degrees. The Beyond Completion Challenge was designed not just to come up with new ideas for how to achieve that goal, but to put resources behind them so that more students can benefit. We were delighted with the quality of the proposals and are thrilled to support this terrific work.”

In the coming months, all Taskforce members will be invited to join innovation grant recipients in a community of practice to share information and learn what is working to help students succeed beyond completion.

Later this year, the institutions that received funding in Phase One, as well as other Taskforce members, will be invited to compete for more than $6 million in additional support from Strada to expand their work. The emphasis in Phase Two will be to reach larger numbers of students or to collaborate with other institutions or industries to significantly share and expand effective practices.

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu

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