Aiding student success
UTSA establishes Center for Research and Policy in Education
In order to improve education for students from preschool through college, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has established the Center for Research and Policy in Education (CRPE). Housed in the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD), the center researches and informs 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, COEHD dean. “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 to create a knowledge base on important educational topics that affect students from preschool through graduate school and into the workforce. A sampling of research topics includes college readiness, 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 partnered with the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) and Educational Testing Service (ETS), and developed a policy brief on improving college access and degree completion among Latino male college students. Additionally, earlier this year, the center was awarded two major grants from the Lumina Foundation and Texas Guaranteed-Public Benefit Grant Program (TG).
UTSA education scholars Amaury Nora and Laura I. Rendón serve as co-directors of the center. Both are professors in the UTSA Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Vijay Kanagala, COEHD’s first post-doctoral fellow manages the center’s daily activity and serves as the project director for the Lumina Foundation grant. Laura J. Cortez, COEHD’s second post-doctoral fellow, was recently hired to serve as a project director for the TG grant. Graduate research assistants Josie Garcia, Donald Allison, Courtney Allen and Albert Salinas provide assistance to CRPE staff on various research projects.
"What is most exciting about our Center is that an intergenerational team of scholars is working on research that will impact policy and practice in the nation’s educational system," Rendón said. "We are pleased and proud that our research and policy endeavors have already reached entities such as the White House, the UTSA GRIP initiative, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education and the San Antonio Education Partnership."
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.
Rendón’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. Rendón is chairperson of the board of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, which deals with national P-20 education projects such as GEAR UP.
Kanagala earned his Ph.D. in educational leadership with a higher education emphasis from Iowa State University. His primary research interests include college access, transition, success and campus life experiences of generation 1.5 students of color and the use of contemplative pedagogy in classrooms.
Cortez graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, earning her Ph.D. in educational administration with a focus on higher education and a certificate in Mexican American Studies. Her research interests focus on college access, persistence and degree completion specifically of first-generation, Latino students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions.