California Lutheran University was awarded $2,967,668 in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to help students with career pathways and professional development.
A five-year grant worth $2,807,976 for the Vocational Identity and Talent in Academic Learning (VITAL) program, will help to increase retention and completion rates among Hispanic and low-income students, and help prepare them for careers. As part of the university’s mission as a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), the grant “will bring us nearer to closing equity gaps at Cal Lutheran,” said Maria Thayer, the school’s director of HSI and DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion and justice) initiatives.
The grant was funded through the Title V Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (DHSI) Program, which provides grants to assist HSIs to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the attainment of, Hispanic students. Cal Lutheran is one of only 171 private, four-year HSIs in the country.
Angela Naginey, executive director of student success, said the overreaching goal of VITAL — and a key part of Cal Lutheran’s overall strategic plan — is to “prepare students during their time in college for the workforce and their future. How do we play a more active role in helping students figure out what their vocation and purpose in life are?”
The VITAL program’s goals — all grounded in DEIJ principles — include training and opportunities designed to help support students. Faculty will engage in professional development programming to advise and mentor students, helping learners discern their vocation and career goals. Supervisors of student workers will be trained to provide meaningful work that allows students to explore their career options.
Other plans include revitalizing a peer mentorship program; creating internship opportunities and including such work as a graduation requirement; providing financial literacy workshops and free online financial literacy help; offering online learning options, especially to nontraditional students returning to school to earn their degrees; and establishing an endowment to fund university-sponsored employment.
The U.S. Department of Education also awarded a separate $159,692 grant to the university’s Embracing Spanish for the Professions at Home and Abroad (ESPHA) program; Cal Lutheran is one of 18 institutions in the country selected for the two-year grant.
The ESPHA program, part of Cal Lutheran’s mission to “educate leaders for a global society,” will help improve instruction in global studies and languages by including travel as part of selected courses; provide affordable language-instruction materials to courses geared toward professionals, such as Spanish for Health Professions; offer free language proficiency testing to Spanish majors and minors; and develop field trips and educational workshops to prepare students for diversity in their workplaces.