Appreciating California State University’s Efforts To Elevate Black Excellence

In 2017, Ed Trust–West released the first in our “Hear My Voice” series of reports, looking at how K-12 districts, higher education institutions, and state leaders could better support young men of color on their paths to and through college. Both California’s academic outcome data and the qualitative research we conducted for that report highlighted alarming gaps Black, Latinx, Native American, and Pacific Islander young men face – gaps in expectations and opportunities that limited their success. 

In Hear My Voice, and in our higher education work since its release, we’ve issued a clear call for colleges to prioritize equity by “ institution-wide efforts focused on setting gap-closing goals and monitoring progress around improving opportunities for students of color.” Now, a new report from the California State University (CSU), takes a significant step forward on supporting the success of tens of thousands of Black students across the state. 

We applaud the California State University and all 23 campuses for their timely and targeted commitment to advancing Black student success. The recently released report on supporting Black students from the Chancellor’s Strategic Workgroup is a hugely important move for prioritizing equity in our state. We appreciate that the CSU is doing what many institutions of higher education shy away from – putting in the difficult but necessary work of taking an intentional, institution-wide look in the mirror, listening to students, and committing to taking action. 

The report’s recommendations lay out a clear path forward that we are excited about. Notably, we appreciate the CSU’s plan to develop a comprehensive retention and persistence strategy for Black students, and look forward to seeing how campuses create welcoming and affirming spaces and develop and implement inclusive and culturally relevant curriculum across campuses. Furthermore, the CSU’s disaggregation of Black student data to arrive at these recommendations, and their plan to develop a process for systemwide data-driven practices and accountability, demonstrates the power and potential for data-driven decision making to advance equity. 

We are hopeful that this report is just the beginning of a new focus on Black student success at the CSU. As such, we are excited about the continuation of the Black Student Success Workgroup and hope to see CSU Trustees both participate in the Workgroup and share regular progress updates at CSU meetings. As incoming Chancellor Dr. Mildred García said upon her appointment, “the CSU is a powerful engine of change and upward mobility for California and the nation.”  We are eager to see how Chancellor García embraces this latest effort to support Black students and actualizes those sentiments through implementation of the report’s recommendations. 

As with any report, the promise of these recommendations will only be realized if CSU Trustees and campus leaders see the report and Workgroup as a launching pad for further action. We look forward to working with the Black Student Success Workgroup and supporting the CSU to become a nationwide leader in Black student outreach, recruitment, enrollment, persistence, success, and graduation. 

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.