Buffy Smith, dean of Dougherty Family College (DFC) at the University of St. Thomas, recently spoke with Diverse: Issues in Higher Education about DFC’s unique educational model, the importance of removing barriers and providing culturally-sustaining curriculum for scholars from underrepresented communities.
From the story:
DFC’s approach is in line with recent research showing that student success requires a comprehensive approach. The support that DFC gives its students is not simply financial. DFC uses a cohort model in which students take all their classes as part of a group of 25. This helps them bond quickly and support each other.
“Professors encourage you to get to know each other, work together, help each other with problems, hold each other accountable,” said Hall. “It was easy for us to lean on each other.”
Each cohort is assigned to a mentor, who meets with the full group once a month, as well as each member individually.
“We take it to another level of intensity in terms of mentoring where we’re really trying to understand our scholars from a whole person approach,” said Smith. “We want to know not just how well you’re doing in class, but what are those factors that could impede your success.”
DFC’s curriculum is also designed to be culturally sustaining, with diverse source material and assignments about social issues that may affect the students.
“When they can see themselves in the readings and the assignments, that it’s relevant to their lived experiences, they perform better,” said Smith.