Faulkner Awarded $4.25 million in Grants for African American, Minority Students

Faulkner Awarded $4.25 million in Grants for African American, Minority Students

Faulkner students including African American students walk together toward the gym across Faulkner's brick Quad courtyard.
Students walking across Faulkner’s Quad.

Faulkner University is proud to announce its reception of two substantial grants: the Predominantly Black Institution Competitive Grant and the Predominantly Black Institution Formula Grant. These grants are historic for the university because they represent the largest grants the university has ever received and they pave the way for significant strengthening of support programs for minority students, in particular African American students. Through these grants’ five-year lifespans, the Competitive Grant, entitled Eagles Soar, will provide the University $3 million of funding and the Formula Grant, entitled Eagles Soar II, will provide $1.25 million to establish and strengthen support programs to improve the educational outcomes of traditional and non-traditional African-American students.

In partnership with Marygrove Consulting, Faulkner began working on the proposals and applications for these grants in the spring of 2021. Consisting of a team of two highly skilled leaders in higher education, Denise Mallett and Tom Stevick, Marygrove Consulting is paving the way for institutions like Faulkner to find and apply for grants of which they may have been previously unaware. Marygrove worked closely with Dr. Dave Rampersad, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and his team to craft two projects that will uplift and scaffold Faulkner’s minority student population, primarily in the area of academic achievement.

Award notifications were received in the fall of 2021 and work began immediately to implement the programs. It is Faulkner’s plan to have these services available to targeted students by the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester. Hiring of strategic personnel to support the grants has already begun and significant progress has been made in the planning and development phases of program implementation.

 “The Competitive Grant is geared to improving retention and graduation rates of traditional African American students via an integrated student support system from their first day on campus through graduation,” said Dr. Rampersad. “Particular focus is on enhanced academic coaching, Supplemental Instruction, peer-to-peer tutoring, and a series of university-wide special initiatives to increase the numbers of African American students prepared for and seeking majors and careers in the STEM disciplines.”

“The Formula Grant is geared to improving retention and program completion rates of African American and low-income students in the Executive and Professional program,” Rampersad added. “Particular focus is on dedicated academic advising and retention services, improving the virtual and in-class learning environment, and training faculty on the latest teaching technology to enhance and improve existing on-line coursework.”

Don McKnight newly hired Eagles Soar I Project Director observes this about the grant: “This grant opportunity from the U.S. Department of Education provides an extraordinary opportunity for Faulkner University to create and maintain permanent pathways for African-American students, and more specifically African-American male students, to earn college degrees and achieve the ‘American Dream.’  It’s no secret that education is the key to achieving success in America, and obtaining higher education increases the probability for greater success. I’ve encountered many obstacles in my journey to greater educational achievements in this society and I recognize the phenomenal gifts that God has bestowed upon this institution and me.  Serving as the Project Director of this grant award, I am honored to work diligently to achieve the project’s goals and objectives and simultaneously serve my community and brothers and sisters in Christ.”  

Savannah Dockins, Director of the Faulkner Academic Center for Excellence, will be helping hire student tutors, manage new tutoring opportunities, train new students to become nationally certified tutors and implement diversity training. 

“I am most excited about the possibility of offering more academic and overall life support for students, specifically African American/Minority students,” Dockins said. “We need to give African American/Minority students more opportunities to help them increase their success and graduation rates. Now that we have these opportunities, we can advise these students and mentor them throughout the learning process.”

Through the grants, students will have increased access to a mentor, an academic coach, and a student tutor to help them not only create goals but maintain those goals.

Dr. Cindy Walker, Director of Faulkner’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), will be liaising with the Eagles Soar I Project Director and his staff to facilitate academic coaching and Supplemental Instruction (two services already offered under the auspices of the QEP), in the areas on which the Competitive Grant is focused.

“I am most excited for the academic coaching and Supplemental Instruction pieces,” Walker said. “For many years we have put programs into place, but the money to fund these programs successfully has not been available. This grant allows us to have more people on the ground who have dedicated time to focus on helping students. These grants provides Faulkner the opportunity to allow those involved, the time needed to focus on ministering to our students in order to help them grow in a multiplicity of ways including academic, social and personal. It also allows those who will be working with these students to be trained properly.”

Michelle Otwell, Director of Student Success, oversees the mentoring program at Faulkner. She will be facilitating the training of mentors dedicated to the development of this targeted population. “I am excited about the new opportunities this grant is providing to these students. Faulkner has always utilized a mentor program to promote student success, but the grant provides an avenue to provide focused mentorship to African American students to foster their development, not only in academics, but in all aspects of their college life.” 

As a minority student at Faulkner, Jeremiah Knight, sophomore, seeks to improve himself and rise above his circumstances. He notes, “Academic coaching helps a lot with keeping me on track and gives me someone to talk to about my struggles who can help me fix them.” He notes that Supplemental Instruction helps him, “regain information I might have lost from the previous class.” Regarding the mentoring program, he sees it as an exciting opportunity to have someone guide him who has been in his shoes. 

As a large percentage of Faulkner’s adult population is minority, the Eagles Soar II initiative is significant to the achievement of this population of students. Tiffany Cantrell, Director of Faulkner Online, is particularly enthusiastic about the Eagles Soar II grant, which serves the non-traditional student population. She notes this group of students is often underserved and overlooked because they aren’t on campus during the university’s normal operating hours. “Many times, they feel disconnected from the university,” she states. This grant, in her estimation, will help provide the bridge between these students and the services the university offers. Furthermore, online classes will be enhanced through the hiring of two Student Success Instructional Technologists who will liaise with faculty to improve online learner interaction. 

Breanna Yarbrough, Director of the Center for Assessment, Research, Effectiveness, and Enhancement (CAREE), notes, “Adult students were particularly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, as many had to place their studies on hold to care for young children who were completing schoolwork virtually or elderly parents who were no longer able to stay by themselves or in assisted living facilities. The university’s hope is that this grant will aid them in returning to their educational pursuits by providing additional focused and enhanced support that was previously unavailable.”

In order to qualify as a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI), institutions must meet the following criteria: (1) serve at least 1,000 undergraduate students; (2) have at least 50% low-income or first-generation degree-seeking undergraduate enrollment; (3) have a low per full-time undergraduate student expenditure in comparison with other institutions offering similar instruction; and (4) enroll at least 40% African-American students.

Faulkner is proud to be included in this distinctive category and looks forward to the ability to continue its efforts towards diversification and innovation.