By Katrice Albert
It’s not surprising to hear Minneapolis/St. Paul has one of the widest student education achievement gaps — between children of color and White children — in the United States. It’s a ranking we can’t wait to shake, just as quickly as we can, for good.
Doing so requires hard work on many fronts: rolling up our sleeves, listening, partnering and leading. That’s why the University of Minnesota is working with schools, school districts, parents, families, teachers and students to address this issue on many fronts. And it’s why I’d like to clarify a point raised in the MSR Aug. 14 story, “University of Minnesota takes on school achievement gap.”
At the U of M, African Americans are indeed involved in leadership and partnership roles, with serious goals to reduce the alarming gap through teaching, research and outreach. As the U’s new vice president for Equity and Diversity and a member of President Kaler’s senior leadership team, it’s my job to lead the U of M’s access, equity and diverse multicultural resources and programs, and work collaboratively with diverse Minnesota communities. I also serve on the Twin Cities Generation Next leadership committee.
The University of Minnesota is a large institution, with more than 42,000 undergraduate students and 25,000 employees on the Twin Cities campus alone. In addition to my leadership position and connection with Generation Next, the U has made a genuine commitment to close the achievement gap. Just a few examples include:
• The College Readiness Consortium (K-12), which fosters collaboration with Minnesota high schools and school districts
• The “Kids on Campus” program (K-8), recently profiled by KSTP-TV, which brings kids from underserved and underrepresented populations to campus and helps them see themselves in college settings beginning at an early age
• The Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, which helps families of first-generation college students learn about higher education processes and financial aid resources, such as Pell Grants and the U Promise Scholarship
University faculty members and graduate students also conduct research, teach and serve in our communities of color statewide. Whether through research grants, UROC programs or service learning opportunities, faculty, staff and students engage community partners, listen and work together toward the common goal of closing the achievement gap.
I’m excited to join this community. I feel privileged to be at the table with other leaders committed to addressing our state and region’s glaring achievement gap. I am ready to partner with you and dedicate University programs and resources to benefit our most precious assets, our children.
Let’s continue rolling up our sleeves together. There’s much work to be done.
Dr. Katrice Albert is vice president for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota. She arrived in June 2013. A native of New Roads, LA, Albert came to the U from Louisiana State University, where she served as chief diversity officer for eight years.