In the Critical Civic Inquiry Summer Institute (CCI SI), high school and college students improve college access and retention by working together to conduct participatory action research. The CCI is a partnership between Dr. Elizabeth Mendoza and the Office of Latin@ Student Services at CU Denver and Dr. Ben Kirshner, faculty director of CU Engage. We recruit students from traditionally underrepresented groups, including first generation college students, students of color, and students from low-income families, but are open to working students of any background. Higher education institutions in Colorado have made progress in expanding access to students from low-income families and students of color, but disparities continue in access and retention. Moreover, current approaches to addressing these disparities tend to be remedial rather than empowering; they may unintentionally reify deficit perspectives about non-dominant youth due to a focus on what young people are "lacking." In CCI SI we seek to organize activities that leverage students' everyday experiences as legitimate sources of insight. Through the documentation of our own practices as researchers, we try to influence the field of higher education in how to organize college access programs with an empowering, culturally responsive focus.
For more information email Dr. Mendoza or Dr. Kirshner
Since August 2014 a team of five undergraduates, one doctoral student, and one faculty member have been exploring issues of access, equity, and diversity on the CU-Boulder campus. This research, funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, will inform CU Engage's strategic planning and inclusive practices. Drawing on the principles and practices of participatory action research (PAR), our team is a) documenting community engagement perspectives and activities among students from under-represented groups; b) identifying factors that act as either barriers or invitations to greater involvement; and c) proposing strategies for CU Engage to implement in its first three years. The provisional title of the study is "Everyone has to change: Why intentions don't add up for engaging under-represented students."
Learn More about Undergraduate Participatory Research