Cal State San Bernardino has received a five-year, $3 million federal grant as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) to the College of Arts & Letters to help its students achieve academic success and be career ready, including stipends for students participating in mentoring and internship programs.

The U.S. Department of Education Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Division grant also partners with the College of Arts & Letters with Norco College and San Bernardino Valley College to help their art and humanities students and their families prepare for attending a four-year university and be mentored by upper-division students, said Brian Heisterkamp, a professor of communication studies.

While there is a lot of funding available for STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics) programs, “we wanted to make the argument that Arts and Humanities needs support as well and so what we’re doing is focusing on career readiness and academic success of students in those disciplines,” said Heisterkamp, who will serve as the grant’s principal investigator.

For career readiness, the grant will help the College of Arts & Letters develop a studio incubator, where students from various disciplines and departments will work together on different projects, Heisterkamp said.

“So we could have students from music technology, graphic design, English, theater, or whatever the case might be, collaborate on a project and produce some promotional materials or outcomes within the university,” he said, adding that the studio incubators would give students experience in working with others from different fields.

“What we find in working with employers is that they really want students that don't work in silos. They want students who can work with people in other disciplines,” Heisterkamp said. “When they leave the university and are working, students are going to be working and collaborating with people from different disciplines. So we want to give them that opportunity here.”

As in an earlier grant, Heisterkamp said they will also focus on internships and training faculty on the best practices associated with internships such as supporting students through the internship process. The grant will also help provide stipends for the participating students because many internships are unpaid.

Also in the grant, senior- and junior-level arts and humanities students will be partnered with students at the community colleges and lower-division CSUSB students, serving as mentors to help navigate what it’s like to be at the university, particularly students who are transferring to CSUSB.

“What we are finding is that students (at the community college level) are taking units that aren’t serving them, so it’s not helping them earn the ADT (Associate Degree for Transfer) or some other associate degree, for example” Heisterkamp said.

The mentoring will enable the community college students to get “counseling services here from Cal State so that they’re aware of taking courses that are going to get them transferable so that they could come here and earn a four-year degree, or at the very least, so that they’re not taking units that are not useful to them to earn an associate,” Heisterkamp said.

The grant will also enable an outreach program to give families a connection so they know how they can help their students be successful.

“I had a student just a few weeks ago tell me that her family didn’t want her to do homework at home because they felt that it wasn’t necessary,” Heisterkamp said. “It’s shocking. But I think that she’s not alone in that some families aren’t aware of what it takes outside of the classroom to be successful. And so I think part of what we want to do is to outreach to families. These are the sorts of things that you can do to help your student be successful, to reach the goal of degree attainment.”

He added that families may not be familiar with college life or what college entails, and many of the students or their families have never set foot on a college campus.

“It’s frightening, it’s overwhelming. And so I think to partner them with a student here who can help them navigate this process ‘Where do I go to sign up for classes? Where do I go to buy my books?’ All those sorts of things that we might take for granted that firsthand students or students who have never set foot on a four-year university campus, have no idea,” Heisterkamp said. “It’s just overwhelming. And so I think to have that interpersonal connection with someone is really beneficial.”