As University of Wisconsin students and faculty begin to revive lines of communication to improve campus climate, two researchers have received $1.5 million to study and support successful outreach programs in minority-serving institutions.

Researchers hope to use the grant, awarded by Lumina Foundation for Education, USA Funds and the Kresge Foundation, to identify initiatives in higher education institutions that receive little recognition, but effectively promote student success in hopes of introducing similar programs at other universities.

Clifton Conrad, a UW professor of education, said the research would begin by selecting nine institutions and sharing the success stories of their programs and practices. The schools selected will each receive $50,000 to expand these programs.

The study would illuminate efforts institutions can make to improve the student experience for not only minority students, but all other students as well, Conrad said. He said the importance of this research is getting these innovative techniques into the public domain.

Conrad said there are lessons to be learned about the current state of our own campus climate and how to continue making the campus culture more welcoming.

Outreach programs in minority-serving institutions aim to provide holistic support to ensure students are able to stay in school and earn their degree, he said.

“We’re interested in building bridges between the classroom and the extracurricular experience,” Conrad said. “We might learn some things about experiences that students may find helpful and go beyond conventional wisdom.”

Conrad said the institutions would be chosen through a competitive application process, and the team hopes to announce final decisions by May.

University of Pennsylvania professor Marybeth Gasman, Clifton’s co-recipient of the grant, said many institutions of higher education need to improve methods of educating students of color and help them be more competitive.

Gasman said the research would focus on changing the narrative about minority-serving institutions while also awarding funds to bolster their educational infrastructure.

“The national narrative in general either doesn’t know about these programs or has a negative view of them,” she said. “This will put a microscope over their successes.”

She added institutions could adopt or better publicize such programs to attract more students of color.