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The following are remarks shared by Irma Burgos, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh director of the Center for Academic Support and Diversity, as she accepted the UW System Board of Regents Individual Diversity Award during the monthly Board of Regents meeting on Feb. 10 in Madison:

“I am greatly honored to be here with you today to receive the 2012 Board of Regents Diversity Award.  I am very excited, humbled and deeply moved that you should present this important award to me, a first generation Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx.

“Thank you for recognizing my accomplishments.  I am sure I was one of many nominated for this award, and I believe that without a doubt each is deserving of this honor in that every one of us involved in working with a diversified student population carries the passion, determination and yes, courage, to see that our students receive the best education possible.

“I accept this award with profound gratitude on behalf of all students across the UW System campuses who strive every day to achieve academic success. I also accept it as a tribute to System’s pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusivity.

“My thanks extend beyond words to many, but I would like to acknowledge, in particular, some very important people:

•           The Board of Regents, for their leadership and continued support of diversity in Wisconsin’s higher educational system.

•           The Regent’s Diversity Award Committee, for their tireless work in reviewing, examining and weighing all submissions.

•           Chancellor Richard Wells from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, for his support of our efforts.

•           Provost Lane Earns, my direct supervisor, for appreciating and recognizing the valuable work we do every day in our department.  Knowing our work is appreciated and considered vital fuels our energy and spurs our creativity in forming new ideas, programs and alliances in order to see that every student succeeds.

•           To the staff from the Center for Academic Support and Diversity – and this I say with the deepest of gratitude – I could not have received this prestigious award without the collaboration, cooperation and talent of my wonderful staff, some of whom are here today.  Together, we work toward the same goal, day after day.  Given prescriptions are not equally effective to all audiences, as we in this room know.  And I think my staff knows this best of all.  Blanket treatment of students, a one-size-fits-all approach, is not in their vocabulary.   Our students are treated as the beautiful individuals they are, and without my staff’s flexibility, creativity and unwavering dedication to see that the students receive the best services possible, this award would not be a reality.

•           Finally, I want to thank the UW System Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity for their leadership of the M/D coordinators, including myself, state-wide, in providing us with activities that foster professional growth and development.

“Today I am being recognized for my 22 years of service, having had the privilege of working with the UW Oshkosh campus community in an array of exciting ventures delving into the domains of multiculturalism, equality, diversity and inclusivity.

“In our attempts to improve the campus climate, endeavoring to enhance the enrollment and retention of students and increase the diversity of faculty and staff, I am extremely proud of our progress in creating programs which have been geared toward retention and graduation of historically underrepresented populations.

“One of our most successful programs is the Multicultural Retention Programs Tracker, which is a coordinated effort that provides a comprehensive plan targeted for academically at-risk students. While we have other retention programs in place at the University, which have proven to be successful for some, we find that the one-size-fits-all model of intervention is less effective for students who already may be in academic crisis.  Thus, our target population is students that have GPAs that potentially can put them in academic jeopardy. With help from faculty in proactively identifying students experiencing academic difficulties, we are able to implement action-based intervention strategies to further guide students in their successful pursuit of post-secondary education.

“And so, of course, one of our most important resources is faculty.  Without their support and responsiveness, our efforts would bear no fruit.  We all know that an essential ingredient of student success is the faculty members’ unwavering, widespread commitment to enhancing student learning, and fostering learning is ranked as the most important condition for student retention. Maintaining open communication and receiving feedback from faculty is vital to the success of our programs.

“Another important feature is the assessment of programs to measure outcomes.  We need to know where we are in order to determine where we want to go and what change we expect. Although we are all aware it is not quotas we need to fill but potential, we must have the ability to collect data from key departments on campus to generate data from within our department.  We must be vigilant in capturing data relevant to the program’s goal and ensuring all data is properly gathered and accurately entered.  It is a mainstay of our MRP Tracker.

“Finally, we need to understand that all retention programs are time-sensitive in nature, being based on faculty, University and departmental timelines.  Being respectful of these timelines facilitates better relationships and communication between our department and those of the faculty and campus community. We will continue to carry through with being intentional, flexible and mindful of our actions, since we are committed to providing the best opportunities for student success, as retention, graduation and lifelong learning is the mission of the Center for Academic Support and Diversity.

“Thank you again for this terrific award.

“I feel truly fortunate to have the opportunity to work at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh partnering with faculty and staff to help students achieve academic success.

“Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day!”

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