Story Graduation Initiative

GANAS - Paving the Way for Transfer Success at Cal State East Bay

Toni Molle

 

 

​​​Graduation Initiative 2025 expands on the CSU's achievements in increasing student success with a focus on raising completion rates for first-time freshmen and community college transfer students. In September 2016, all campuses presented draft plans to improve completion rates and eliminate achievement gaps among low income and underserved students. All 23 CSU campuses are using a variety of strategies to improve persistence to degree and student retention.  The most effective campus practices engage students in learning and help draw the connection between their major of study and the world at large.

Cal State East Bay's GANAS (Gaining Access 'N Academic Success) is an effective high-impact program for transfer students. GANAS integrates academic and cultural approaches to welcome and socialize new transfer students with impressive results. Participants experience an increase in their confidence and academic success. While GANAS is open to all students, the program provides Latina/o-themed academic content and supportive services. Since its launch in 2013, GANAS has doubled in size and has been replicated as a model for other programs at CSUEB.

To get a better understanding the ways this program supports transfer students, we asked Melissa Cervantes, the coordinator for GANAS, to answer a few questions.

Q:  What are the benefits of participating in the GANAS Program for transfer students? 

Melissa: Students who participate in the GANAS Program receive three core benefits - coursework, counseling and mentoring. Student success is anchored on unique coursework. GANAS students are placed in a cohort and enroll together in two courses each quarter. One course is an upper-division general education (GE) course and the other is a Transfer Success Seminar course. The cohort moves together as a learning community through their first year at CSUEB, completing their undergraduate GE requirements.

The second core component of GANAS is intrusive advising. We have our own counselor on staff that does all of our academic advising and monitors students to ensure they are making academic progress toward their degree. The last core component is mentoring. We employ six peer mentors, which we call Herman@s, or big brothers/sisters. The peer mentors are in their second or third year as transfer students at CSUEB. They were participants in GANAS and serve as an extra layer of support for students.

In addition to the three components that make up the general structure of the GANAS Program, one of the largest benefits that students express is the community that they have found with the GANAS Program. Participants come together and truly bond as a family through spending time together in class, in the office, and around campus. 

Q:  How do mentors enhance GANAS students' experience?

Melissa:  Herman@s contribute a unique level of support to the new incoming participants. As a peer, a fellow transfer student, and someone who went through the GANAS program and understands the experience, Herman@s offer a level of understanding that can't always be provided by the staff. Common experience and struggle bonds the students and provides a level of comfort that allows GANAS participants to open up to their mentor and reach out when they are having challenges. And with the staff here to support the Herman@s, as a team we can better support each participant.

Q:  What is the success rate and what have you learned?

Melissa:  So far, GANAS students are graduating at 48 percent in two years, and 80 percent in three years. And, our first year persistence rate is 97 percent. We have learned that the learning community is the biggest support for the students. They lean heavily on each other. We have been told that the students feel supported and cared for by the staff, and that they appreciate that they are accessible. And each year when it comes time to hire our new Herman@s, those applying credit their own mentor as the reason they want the job and feel the need to give back to the program that has given them so much.

Q: What types of workshops are offered and how do those support student academic achievement?

Melissa:  Much of our workshop information is delivered as part of our Transfer Success Seminar course. In the fall term students learn about resources on campus and how to engage in the campus community; winter focuses on career development and strengthening the tools they will need to pursue their career after earning their degree; and spring offers more support in terms of goal setting, planning for the future, and exploring graduate school opportunities. Outside of the seminar course, workshops on financial aid, scholarships, and preparation for the Writing Skills Test (WST) are offered. All of these support student academic achievement by highlighting resources offered by the campus, helping students find financial assistance to fund their education, and skills to help complete graduation requirements such as the WST.

Q:  Could you give examples of cultural approaches that are utilized in the GANAS Program and the General Education Courses for GANAS students? 

Melissa: While GANAS is open to all new transfer students, we aim to increase the retention and graduation rates of Latino transfers in particular. We have selected courses that connect to students at the cultural level. For example, in the fall quarter, GANAS students enroll in an Ethnic Studies course titled Decolonize Your Diet: Food Justice in Communities of Color. In the course, students learn about native food ways of Mexico and Central America, recovering knowledge about ancestral food, community gardens in urban environments, and healing from Western diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Students often make connections to their culture and their own family's food traditions through this course.

The community that develops from the cohort enables GANAS students to integrate their home identities with their school identities through the program's sense of familia. Additionally, GANAS often collaborates with the Chicano Latino Staff and Faculty Association to help organize cultural events where students can engage and learn.

Q: Any other resources that you'd like to highlight?

Melissa: As a program, we have also tried to help support undocumented students on campus and push forward initiatives to increase resources for them. The GANAS staff collaborated with the Office of University Diversity to hold the inaugural DREAMer Day in February 2016. GANAS students have also volunteered to recruit and staff an information table at Dreamer events in the community​. Additionally, the GANAS staff hold trainings for the campus community to help faculty, staff, and students understand the challenges undocumented students face and bring awareness of resources available to help.

Q: What's one thing you would tell students considering taking part in the GANAS Program? 

Melissa:  I would want transfer students to know that there is a family here at East Bay waiting for them.  Through GANAS they will have a home away from home where they will feel supported in their academic journey by caring staff, faculty, and peers. They will leave East Bay well supported, degree in hand, knowing that they were part of something special.

For more information about Graduation Initiative 2025, visit: http://bit.ly/2fA371m

For more information about GANAS, visit: www.csueastbay.edu/programs/ganas/ ​​​​​​​​​​​​