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Title V

In2015, Vanguard University was awarded a five-year, $2.57 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Program in order to expand existing student support services and integrate them into a singular pathway for student success. Vanguard University is the only school in Orange County to receive Title V funding that year, and one of only two Title V CCCU schools in the United States. Vanguard stands among the 96 colleges and universities awarded from across the U.S. Funding from the HSI grant will strategically expand while consolidating the existing support programs at Vanguard University, creating an integrated pathway to success that is effective and sensitive to the unique needs of our minority populations.

By 2008, numerous disparate student support services had developed to address the needs of specific student subpopulations. These interventions, while well intended, were largely ineffective due to poor management and a lack of communication between departments and facilities. Since then, Vanguard has moved toward creating an integrated pathway for student success by consolidating individual interventions and increasing communication between departments and with students.

The goal of Vanguard’s Title V grant (Project Director: Dr. April Harris) is to strengthen and enhance the pipeline of Hispanic and low-income students from early engagement to engaged alumni. This goal will be accomplished through the comprehensive expansion and consolidation of student support services forming Vanguard’s Integrated Pathways for Success (VIPs) and creating an Institute for Faculty Development (IFD) to train faculty in evolving pedagogical advances with culturally diverse populations.


Vanguard Integrated Pathways for Success (VIPS)

The Vanguard Integrated Pathways for Success (VIPS) serves as a consolidation and expansion of disparate student support services.

  • Summer Bridge Program (Bridge Coordinator: Lauren Walker): An enhanced Summer Bridge Program, with an additional track for STEM students.
  • Full-time, year-round Student Success & Tutorial Center (Tutorial Center Coordinator: Tom Shirey), increased student tutors, and innovative computer lab equipment.
  • Increased funding and support for the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (Academic Research Coordinator: Dr. Tara Sirvent)
  • Launching of Supplemental Instruction for the courses with the highest failure rates (Tutorial Center Coordinator: Tom Shirey).
  • VIPs Ambassador program (Director of OSSAR: Amanda Lebrecht) will develop leadership and teaching skills in the Ambassador mentors who will be peer leaders in the Summer Bridge Program and research.
  • Senior VIP Launch Program (Bridge Coordinator: Lauren Walker) will be a component of the program to increase 4-year graduation rates. The program is centered on affordable summer school and bundled courses in an online and hybrid format.
  • Enhanced support is provided for the Commuter Assistants and an Academic Resource Library available to students.

In order to meet the needs of Vanguard’s rapidly changing demographics, the Title V plan included provisions for the creation of an Institute for Faculty Development, which is focused on teaching effective and culturally sensitive pedagogical and administrative practices for faculty and staff. The Vanguard Institute for Faculty Development (IFD) exists to develop effective, research-based pedagogical practices for university faculty (Activity Lead: Dr. Pete Menjares).

  • The grant will provide funding to facilitate robust faculty training in working with diverse populations, by providing culturally responsive strategies to increase student engagement through technology. Additional library resources for faculty pedagogical and training are provided.
  • Faculty development stipends are in the form of a Faculty Fellows Program. Faculty Fellows will directly lead training seminars and can help to facilitate faculty growth in areas of professional development.

Academic Writing and Research Office

The Academic Writing and Research Office exists to institutionalize, celebrate, expect, and fund faculty research as well as faculty-student collaborative Undergraduate Research at VU. We believe that research and teaching are complementary in higher education, and that in order to be an effective learning community we must be engaged in up-to-date and relevant research to ensure that our students are receiving an education that is sensitive to their unique needs and provides a clear pathway to success. As such, we believe that research should be promoted at small colleges as part of the institution's mission statement and formal departmental goals. Students, faculty and the institution benefit when a vibrant undergraduate research culture is an important part of the University’s identity.

Responsibilities of the Academic Writing and Research Office include, but are not limited to,

  • Coordinating the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program
  • Identifying opportunities for student research experiences (e.g. REU’s) and research-based internships
  • Initiating and managing the Festival of Scholars or Student Common Day of Learning featuring student scholarship and research symposia
  • Identifying extramural funding opportunities that support undergraduate research and academic programs
  • Aiding in the management of other student-centered academic conferences that may be hosted at VU
  • Coordinating on-campus research seminars
  • Coordinating with OSSAR and Admissions so that UGR can help to facilitate retention and recruitment
  • Integrating undergraduate research with other key university objectives
  • Proposing and manage internal funding for student and faculty research stipends, travel for students presenting at Research Conferences and research-related consumables
  • Assisting faculty in the creation and application of pedagogical techniques that incorporate/utilize research
  • Disseminating and celebrate undergraduate research via an office-supported website, alumni newsletter and journal
  • Providing grant-writing support (editing, budget structure, etc.) for academic programs and faculty in collaboration with University Advancement

Grant Writing

Since becoming recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution in 2012, Vanguard has had the opportunity to pursue federal and state educational grant funding for ongoing research and the expansion of high impact interventions for our growing Hispanic student population. These include federal Title V funding, obtained in 2015, and Title 3f, pending approval in 2016. With the help of federal grant funding, we have been able to establish and expand our student success and tutorial services, supplemental instruction, summer bridge program, undergraduate research, and the Vanguard Institute for Faculty Development (IFD).

In addition to obtaining further funding under HSI status, the Academic Writing and Research Office hopes to pursue further funding from a variety of general institution-wide and discipline specific grants. One of the primary objectives of the Academic Writing and Research Office is to provide grant writing support for academic programs and faculty, including editing, budget structure, CFR compliance, and literature review.

If you would like assistance in applying for a discipline-specific grant or simply need more information on how to obtain funding, please contact the Academic Writing and Research Office. For more information regarding pre and post-award services, please contact Dr. Tara Sirvent, Director of Academic Research. For information concerning study design and project evaluations, contact Philip Newlin, AWRO Research Analyst.

Student Research

Undergraduate research (UGR) is a dynamic entity that is drastically different from the type graduate research that occurs at major research institutions. It allows students to learn the conventions of research through imitation and practice and is an essential part of the internal transformation that takes place as a student begins to understand what it means to be a scholar and a researcher. This office serves faculty and students by providing access to internal and external resources to support their research and other scholarly activities.

With the aid of Title V grant funding and the VIPS initiative, we have recently been able to expand our undergraduate STEM research offerings to include a Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) in which upper division STEM students are able to engage in independent research under the supervision and guidance of our distinguished natural science faculty. For more information on past and ongoing undergraduate research projects, visit the Undergraduate Research Program webpage.

A key role of faculty in research-based disciplines is not only to supervise and evaluate research projects, but also to provide individual mentorship and coaching for students as they work towards attaining their future academic and vocational goals by actively applying their skills in original research. The Academic Writing and Research office, in conjunction with the Institute for Faculty Development, would like to create a healthy environment for building mentoring relationships that foster student success by providing faculty with the necessary resources to be effective mentors and vocational role models. As such, we want to provide effective and culturally sensitive advising and pedagogical training to faculty members who are serving as research advisors or mentors. If you would like additional information or resources regarding effective research advising, please contact Tara Sirvent, Coordinator of Undergraduate Research.

Vanguard's Integrated Pathways for Success

Activity one under the 2015 Title V grant is to enhance and expand the current infrastructure at Vanguard to facilitate retention and graduation of Hispanic and low-income students. The Vanguard Integrated Pathways for Success (VIPS) initiative seeks to consolidate the disparate student services and interventions across campus into a single, comprehensive student support system.

Student Success/Tutorial Center

Vanguard’s Student Success and Tutorial Centers are the first line of defense against attrition, providing peer tutoring, supplemental instruction, counseling and mentorship, and study materials. Tutorial services are integrated with the summer bridge program, with mandatory weekly study hall hours in the tutorial center for bridge participants. Expansion of the tutorial center resources under the Title V grant has more than doubled the number of students benefiting from peer tutoring and supplemental instruction. To find out more about our Student Success and Tutorial Centers, click here.

Summer Bridge Program

The new enhanced summer bridge program is a six-week intensive residential academic enrichment program designed to prepare students for the rigors of college life and integrate them with the university culture. The summer bridge program is the focal point of the VIPS initiative, as it integrates available student services to provide a direct pathway for success that is sensitive to the unique needs of the target population. A bilingual/biliterate summer bridge coordinator oversees the program and facilitates communication with families. The coordinator is supervised by the director of the Office of Student Success and Tutorial Services. A 2-week pilot program was first implemented in 2013 to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of a summer bridge program. The program was initially unsuccessful, but after some revisions for the 2014 academic year, the program saw a fall-to-fall retention rate of 94% (an increase of 123%). The Vanguard summer bridge program is currently the only one of its kind among Christian universities in Southern California, and has demonstrated significant outcomes for the retention of high-risk and underrepresented students.

In addition to the summer orientation and academic enrichment, students continue to engage in peer mentorship and mandatory weekly study hall hours so that the office of Student Success can easily track the participants’ adjustment and academic progress in addition to removing any barriers to access of other high-impact interventions. In addition, regular communication with families allows for an increased support network for students and encourages four-year retention by expressing the value of higher education and punctuating student achievement.

Senior Experience Program

Following early engagement intervention with the summer bridge program, the 4-year Senior Experience Program provides continued support that corresponds with the student’s current academic level and social development, including peer-led team learning, counseling and advising, undergraduate research, and leadership training.


Personnel for the Academic Writing and Research Office report to the Institute for Faculty Development and include the AWRO Director and the Research Analyst for the Institute for Faculty Development. The AWRO Director will ensure the strategic development of the Office and the achievement of its objectives, and will contribute to the success of the University. The Director will champion the provision of high quality research and scholarly activities within Vanguard ensuring a stimulating, collegial and well-managed environment. Finally, the Director will seek out funding opportunities and assist faculty in the development of grants, their submission and post-award management in collaboration with University Advancement.

The Research Analyst will report to the Director of Academic Research and Sponsored Programs. This position will support all activities related to sponsored project submissions for academic departments, and will assist with the planning and development of research for proposals to be submitted to various federal offices, private agencies/foundations, and commercial agencies.

In addition to the full time director and research analyst, the office is under the purview of an advisory committee for undergraduate research. The advisory committee, composed of distinguished faculty and staff, will oversee any and all major decisions regarding grant applications and funding, along with performance measures and institutional review.

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Tara Sirvent