This week marks the start of the third fiscal year for the program Enhancing Postbaccalaureate Opportunities at Cal State Fullerton for Hispanic Students (EPOCHS), which provides a variety of services for graduate students on campus.
As a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), where more than 25 percent of students are Hispanic, CSUF was awarded a five-year $2.5 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to increase the amount of Latino students who enroll and complete a post-undergraduate degree.
The program began September 2010 and has been able to provide over 2,000 services to students by targeting four major goals to fulfill its purpose.
“Our point is to offer the services to the students who are disadvantaged or Hispanic, who have need and who will respond to and benefit from them,” said Katherine Powers, Ph.D., director of graduate studies.
One of EPOCHS’ objectives is to outreach and promote graduate education by partnering with community groups.
“My goal is to encourage the community to go to grad school as well as meeting the goals for the grant,” said Catalina Olvera, EPOCHS director.
With the help of graduate assistants, EPOCHS is able to promote graduate education in both Spanish and English to the community by tabling at career fairs and having an annual Welcome to Fullerton Day specifically for graduate students.
These grants also enable EPOCHS to provide additional academic support services.
Before being awarded this grant, CSUF never had an orientation for incoming graduate students but with additional funds it is now possible.
To help target academic performance tutoring and writing assistance is also provided.
Closely related to supporting strong academics, EPOCHS makes efforts to enrich the lives of students.
Another of EPOCHS’ goals include providing graduate students with money for research projects and travel they might not be able to afford on their own.
In spring 2012, CSUF was able to assist 16 graduate students that were in need of monetary support to attend and present at academic conferences.
Bilingual counseling services, faculty mentors and a newsletter, published every semester, are at the graduate student’s disposal to enrich their college experience.
Making life a little easier for students is what EPOCHS’ last objective focuses on. Educating faculty on the issues and needs of Hispanic students by way of workshops creates an environment of cultural sensitivity for those in graduate programs.
EPOCHS is working on the development of a database that will help graduate students track the progress toward their degree, since they do not have a tracking program like undergraduates Titan Degree Audit (TDA).
Providing a system similar to the TDA will allow students to leave behind the papers with checkout list they are currently using.
In the past two years, EPOCHS has proved to be successful.
According to Powers, the program has met all its targets. With a main overall focus of improving enrollment and graduation of Hispanics at CSUF, there has been a 24 percent increase since 2010.
As of now, EPOCHS will be funded and available to graduate students for three more years.
“(Students) should help themselves—the most important thing is that they work hard to get everything that can out of their education,” Powers said.
Karina Salazar, a senior child and adolescent studies major, said she was not aware of the program.
“It’s always nice to see that there are programs helping disadvantaged students since grad school can be expensive,” said Salazar.
“I have seen my sisters go through the struggles of going to grad school and maintaining a full-time job… I probably will take advantage of EPOCHS services now that I know about it,” Salazar said.