Last Friday, senior Jessica Magaña sat down for an interview with The Index to discuss her Senior Individualized Project, which investigates the relationship between the achievement gap and the Posse Foundation here at Kalamazoo College. Magaña also presented her findings at the Anthropology/Sociology SIP Symposium earlier this month.
“What my research focused on was interviewing the Kalamazoo College Posse community in order to understand whether or not the Posse scholarships helped close the achievement gap at Kalamazoo College specifically,” Magaña described. Essentially, her work understands “how capital–social, economic, and cultural–how these forms of capital allow these students to succeed at a collegiate institution.”
“I’m a Latina female and I come from a low-income family. I attended a lot of schools that are Teach for America schools—the under-budgeted, under-resourced schools.” Sharing the inspiration behind her SIP, Magaña said, “I noticed that I was succeeding and a lot of the other students weren’t succeeding and I noticed that it was because I had access to teachers who basically believed in me and opened doors–other sources of capital–for me.”
Magaña has been pursuing a career in the educational field since the fifth grade, when she first became a tutor. When Magaña receive Posse, she noticed that members of her class “couldn’t go to institutions and it was because they lacked that capital.” When she saw friends start dropping out of college, Magaña asked herself “Why isn’t it that these people are staying?”
She shared that in her initial vision, she wanted to focus on student narratives. “But I realized, really when I was talking to the adults–the Posse trainers, the faculty of the college, the Deans, the Provosts, and them–how impactful the program is not only to the students but to the faculty. [Posse helps them] understand that students are not just students… there are other things that influence this student’s life other than their classes.”
The Posse scholar is using her research to recommend next steps, which she plans to share with both the K Provost and Board of Trustees, as well the Posse Foundation.
“One of the biggest issues that basically every Posse student stated was the retention rate of the Posse trainers. So, even though this organization is great, feeling like they’re not that connected like that because the trainers that they know and were used to and felt comfortable with–they all leave,” Magaña noted.
For K, Magaña said that “learning how to include diversity in their classroom” is crucial “because let’s come to the terms–K is not that diverse. So it’s learning how to have those conversations that sometimes are difficult to lead in a classroom dynamic.”
“We already have the stereotype on campus that every person of color is Posse even though we’re not,” Magaña added. “It’s basically understanding that there’s other students of color or other students who do come from under-resourced communities that do need that support. And it’s understanding that, yes, Posse is established on campus, but there’s more students that need that support to make it through college.”
She explained that while Posse is not the only method to close the achievement gap, “They already have a goal as an organization that they want to recruit outstanding young leaders from diverse backgrounds and send them to these institutions to create more welcoming environments to change the campus culture and dynamic, to make it more inclusive to people of all backgrounds that are not traditional students.”
After graduating from K, Magaña plans to work for Teach for America, after which she plans to pursue her PhD in education or educational law. “This is really my passion,” Magaña concluded.