ISEC, TRIO Programs merge following budget cuts

Nicole Ares

The Intercultural Student Engagement Center and TRIO Programs have merged together following university budget cuts that occurred last spring.

With a $50,000 budget cut to the former Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the OIDI was eliminated and reorganized into the ISEC.

“Lynne [Holland] was very interested in how the TRIO program used that same model with the Intercultural Student Engagement Center,” said Brian Kuster, vice president for student affairs. “When we had the budget cut last spring, we thought, is there a way to merge those two concepts together?”

Additionally, the OIDI director position was dissolved and previous OIDI Director Andrea Garr-Barnes was “immediately released from any further responsibilities at WKU,” according to a letter from Holland, dean of students, on April 26.

After the merger, Martha Sales became director of both the TRIO Programs and the ISEC effective July 1.

“I would like to think I’ve been promoted or given this job because of the success I’ve had with TRIO,” Sales said.

The TRIO Programs are federally funded and serve first generation and low income students of all ages. The WKU program is located in Jones Jaggers Hall room 132.

After the merger of the TRIO Programs and ISEC, Sales saw it as a way to reach a larger population of students. Generally, the programs assist the university with recruitment, retention and graduation efforts, Sales said.

“The merger is great because it promotes access and success at a greater level,” Sales said. “With TRIO we can only serve a smaller population, but with this center [ISEC] we can take what we’ve learned from TRIO and grow with it to the larger population.”

The ISEC is now located in the Downing Student Union room 2041. This is a recent move from its previous location in the Sofia-Downing House.

“I feel like this is an ideal space and getting students in. We want students to understand that this is their university, so it doesn’t matter where we are located because the whole university belongs to them,” Sales said.

Kuster also added the Black Cultural Center, also previously housed in the Sofia-Downing House, moved along with the ISEC. Sales also heads the Black Cultural Center.

“The Black Cultural Center was located in the Sofia Downing House during spring 2016 because that was where the ISEC office was located. It was always intended to be with the ISEC office,” Kuster said.

Sales also added a similar goal between the programs is to improve on retention and graduation. Since the Black Cultural Center and ISEC are fairly new, Sales is still in the process of setting groundwork for the programs.

With regards to the Black Cultural Center, Sales is still “meeting with student organizations that are involved with that program, meeting with faculty and staff, connecting and collaborating with important key stakeholders and individuals to make sure that vision is still reached.”

While she views the social and cultural aspects of the center as equally important, Sales is trying to take a “holistic” approach by focusing on academics as well.

That is why Sales feels the Black Cultural Center pairs well with the ISEC because they have similar goals in improving retention and graduation.

In order to address this issue, Sales hopes to collaborate with offices who already do it well, learn from them and provide the services or those touch points that students might not be receiving right now.

“We don’t just want to identify what’s been done, but we also want to identify what’s not being done and fill in the gaps. I think the cultural and holistic component helps fill in those gaps,” Sales said.

Additionally, Sales has created a scheduled plan for the ISEC’s fall semester. September will be “Live” month, October will be registration month, November will be student activism month and December will be recognition month.

“For the first semester, we want to tell everyone who we are, what we’re about and what we hope to accomplish,” Sales said. “We want to get as many students in here as we possibly can and ask them what they need.”

Reporter Nicole Ares can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].