Cedar Valley College announced the appointment of Dr. Osaro E. Airen as the college’s new Dean of Student Retention and Title III administrator. In his most recent position, Airen was the Director of Multicultural Affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Cedar Valley is one of the seven independently accredited institutions that make up the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).
In his new role, Airen will administer a $2.45 million, five-year grant from the Department of Education’s Predominantly Black Institution’s (PBI) program. Cedar Valley received its first $575,565 installment of the grant in October 2015. The college will use the grant to promote the success of Black male students and their participation in STEM programs on campus.
Improving educational outcomes for Black male students has been one of the college’s longstanding goals under the 13-year tenure of current Cedar Valley president Dr. Jennifer Wimbish. The college had a 50 percent graduation rate in 2013-14, according to Cedar Valley’s website, but, historically, women have outperformed men in terms of overall graduation numbers.
“We have been able to successfully increase our enrollment, persistence, and graduation [for African-American and Hispanic males],” Dr. Jarlene DeCay, dean of student success at Cedar Valley, said in a phone interview. “Now that we have the grant, we’re hoping to increase it even more.”
Cedar Valley’s five-year goals for the grant are to increase the number of African-American males in STEM programs by 15 percent, according to the school website.
The grant is being used to fund the college’s new Pipelines and Pathways program. This summer, the college will hold its first Pipelines and Pathways STEM Boot Camp, for high school students who are currently dual credit students at the college or will be in the fall. The boot camp is intended to generate interest in the STEM fields for participating students and connect them with faculty mentors from high school and Cedar Valley.
Working with students who are still in high school is particularly critical for their future college success, Airen said. Through the dual enrollment program, high school students are “Able to develop that confidence and belief that they can succeed in college,” he said. “We know that some students may not have the confidence to believe that they’re college material. But when they’re getting that message early on in life, they’re really learning that, ‘Hey, this is something that I can do, and I can continue,’” he added.
Airen was born and raised in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and is first-generation to the U.S. after his parents emigrated from Nigeria. He holds multiple degrees: a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of California, Riverside; a master’s in business administration from Wayne State College; a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the University of Southern California in Los, Angeles; and a Ph.D. in counselor education from Virginia Tech.
Of his roles as an administrator, counselor and faculty member, Airen said, “I consider them all ‘pay-it-forward’ positions. I’ve been blessed with great support mechanisms throughout my life.”
Staff writer Catherine Morris can be reached at [email protected].