CU Denver Student on Campus in Fall

Students Who Are Caregivers or Undocumented to Receive Additional Support at CU Denver Thanks to DEI Grants

May 23, 2023

Recipients of the 2023 President’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Grants—which included two CU Denver project winners—were honored by CU President Todd Saliman at a CU Systems annual awards event in April. Grants are designed to fund innovative, creative projects that promote DEI throughout the CU system. Proposals are submitted by faculty and staff and the eight winning projects (two from each campus) each receive up to $8,000.

The two CU Denver projects strive to meet the needs of students where they are in life and to create a sense of belonging. One will provide tangible resources and peer support to students who are caregivers, including parents and guardians. The other grant will allow undocumented students to be paired with mentors to help lower the barriers known to impact their ability to graduate.

Caring for Caregivers

Project Leads: Jill Rubin, Director of the Women and Gender Student Services, Center for Identity and Inclusion; and Aisury Vasquez, Director, Latinx Student Services, Center for Identity and Inclusion

Goal: Resources provided through this grant will allow students who are also caregivers to create direct, informal connections with their peers, gain better access to tangible resources, and provide a sense of belonging on campus.

Background: During the past two years, the Center for Identity and Inclusion (CII) has put an emphasis on connecting with students who are caregivers or guardians. Many of these students share feelings of stress and anxiety, and also feel a lack of support or sense of belonging. According to CU Denver’s Campus Workplace and Climate survey, Black and Latinx students are disproportionally impacted by caregiving duties. Nineteen percent of Latinx students and 17% of Black students identify as responsible for caring for children under the age of 17, and 10% of all students provide care for someone over the age of 17. Furthermore, 70% of all student guardians identify as mothers and 62% of these are single mothers.

“When we talk about equity issues, those can play out in so many ways, including the need to take care of children and siblings, while also trying to get an education and work multiple jobs,” said Jill Rubin. “[With] the number of obstacles these students are trying to overcome…we know that every little bit of support we can provide can make such a huge difference.”

If we want to be an equity serving institution, support of students that are also caregivers is something we have to address.

Jill Rubin

Undocumented Student Mentoring

Project Leads: Estéfani E. Peña Figueroa, Undocumented Student Resource Coordinator, Center for Identity and Inclusion (CII); Soyon Bueno, Director of Asian American Student Services, CII; and Aisury Vasquez, Director of Latinx Student Services, CII

Goal: This grant will create the opportunity to pilot a yearlong mentoring experience for undocumented undergraduate students with the goal of neutralizing challenges and will assist in the hiring of two mentors to support 20 mentees.

Background: Undocumented students face an increased variety of obstacles on their path towards graduation, including mental health issues, financial challenges, familiarity with many of the “hidden rules” of college success, and a lack of academic preparedness due to insufficient resources in the K-12 system. Mentees will receive one-on-one conversations with an undocumented student mentor and will have access to workshops focused on the four challenges listed above, participation in peer support groups, and exam preparation sessions before mid-term and final exams.

“We want to create a space where people feel seen and supported,” explains Aisury Vasquez. “This grant will make it easier for us to build a visible community. We are creating this through the lens of their needs to help them build a support system that can last throughout their entire time in college and beyond.”

Our undocumented students are brilliant, driven students just like everyone else in our Lynx community—they just sometimes have different needs that we need to address.

Aisury Vasquez