HESA: Hope, Equity, Support, and Advocacy in Higher Education Graduate Programs

In Spring 2020, Reify Solutions co-founder Shane Nelson was invited to speak at the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. Headquartered in Washington, D.C. at the National Center for Higher Education, ACPA is one of the most prominent student affairs organizations in the world. Shane’s presentation, completed with colleague Raniesha Wassman, was titled “HESA: Hope, Equity, Support, and Advocacy in Higher Education Graduate Programs”.

Shane sought to create three main learning outcomes for attendees of the conference. The first of these learning outcomes was to understand different experiences of hope, equity, support, and advocacy across different higher education master’s programs. Next was to understand the necessity to foster a supportive environment for higher education graduate students, aided by the utilization of the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments Model (2014) and Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth Model (2005). Finally, attendees would apply and customize a practical model which focuses on an individualized commitment to moving the profession forward for newcomers to the field.


Conducting their own research, Shane and Raniesha surveyed 35 individuals to explore how higher education programs supported incoming students through access, matriculation, and success. Improved mentorship and guidance, preparation for transition into the program, and transferability of knowledge were three key themes that became evident through response data. In their recommendations for creating improvements in the graduate student experience, Shane and Raniesha created a three-step “Getting In, Getting Through, and Getting Out” plan. “Getting In” related to the application process, interviews, and research on programs that occurs prior to applying. “Getting Through” focused on the graduate post-acceptance process – this included university curriculum, graduate assistantships, and faculty and advisors. Lastly, “Getting Through” spoke to the post-graduation job search, the seeking of opportunities to advance careers in the field, network, and continued graduate school. Ultimately, there is plenty of room for improvement within graduate programs nationwide – and Shane has the solutions. Reify is proud to shine a spotlight on Shane’s continued achievements, and his presentation at this prestigious event is no different.

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