Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
The University of La Verne has been selected as a recipient of the Strengthening Culturally Specific Campus Approaches grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The $500,000 culturally-specific grant will promote the research and development of a program to combat issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking on campus.
In recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the D.O.J’s Office on Violence Against Women awarded 496 grants to encourage comprehensive programs to combat related issues according to their website.
The website also states that of these awards, 53 were given as part of a culturally specific program to support groups such as Asian-American, Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Tribal communities which is what ULV has been selected to receive.
The University of La Verne is federally recognized as Hispanic and minority serving, and is one of 12 institutions set to receive the Strengthening Culturally Specific Campus Approaches grant.
The grant overview states that this grant was awarded to accomplish three objectives: to create the capacity to develop a culturally specific community response to these issues, to develop an action plan to establish this response, and to create a community response team to implement project activities.
Associate Vice President and Chief Government Relations Officer at ULV Zuhey Espinoza, liaises between government officials and the University at a local and a state level. After the McAllister & Quinn higher education consulting firm she works with brought this grant to her attention, she shared it with those at ULV.
Since private universities do not receive federal funding, the University is trying to create a grant-seeking culture to receive outside funding here.
“We thought this is a great opportunity to help us build capacity to support our students first and foremost,” Espinoza said. “Oftentimes, faculty are the ones that work on grants and are actively seeking opportunities to obtain additional funding, but this one was really unique because it gave staff an opportunity to be at the forefront of the grant writing process.”
The grant award is still in the preliminary stages and will roll out over the next four years until 2027.
Espinoza believes that this grant aligns with the University’s core values, and will allow students to be put front and center.
“Violence doesn’t discriminate against race, color or gender, so having this grant will allow us to build more capacity to support students who may be experiencing violence in their personal relationships,” Espinoza said. “I think that this will help continue to build the support we provide our students and to create a more collaborative approach between various offices.”
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Juan Regalado was part of the team that submitted this grant proposal. The team worked to identify what opportunities were available, what grants fit the needs of the university and their strategy.
ULV has a student population that is about 60% women and about 75% from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, which Regalado said requires different approaches.
“There’s different ways and approaches we have to take, it’s not necessarily going to look the same across the board,” Regalado said. “There’s an opportunity for us to take into account experience factors and cultural factors that make the approach more effective.”
Lilly Dyer, executive vice president of Associated Students of University of La Verne, said that any concerns students have can always be brought up to members of ASULV who are there to listen to and support students.
“We would make sure we gave them the resources like counseling, psychological services, or the Title IX office,” Dyer said. “We would make sure that students are aware of that, and also would do our part in talking to faculty and students on campus to make it more safe.”
ASULV is currently pursuing, and has encouraged efforts to support a safer campus. They are currently trying to implement more lights around campus so students can feel safer walking at night. ASULV has even had an event where they distributed different flyers for resources on campus to promote safety.
“I think it’s most important they (students) know that if they have any issues with safety that they’ve heard from students or if they experience it themselves, that it’s okay to come to us and that way we can work with this grant to implement some of these strategies,” Dyer said. “We can make sure that we are advocating for the student body, as that’s what we’re here for.”
Institutional Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator Alison Vicroy, said that this grant is not about Title IX compliance, but that it works in addition to the work the school already does. This will be a coordinated effort between offices at ULV, and community partners such as the La Verne Police Department, Project Sister and related partners. This grant will offer an opportunity for ULV and partners to work together to develop programs they have not had the chance to implement before.
“When I got the email that we had been awarded this, it genuinely was one of my best days ever,” Vicroy said. “A lot of it is the resources that it’ll provide, but a lot of it is the recognition of who we are and what we’re doing here. We’ve got the people, we’ve got the ideas… but sometimes what we don’t have is the funding. This is going to allow us to do some of the programs that we’ve wanted to do for a while.”
ULV qualified for this grant specifically as a Hispanic serving institution, and Vicroy believes that having a response and creating a program that understands that, and is characterized by the student population on campus is critical.
A large part of what the University wants to address is barriers to reporting harms. After barrier analysis, they will look at the needs of the campus and how to address the barriers. When someone experiences such harm on campus, it can be intimidating to come forward. Vicroy believes that students should know that they have someone unaffiliated with the campus that is there to take care of students.
“I want everyone to come to me… I want them to talk to me… I want them to know that it’s a safe place” Vicroy said.
Another large part of the award will go towards hiring a grant administrator who will coordinate many efforts related to the grant. Vicroy stated that the committee has different programs in mind, and that much of their attention is going to be focused on prevention.
Her office and Student Outreach and Support already have well-coordinated response programming in collaboration with Project Sister for those who have experienced harm. She believes that we would benefit by using this grant money towards concerted efforts in prevention.
“We recognize that compared to some of the grants that we have on campus, it is a lot of work… but it is incredibly impactful,” Vicroy said.“We really do know that the kind of experiences that students and employees have that caused them to engage with me are life changing. They have significant impacts on academic careers and professional careers. The university as a whole… there’s so much that we can do.”
Kelli Makenna Kuttruff can be reached at email@example.com.
Kelli Makenna Kuttruff is a senior communications major with an emphasis in public relations. She is the arts editor of the Campus Times, and is in her second semester as a staff writer.