My name is Nate Mackinnon, the Principal Investigator (PI) for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) portion of the Nevada GEAR UP state grant. I want to welcome you all to the start of another semester, whether in our GEAR UP high schools or at one of our seven NSHE institutions. I joined the GEAR UP team in March of 2018 but if we have not met in person yet, I hope I can meet you soon at one of the many NSHE and school district events throughout Nevada.
As the NSHE Vice Chancellor for Community Colleges, I am active in coordinating many of the efforts of our team to promote increased student access and success. Removing barriers to student success for Nevada’s college-going youth, as well as those high school graduates pursuing alternate paths to enter the workforce, is my passion. So, as you can probably guess, I am especially pleased that GEAR UP also falls under my area of responsibility.
Sometimes the NSHE level might seem far removed from the day to day lives of GEAR UP professionals working in areas from Jackpot to Henderson, or from Pahrump to McDermitt. But I really want to highlight just one example here of how supportive the NSHE Board of Regents and our management team are of GEAR UP, and how it plays a key role in the overall NSHE Strategic Plan for college readiness and achievement.
In 2017, the NSHE Board of Regents and Chancellor set out five goals to guide our system of colleges and universities. First, Access: Increasing participation in post-secondary education, which as you know, directly aligns with the GEAR UP grant’s mission statement. Second, Success: Increasing student success at each of our institutions. This includes retention of students beyond the first year or first semester and ensuring they complete college with as little debt and in as quick a time as possible. Our GEAR UP Ambassadors are involved in that work daily with the cohort that just graduated high school. Third, Closing the Achievement Gap: Ensuring that underserved populations achieve the same level of college success as traditional college students. Again here, this goal could have been taken right out of the GEAR UP mission statement itself, and you know every day how much your efforts contribute to encouraging and equipping underserved populations to succeed in postsecondary study.
The fourth goal is Workforce Development: Collaboratively address the challenges of the workforce and industry education needs of Nevada. Here, GEAR UP’s focus on providing students CTE, certification and apprenticeship options beyond traditional college is again second nature to us. The GEAR UP Business Network also supports this goal well, giving local firms and community leaders a direct way to assist in our work. And finally, Research: Co-develop solutions to the critical solutions facing 21st century Nevada. While this goal also deals quite a bit with university and college research excellence in every subject taught at our institutions, we know that GEAR UP collects quite a bit of data on best practices in student success and college readiness. This, too, contributes to NSHE’s mission in a fundamental way.
I hope this brief look at my role with GEAR UP and my enthusiasm for our work was informative! Please do let me know if there is anything we at NSHE can do to assist your GEAR UP role, and again – I hope to see you when I’m out and about visiting our statewide sites.