612 Andrew Higgins, 3rd Floor
New Orleans, LA 70130
contact@collegebeyond.org

College Beyond’s Black Leadership: Past, Present, and Future

This is College Beyond’s first year participating in #Give828, a giving day dedicated to Black-led/ Black benefitting grassroots
organizations.

Today, we are highlighting our black College Beyond leadership.

Paris Woods is the co-founder and former Executive Director of College Beyond. Under Woods’s leadership, College Beyond forged a landmark partnership with the University of New Orleans. Through rigorous, data-driven and student-responsive programming, College Beyond closed the first-year retention gap between its participants–students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds in New Orleans–and the overall student population at UNO.

 Dr. Keisha Smith and Dr. David Robinson-Morris are the Chair and Co-Chair of the College Beyond Board of Directors. A New Orleans native, Dr. Smith currently serves as the Director of Products and Publications for The Data Center. She has worked in organizational design and evaluation for over ten years, including serving on projects for the U.S. Department of Education, Drexel University, Walgreens, and the National Institute of Health, and has more than seven years of experience as a non-profit leader focused on systems thinking and strategic planning. Dr. Smith holds a B.S. in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Research from Louisiana State University. Dr.

Dr. David W. Robinson-Morris, Ph.D. is the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Xavier University of Louisiana and serves as an Adjunct Professor in the College of Liberal Arts Education, and Human Development at the University of New Orleans. Currently, Dr. Robinson-Morris serves on the boards of the city of New Orleans Human Relations Commission, Forum for Equality Foundation (Louisiana), College Beyond, and is a member of the 2017 class of Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans (EPNO). He is a former member of the Son of a Saint Foundation Advisory Board, and is a founding board member of Propeller (née Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans). Dr.Robinson-Morris obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Communications – Public Relations from Loyola University New Orleans in 2006, Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of New Orleans in 2011, and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Research with a dual concentration in Higher Education Administration and Curriculum Theory, and an Education Specialist (Ed. S.) Certificate in Educational Leadership with a focus on applied research, measurement, and evaluation both from Louisiana State University (LSU). He is a native of Galveston, Texas.

David Page serves as the Secretary of the College Beyond Board of Directors. He is currently the Vice President of Enrollment Management at Dillard University. For more than twenty-one years, Mr. Page has worked in the financial aid arena in multiple capacities. He received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University and his Master of Arts in Higher Education (College Student Affairs) from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Dr. Erin Wheeler is currently the Executive Director of College Beyond. Dr. Wheeler has worked in higher education retention and success at Louisiana State University, where she led efforts to improve student success in STEM fields, and at Kentucky State University, where she was charged with re-envisioning the student success infrastructure to dramatically improve declining retention and graduation rates. A native of Amite, LA, and a first-generation college graduate, Erin earned a B.S. in biology from Southeastern Louisiana University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in STEM Education from Southern University and A&M College.


How We’re Coping During Social Distancing.

We value caring.

At College Beyond caring is one of our core values. We are genuinely concerned about each others’ well-being. During social distancing, we make an extra effort to make sure both our staff and students are mentally and physically well. Here’s a look at how College Beyond is practicing mindfulness and minding our mental health during Covid-19.

Coping During Covid

Dr. Erin Wheeler, Executive Director 

“I make sure to spend time outside like going for a walk or working outdoors.  I limit my exposure to social media and news.  I make sure I am listening to positive motivational videos or podcasts. I am also making efforts to create boundaries for work and life.”

Erica Martinez, Program Director

“I take time to focus on the things I can control, like spending time with my family and checking in on my neighbors and try let go of the things I can’t control. I’m also being more intentional about buying local fruit and vegetables to support local businesses and to have healthy options at home.”

Michelle Anaba, AmeriCorps Vista Member- Program Associate

“I make sure to get at least a  little bit of sun every day. Getting fresh air daily makes a noticeable difference when situations are stressful. It really helps to clear my mind and put things into perspective. I have also found that limiting news and social media helps to stop the constant barrage of negative information. I stay informed, but I don’t constantly keep up with all the details surrounding Covid-19. Lastly, I set a routine to keep myself from being overwhelmed. This helps me to set realistic goals, and keep track of everything I need to accomplish. Setting a routine also helps me to make time for breaks and create a work/life balance.”

Sarah Payne, Director of Strategy 

“I’m trying to make time to connect with loved ones and to move my body. I also take some time every day to check in with myself, asking: What feelings are coming up for me? What does this feeling want for me? What does it need? When I do this, I’m trying to just allow my feelings to happen, recognizing that they will change, like the weather. I’m trying to be friendly toward them, regardless of how they show up.”

Here’s more tips on how to protect your mental wellness during Covid-19.


Job Opening: We’re looking for our next success coach!

The College Beyond team is growing. We are searching for a new College Success Coach to serve the University of New Orleans Class of 2024.

The College Success Coach is charged with supporting approximately 75-100 students to succeed in college, including providing academic, social, emotional, and financial coaching. The coach builds and maintains connections with key university and community resources, and executes our approach to student success: we ask students, “What do you want?” and we respond, “Let’s go get it!” We view ourselves as partners in helping students attain the goals they have for themselves and their families, and we believe a rigorous data-driven approach combined with student-responsive interventions are the key to success.

Key Objectives:

  • Support approximately 75-100 students to transition academically, socially, and financially to their first year of college and successfully re-enroll for their sophomore year
  • Build strong, trusting relationships with students and engage parents and families as key partners
  • Coach to support skill-building, problem-solving, self-awareness, and long-term independence
  • Support students to complete college enrollment steps including financial aid paperwork
  • Learn content and best practices associated with financial aid, college enrollment, and college persistence

Read full position announcement and application instructions here.

To Apply (by April 30th):

Please email résumé and cover letter to Dr. Erin Wheeler at ewheeler@collegebeyond.org by Thursday, April 30th. In one or both of these documents, please include a brief description of prior work-based results and how you achieved them.


2019 Impact Report: Replicating Results, Serving More Students

College Beyond freshman Megan Stackhouse

With our fourth annual Impact Report, the College Beyond team is excited to share that College Beyond’s students closed the freshman retention gap at the University of New Orleans for the second year in a row.

Last year, we announced that our students accomplished this for a first time by increasing their retention rate by over 20 percentage points. This year, we replicated those results while serving more students.

This means that our students — who face longer-than-average odds of college graduation — are persisting in college at the same (actually, a slightly higher!) rate than their more privileged peers.

Download the full report here.

The report also details some exciting organizational changes at College Beyond, and introduces our new Executive Director, Dr. Erin Wheeler.

None of this would be possible without the students, families, staff, board members, and supporters who invest their time, hearts, and resources in this work every day. Many thanks and kudos to all for your dedication!


College Beyond Welcomes Local College Persistence Leader as New Executive Director

College Beyond’s Board of Directors is delighted to announce that Dr. Erin Wheeler, of Amite, LA, has been tapped to serve as the organization’s second Executive Director.

Dr. Erin Wheeler

A higher education innovator with over a decade of leadership in college success administration and social entrepreneurship, Dr. Wheeler began her tenure on August 5.

As a first-generation college student, Dr. Wheeler attended Southeastern Louisiana University, earning a B.S. in biology and serving as an advocate for her peers on the path to college completion. Passionate about both the value of higher education and about access and completion in STEM fields among underrepresented groups, Dr. Wheeler went on to earn an M.S. in biology and a Ph.D. in STEM Education from Southern University and A&M College.

At Louisiana State University, Dr. Wheeler served in the Center for Academic Success, helping students improve their learning and performance in tough STEM courses and supporting faculty to integrate effective teaching strategies into STEM curricula.

At LSU, she also led collaborative grant writing projects, retention initiatives, and faculty workshops that included the Colleges of Science and Engineering, and facilitated collaborations with residential life, multicultural affairs, and student life to provide holistic programming for students. She was responsible for innovating marketing and outreach efforts to increase the number of students utilizing tutoring and academic coaching services by implementing social media use, updating branding, and establishing engaging outreach activities.  She used her passion and talent for developing student leaders in revamping training and evaluation for the tutor and supplemental instruction programs. Dr. Wheeler also made significant contributions to campus wide retention initiatives that included the national renowned IMPACT program that targets students on academic probation.

Her achievements and leadership at LSU helped her to be recruited to join a new administration at Kentucky State University.  As part of President Raymond Burse’s transformation team, Dr. Wheeler was charged with re-envisioning the student success infrastructure to dramatically improve declining retention and graduation rates.   As Assistant Provost for Student Success and Retention, she made significant strides in improving institutional culture and metrics related to student success. Through a multifaceted strategic plan based on research, high-impact practices and embodied innovation, she was able to help the institution increase retention rates from 45% to 78% within two years.

After returning home to Louisiana, Dr. Wheeler continued her commitment to impacting individual college success by founding both a business which uses technology and an innovative business model to make college coaching services financially accessible to more first-generation, minority, and/or low-income students, and also by establishing a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing out-of-school programming to resource constrained rural communities like her hometown of Amite.

Dr. Wheeler has also served her community through various civic and religious organizations since childhood.  Currently, she is a board member and chief of staff of her mission-focused church, where she helps organize outreach events and capital campaigns.  She is also a charter member of a new chapter of Delta Sigma Theta that emphasizes resourcing rural areas of North Tangipahoa Parish. She is a regular volunteer at local high schools to help improve college preparation as well as to provide general support and assistance.

The College Beyond Board and staff wish Dr. Wheeler a warm welcome!


College Beyond Bids Farewell to Paris Woods

Nearly five years after its founding, College Beyond’s Board and team are wishing a fond farewell to Co-founder and Executive Director Paris Woods.

Outgoing Co-founder and Executive Director Paris Woods

Under Woods’s leadership, College Beyond forged a landmark partnership with the University of New Orleans. Through rigorous, data-driven and student-responsive programming, College Beyond closed the first-year retention gap between its participants–students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds in New Orleans–and the overall student population at UNO.

“I am very proud of the outcomes we have achieved through the tireless effort of our students and the dedication of our staff at College Beyond and our partners at UNO,” said Paris Woods. “Together, we are changing the narrative about what is possible in our city.”

“We are incredibly grateful for Paris’s leadership and impact as Co-founder and Executive Director of College Beyond,” said Board Chair Ben Kleban. “We have been inspired by her commitment to excellence and ability to tackle any challenge. Having raised nearly a million dollars in support of local youth, Paris has built an organization that fills a unique and highly needed role in the college access landscape of our city.”

Woods and co-founder, Sarah Payne, were selected to participate in several local nonprofit incubators including the 4.0 Schools Essentials and Launch programs, and the Propeller Startup and Growth accelerators. Woods tied for 1st place in the 2015 PitchNOLA Education competition, helped College Beyond become 1 of 6 inaugural recipients of the national Boulder Fund, and is a current member of the national Pahara NextGen Fellowship cohort.

“Our model is unique because it is open-access, and our students have proven that with adequate support, they are just as capable of succeeding in college as their more advantaged peers,” Woods added. “And none of this would be possible without the leading support of partners like the GPOA Foundation, Entergy Charitable Foundation, Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), the RosaMary, Keller, and Mary Freeman Wisdom family foundations, Pro Bono Publico, and the Oscar J. Tolmas Charitable Trust, who know that the future of New Orleans depends upon investing in the success of our most vulnerable youth today.”

Woods’s tenure in New Orleans college access work began as Director of Alumni Support at Cohen College Prep High School, where her efforts resulted in Cohen becoming the #1 open enrollment high school sending students to college. At Cohen, Woods helped 100% of students complete the FAFSA and was later selected to serve on the state’s Financial Aid Working Group, whose work helped Louisiana become the #1 state for FAFSA submissions nationwide.

College Beyond wishes Paris the very best in her future endeavors and looks forward to expanding the impact of its mission to help local students enroll and succeed in college.


Baptist Community Ministries Makes 3-Year Investment

College Beyond is delighted to announce that local philanthropic foundation Baptist Community Ministries (BCM) has made a $300,000, 3-year grant to College Beyond through its Transom Grants program.

BCM’s milestone gift supports program development and expansion of services for eligible first- and second-year students at the University of New Orleans.

Founded in 1995, Baptist Community Ministries is one of the largest philanthropic organizations in Louisiana, serving five parishes in the Greater New Orleans Region. Learn more about BCM here.


Kresge Foundation Grant will Expand the College Beyond Program at UNO

The Kresge Foundation will provide a $75,000 grant to supplement the University of New Orleans and College Beyond partnership. College Beyond has been supporting students on the UNO campus since 2016. With this grant from the Kresge Foundation, College Beyond will be able to support up to 100 additional UNO students in its coaching program during the upcoming school year. Read more here !


Welcome, Mia Gonzales Washington!

College Beyond is delighted to welcome Mia Gonzales Washington to our team.

A New Orleans native, Mia comes to College Beyond with more than a decade of experience educating and coaching New Orleans students in K-12 and higher education institutions. She joins the organization as a College Success Coach focused on supporting our students at the University of New Orleans.

You can learn more about Mia on our Who We Are page.

Welcome, Mia!


College Beyond Students take Capitol Hill!

College Beyond’s founding college success coach, Erica Martinez, and four New Orleans students traveled to Capitol Hill to learn about advocacy and speak with congressional leaders about key educational topics. Three of the students attend University of New Orleans, and one attends Southeastern Louisiana University. The four students are all first-generation college students, and are active on their respective campuses. College Beyond is thankful to the National College Access Network (NCAN) for providing the funding for the students to travel to Washington, D.C. NCAN works to empower communities that are committed to college access for all. They aim to ensure all students, especially those who are underrepresented, can achieve their educational dreams through a higher education institution.

Read more about the College Beyond students and their experience in Washington D.C. in this Nola.com and Big Easy Magazine feature!