Umoja: Just the Facts

“It’s not about what’s wrong with our students. It’s about what has happened to them—what is their story?  Even for students not subjected to poverty or traumatizing events in their lives, they still live with the stigma and legacy of being descendants of slaves. This means that by virtue of their skin color they are viewed as less than and are subjected to lower expectations in most areas of their lives.” – Umoja Campus Coordinator

“The program wants the best out of you, they see the best in you; they see your potential. They tell us to bring our best selves”. – Umoja Student

What is the Umoja Community Education Foundation?

Umoja is a community and a consortium of programs serving as an academic and professional development resource for colleges wishing to better support underserved, educationally and economically disadvantaged students.  Umoja exists to help close the achievement gap by increasing retention, graduation and transfer rates. The Umoja Community is officially endorsed by the California Community College Board of Governors, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges and the Student Senate for California Community Colleges.

Which California community college campuses participate in the program?

Over 50 of California’s community colleges and more than 10,000 students served in Umoja programs since its founding in 2006. The Umoja Community recently embarked on a bold expansion where an additional eight programs are in the pipeline and will be transitioned into the fully operational programs over the next year.  Every campus Umoja program is open to and has included students of all cultures and ethnicities.

What are specific Umoja program components?

The core program components include: participation in the complete matriculation process including assessment, orientation, counseling and completing an educational plan which articulates an academic pathway to a students’ career goal.  Most programs are designed as a two-to-four semester academic learning community, which accelerates student progress to transfer-directed status; and provides intrusive and wrap-around support services.

What makes this program unique, relative to other student success initiatives?

Umoja Community programs create a positive space with high academic expectations on local campuses where students feel safe, seen, and heard. We believe that when the voices and histories of students are deliberately and intentionally recognized, students develop self-efficacy and a foundation for academic success.

How does Umoja measure student success?

The Umoja Community exists to accelerate progress to transfer by improving retention, persistence, and progress from developmental education to transfer level coursework. Umoja effectively tracks student participation, success, and transfer-progress for each of our students. This monitoring assists Umoja staff in determining practices and programming, which promotes student success. Additionally, Umoja programs have the ability to follow students from point-of-entry to graduation (or beyond). Student progress, even GPA and class/unit completion, are monitored to ensure singular focus on students and their achievement.  

How are Umoja programs currently funded?

In May 2015, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors awarded Umoja over $2 million in order to expand the number of college programs and the number of participating students by funding the organizational infrastructure of the statewide Umoja Community. Additionally, this funding has expanded existing transfer partnerships with UC, CSU, HBCUs, and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.  In July 2017, the California State Legislature awarded the Umoja Program “no less than $2.5 million” as an ongoing state budget line item.  Umoja Community was also awarded a $250,000 California Wellness Foundation grant to promote and increase the number of African American students who enter the health and wellness fields.

How will Umoja guarantee its sustainability at the end of this funding cycle?

Funding will be used to hire full time staff, including a statewide Umoja Project Director, full-time regional coordinators, a Communications and Development Director, and Curriculum/Instructional Designer, and other support staff. This additional support will enable the Umoja Board of Directors to seek new partnerships, develop an advisory council, and locate resources for the long-term funding of the Umoja Communtiy Program. 

What is the meaning of the word Umoja?

Umoja is a Kiswahili word meaning unity.

“We let them know, failure is not an option and then we celebrate success. I want students to know, ‘I can’t be successful if you’re not successful.’” Umoja Counselor