Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Eric Kirby, was one of five presenters selected nationwide to present at the annual EAB ConnectED Conference. The event, held in Washington D.C., showcases top leaders in higher education through a Ted Talk style presentation. The conference hosted over 500 administrators from around the country.
Titled “The Tavi Way to Student Success”, Kirby’s presentation addressed how his in-depth work with Native American students helped him identify hidden causes of their disengagement from the university.
Through his research, Kirby has restructured the entire orientation process at Southern Utah University to follow the Tavi way. The Paiute and Aztec word for ‘sun’, Tavi represents each person’s right to be a bursting flame of brilliant energy, guiding the way for others.
“We want to remove the barriers that are preventing Native American students from fully embracing the Tavi way,” said Kirby.
Across the country, Native American students typically graduate at lower levels over any other demographic. This red flag inspired Kirby to conduct research which turned into his dissertation focused on the connection between Paiute perceptions of SUU’s learning environment and their development as future leaders through the construction of self identities.
“Our charge remains that we must ensure that we are not systematically excluding students from their education,” said Kirby. “We must ensure their voice is being heard across campus.”
Kirby’s research has directly influenced change across SUU. Students now take an in-depth questionnaire before they step foot on campus in order for advisors to best help each students’ specific needs. First year students all have an upper-class mentor to help them learn the world of higher education. The goal of the SUU Orientation Program is to be a beacon of light and put students first.
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The entire presentation can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwyxERcMms4