Communities of Action

Communities of action bring together motivated and equity-minded individuals to make lasting change to higher education. We invite practitioners at colleges and universities, industry leaders, and local leadership across the state to participate in these communities to implement or expand evidence-based practices that lead to student success. Communities will begin with a training program focused on three key topics – equity in practice, project management, and data collection – to create a culture of change on campus and ensure every Missourian is empowered with the skills and education needed for success.

2023-2024: Summer Bridge Programs

Launched in 2022, the second Community of Action Summer Bridge Program will provide coaching and assistance in creating or expanding Summer Bridge Programs across the state. The department’s research has shown inequities persist in how learners access and succeed in Missouri’s institutions of higher education. For example, Black students are 13% less likely than their White peers to continue their studies past their first year, and, on average, complete 10 fewer credits. First generation students are 10% more likely to stop out compared to students whose families have attained a postsecondary credential, while those students below the poverty line are 1.5 times less likely to persist than their more affluent counterparts. When these students are surveyed, they claim a lack of academic preparedness, financial issues, absent mentors or guides, and few meaningful connections made on campus as reasons they decided to pause their education.

While Summer Bridge programs are by no means a cure-all for the complex problem of student retention, they may directly tackle those pervasive issues students cite. Summer Bridge programs come in a variety of forms, but they often allow students with similar backgrounds a chance to build relationships with each other, gain valuable credit, and introduce them to critical college resources that can mitigate their chances of stopping out.


Dr. Matt Newlin

Dr. Matt Newlin is a higher education consultant focused on helping colleges and universities improve support for first-generation, low-income, and rural students. His clients have included NASPA's Center for First-Generation Student Success, Arizona State University, Harvard University, State Technical College and more. In the past, Matt has worked at Washignton University and the University of Missouri - St. Louis. Matt is a proud first-generation college student from a low-income, working class background in Missouri. He lives in St. Louis with his wife.

Megan Elsen

Megan Elsen is the Associate Director of Academic Support and Mentoring (ASM) at the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC). She has served in this role since January 2022. Prior to this role, Megan served as the Academic Success Coordinator in ASM. Megan is also a Certified Trainer for the International Center for Supplemental Instruction. Megan holds a master's degree in Social Work from UMKC, is a Licensed Master Social Worker, and has nine years of experience working with underserved and first-generation students with the University of Kansas TRIO Search Program. Megan is also responsible for coordinating the programming for the First Gen Roo Scholars Program. The First Gen Roo Scholars program is designed for incoming, full-time freshmen students who meet the definition of a first-generation college student. First Gen Roo Scholars receive an early introduction to campus, resources, community building, and academic experiences, and have access to interactive programming designed by fellow first-gen students and UMKC resource officers.

2022 Meeting Materials

Meeting materials will be updated after each of the following meeting dates.