Using Cultural Awareness To Guide Strong Student Messaging: Closing Gaps in Communication

by Alexis Glasgow | February 28, 2022
Using Cultural Awareness To Guide Strong Student Messaging: Closing Gaps in Communication

Part three of the three-part series that analyzes the importance of individualizing student outreach in a way that optimizes student success and uplifts students of color in the process. Read part two on understanding individual needs.

After establishing communicating with intent and understanding individual needs, it is necessary to evaluate the leftover gaps in your communication strategy. Looking back on my college experience, there are several things that I wish my institution would have communicated differently.

Taking Initiative

The following is an example of a large gap in communication that I experienced while earning my undergraduate degree:

During my sophomore year, I decided to switch my major and reached out to my advisor for help. After not hearing any response, I contacted student affairs to help determine my next move. Only was I shocked to find out that my advisor had left the institution completely, and was told to direct all of my questions to the student intern.

This meeting left me feeling stressed and concerned about my future. I wondered why this information was not proactively shared with all the students that would be impacted. An email, or even better, a simple text would have sufficed. It was clear to me that there was a communication gap between my institution and their students.

Unfortunately, I think like my situation, many other students have shared a similar experience throughout their college career.


This commonality outlines the fact that many institutions have larger gaps in communication with their student body and may also suggest that they do not account for different student populations. Information that might seem less relevant to the majority of your students might be crucial information for BIPOC, for example.

When asked about one thing students wish their alma mater would have communicated differently, these graduates said:

MacKenzie Galloway: “Updates on campus hate crimes, diversity and inclusion strategies, financial aid opportunities, and career statistics.”

Tori Powell: “I would have appreciated updates on financial aid, statements on hate crimes as well as solutions, or any information on the campus being shut down for weather/emergencies.”

Saliho Touré: “Reminders about class registration being live or updates on graduation requirements. It would have been nice to know when Black clubs were hosting events on campus or any events to support the Black community were being held.”

Cherelle Beckles: “It would have been helpful if my school reached out to me about employment fair opportunities that were held on campus. Any virtual employment fairs or networking opportunities in my college of Health and Human Development might have jump-started my plans for the future.”

Using the Past To Guide the Future

Student success is contingent on understanding the unique experiences of each and every one of your students. Becoming culturally aware when communicating with students is something that can greatly impact the trajectory of student success and guides strong student messaging. In order for this to happen, students must be contacted as individuals and not just what you think is working for the majority of the institution.

My hope in sharing my experiences is to bring further insight and transparency to higher education professionals surrounding the impact that personalized communication has on a student's experience. Simple changes in the process of communication and building those relationships based on intent, awareness and understanding can really go a long way in the student experience.

Looking Ahead

Communicating with students of color involves a transformation of thought and a commitment to personalizing your outreach. There are additional outside factors that come along with being a BIPOC in a world that often provides a lot of barriers to success. Realize that this change will not happen overnight, but going into each conversation with an idea of what those students could be going through will enhance the engagement experience for both you and those students that are just aiming to feel supported.

My goal for this series was to raise awareness surrounding populations of students that are yearning to form connections with their institutions. A lot of these gaps in communication can be unintentional, but understanding that there are ways in which higher education professionals can intentionally increase the chances for those connections to form.

Learn More:

For more resources on how to best support your students of color, watch our Communicating With Students of Color webinar. For more tips and best practices to support underrepresented student populations, read our Communication Strategies to Support Underrepresented Student Populations Ebook.

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