Enhancing College Access and Success Through Participatory Action Research


A Minnesota Campus Compact and Youthprise Pilot Program

This new program offers professional development and funding to high school youth, college/university students and community-engaged staff/faculty to conduct participatory action research (PAR) projects related to educational environments, community engagement, and preparation for college, careers, and civic life. The program seeks to expand the role of young people in understanding and addressing educational opportunity gaps and advancing youth engagement while informing the MNCC network’s ongoing efforts to improve educational cultures, policies, and practices to better serve Minnesota’s increasingly diverse students. Learn more about the currently funded PAR projects here. 

Introductory PAR Workshops

Faculty, students, staff, and community partners interested in participatory action research attended regional workshops on September 25, 2015 at Minnesota State University, Mankato; Thursday, October 8, 2015 at University of Minnesota’s Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC); and October 30, 2015 at Saint John’s University, Collegeville. Find out more about the information and ideas shared in this blog post.

Program Benefits for Member Campuses

  • Funding to support Participatory Action Research: Teams of students with staff/educators from campuses, schools, and youth-serving organizations applied to Youthprise between June 1, 2015 and October 1, 2015 for matching grants to implement PAR project
  • Leverage campus (or campus-raised) funds: Youthprise will provide a 1:1 match (minus a 7% administrative fee) for funds raised by campuses to support PAR projects. Up to $10,000 will be matched per campus. Any funds raised by campuses and deposited in the Youthprise “MNCC PAR Fund” will be restricted for dissemination to research teams from their respective campus. All funds must be deposited by October 1, 2015.
  • Professional development: Interested high school and college/university students, faculty, and staff attended regional workshops in the fall of 2015 to learn more about PAR. A PowerPoint from the pre-conference session at the 2015 Upper Midwest Civic Engagement Summit is available here. PAR grantees will share their projects’ findings and lessons at Vision & Voice: Inspiring Civic Agency and Engagement for Equity, October 14, 2016, at Metropolitan State University.

Of course, whether or not you apply for funding, we hope that later you will use the findings from this statewide project to improve educational opportunities for all youth.

Research Grant Criteria

While teams will develop their own specific research questions, all funded PAR projects will be related to several overarching topics:  educational environments, community engagement, and preparation for college, careers, and civic life.  Proposed PAR projects should:

  • Engage member campus staff/faculty plus college and high school students, including (though not necessarily exclusively) students of color, students from low-income families, and/or current or potential first-generation college students;
  • Specify research questions and goals that were determined by the team collaboratively;
  • Create opportunities for more youth voice around those research questions, whether through focus groups, surveys, interviews, creative events, or other methods they deem valuable;
  • Engage new conversations within colleges/universities—e.g., youth meeting with individuals in community engagement, institutional research, admissions, financial aid, enrollment, multicultural affairs, etc. to get a sense of their perspectives, data, and communications;
  • Analyze any additional data teams choose to collect, coming up with not only an analysis of the issue but also recommendations for next steps, which could include programs to expand/change/start, policies to amend/establish, structures for ongoing youth engagement and leadership, statements of principle to adopt, etc.;
  • Identify other local stakeholders that might support follow-up action;
  • Document findings and the research process in ways that could also inspire and inform others thinking about related work;
  • Allocate most project funds for stipends for students’ participation; and
  • If possible, offer participating students college credit (either PSEO or regular).

Applications will be reviewed by a committee led by Youthprise with input from MNCC staff and faculty with PAR expertise. Only teams engaging people from MNCC member institutions are eligible to apply, but teams can include non-campus youth, community partners and other individuals. MNCC and Youthprise are seeking funds to help campuses with the required campus contribution, but at this point only campuses that have raised funds for this project will be eligible to apply.

Journals, articles, reports:

Toolkits, activities, handbooks, websites:

Want to Get Involved?
With any questions or to express interest in a workshop or research grant, please contact Megan Voorhees, PAR Initiative Coordinator, at par {at} mncampuscompact(.)org or 612-359-6461.