#JPSPEAKS 002: Identity-Conscious Student Success Strategies in Higher Education Explored with Dr. Vijay Pendakur

A PODCAST HOSTED BY JAMIE PIPERATOWelcome to Episode 002 of the #JPSPEAKS: Social Justice & Inclusion Podcast for Higher Education Professionals! Today, I had the honor of interviewing, Dr. Vijay Pendakur. In this episode, we will be discussing identity-conscious student success initiatives and how student affairs professionals can implement them in higher education! Please be sure to check out Vijay’s newly published book entitled, Closing the Opportunity Gap: Identity-Conscious Strategies for Retention and Student Success*.

Below, you will find the show notes, an extensive biography on Dr. Vijay Pendakur, information on Vijay’s new book, and Vijay’s call-to-action! Enjoy!

In this particular episode, you will learn:

  • First steps are to accomplish identity-conscious student success initiatives
  • Best approach for identity-conscious student success initiatives if your office has a lean budget and is understaffed
  • How to become an identity-consciousness liaison on your campus
  • Strategies for self-care in student affairs as identity-consciousness liaisons


VP Speaking HeadshotDr. Vijay Pendakur is a higher education administrator, author, and speaker with a deep passion for issues of multiculturalism, equity, and social justice.  Hailing from Chicago, he traces his roots back to a village in Southern India where much of his family still lives today.

His scholarly journey began with a degree in U.S. History from the University of Wisconsin – Madison before pursuing a master’s degree in 20th US History from the University of California –San Diego.  In his historical research and writing, Dr. Pendakur’s focus areas have been Asian American history, civil rights history, post-colonial studies, and critical theory.  His master’s research is on the role of inter-generational silence, complicity, and resistance in Japanese American families before, during, and after World War II.  Dr. Pendakur’s doctoral degree is in Curriculum Studies from DePaul University, where his dissertation examined the connections between color-blind racism and race consciousness in Asian American college freshmen.

His professional journey began as a full-time social justice facilitator and program planner at the
University of Wisconsin – Madison.  From there, he gradually moved his time and energy from working on issues of identity and culture towards campus-wide issues of risk, persistence, and graduation for low-income college students, first generation students, and students of color. For six years, Dr. Pendakur served as the Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University, where he worked with a brilliant team to develop an intersectional approach to blending critical multiculturalism with student success interventions. He is the editor of the new book, “Closing the Opportunity Gap: Identity-Conscious Strategies for Retention and Student Success” and served as the inaugural public policy liaison for NASPA’s Knowledge Community on Socioeconomic Class in Higher Education.

FHSU Keynote Pic

Currently, Dr. Pendakur serves as an Associate Vice President for Student Affairs at California State University – Fullerton.  In his role as AVP, he works closely with campus leadership to enact elements of the university strategic plan connected to persistence and student success.  He also provides leadership to the following departments in his portfolio: the Career Center, the Center for Internships and Community Service, Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, Athletic Academic Support, Disability Support Services, the Veterans Resource Center, Student Academic Services, the Center for Scholars and Scholarships, and the Assistant Deans Program.

When he’s not working, reading, or writing, Vijay enjoys going on hikes with his wife, Katie, playing guitar, drinking a little scotch, and goofing around with his daughter, Mira.

Connect with Vijay at: www.vijaypendakur.com

Resources Mentioned in this Show:

Dr. Vijay Pendakur’s Book (with foreword by Shaun R. Harper):


Closing the Opportunity Gap: Identity-Conscious Strategies for Retention and Student Success *

“This book offers a novel and proven approach to the retention and success of underrepresented students. It advocates a strategic approach through which an institution sets clear goals and metrics and integrates the identity support work of cultural / diversity centers with skill building through cohort activities, enabling students to successfully navigate college, graduate on time and transition to the world of work. Underlying the process is an intersectional and identity-conscious, rather than identity-centered, framework that addresses the complexity of students’ assets and needs as they encounter the unfamiliar terrain of college. (Read more…)*”

*These are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you.

Additional Resources/Professionals Mentioned in this Show:

Call to Action:

Dr. Vijay Pendakur provided two call-to-actions:

(1) “If you want your justice and equity work to be life-giving then your life has to be something beautiful and something healthy (V. Pendakur, personal communication, 2015). Practice what you preach. Seek therapy. Utilize psychotherapy and counseling as a resilience mechanism for self-care.

(2) If this conversation resonates and this is the work you want to do but you don’t think upper administration in higher education is for you, Vijay’s challenge for you is, “…to think about the change potential you have to effect these very issues by moving up the food chain…We need amazing people who believe in these issues as Vice Presidents, as Provosts, as University Presidents, as VP for Advancement, as VP for Enrollment Management and Enrollment Strategy… If you are thinking upper admin is not for you because you are a “real change agent” then let’s change the definition of change agency to include upper administration jobs because the time is right for that.”

What are your reactions to the above call-to-actions? What conversations or thoughts have you had as a result of the above call-to-actions? In order to build community around these challenges, share your reactions and accomplishments on your social media accounts by using #JPSPEAKS!