ACC Community Unites For Student Success

check out the Q&A with Dr. Katherine Staples

Check out the Q&A with Dr. Katherine Staples

SSI Participation to Grow for Upcoming Academic Year

Austin Community College faculty and staff are on a mission. Their objective is student success.

“When I entered ACC in 1977, our goal was access,” says Dr. Katherine Staples, professor of English. “Now we have to ensure our students not only have access but that they can complete their goals.”

Dr. Staples is one of many people throughout the college who are shaping the Student Success Initiative (SSI), a multiyear project aimed at improving students’ academic performance, particularly those entering college for the first time or coming from traditionally underserved backgrounds. This year will focus on spreading the initiative to involve everyone at the college.

“Community colleges are taking the lead in the national college completion movement, and ACC has the talent, commitment, and community support to be part of that movement,” says Dr. Stephen B. Kinslow, ACC

check out the Q&A with Dr. Samuel Echevarria-Cruz

Check out the Q&A with Dr. Samuel Echevarria-Cruz

president/CEO. “ACC has made a vital commitment that will positively impact students, campuses, and the communities we serve.”

Last fall, a group of faculty, staff, students, and administrators began poring through a trove of data on ACC student performance in college-level courses, developmental education, and workforce programs. Highlighted were different rates of course completions, persistence, and degree/certificate attainment based on students’ ethnicity, gender, and income, among other factors.

“Look at student data in the aggregate, and you’ll see positive outcomes,” says Dr. Stephanie Hawley, ACC’s associate vice president of college access programs who oversees SSI. “However, look at Pell grant recipients, or Latinas, or Pacific Islander/Asians, and you can spot trends that need attention.”

What emerged last fall is a deeper understanding of students and a steering committee composed of key stakeholders from across the college armed with valuable data to generate real, measurable goals to further student success.

Q&A with Faculty Coach: Dr. Staples | Q&A with Faculty Coach: Dr. Echevarria-Cruz

“SSI is helping ACC change the systems and structures to make the college relevant and authentically accessible for all students,” Hawley says.

The SSI steering committee meets weekly to define student success goals while exploring existing strategies and considering new ones to reach those goals.

“ACC has amazing resources and talents, with pockets of innovation and individuals engaged in some strong and progressive activities,” Hawley says.

One of the most significant activities so far has been a faculty coaching program for instructional areas with required introductory, or gateway, courses that often have low success rates. Faculty coaches participated in seminars to learn how they can assist their departments in using data and research-based practices to improve student outcomes. They will continue to meet over two years and assist in the development of department-specific improvement plans.

“It’s the faculty who are in the classroom day in and day out, and that’s where much of the impact on students is – at least academically,” says Dr. Samuel Echevarria-Cruz, associate professor of sociology and one of 19 faculty coaches selected so far along with Dr. Staples. “As advisors, as educators, as listeners and facilitators, the faculty really understand the data at the human level. Matching that with the data at the empirical level will help the students in a better, more focused way.”

As SSI enters a new phase, steering committee members are eager to engage the entire college. The SSI steering committee is part of the college’s shared governance structure, and Hawley invites students and employees alike to provide suggestions and feedback.

“We are creating a sense of ownership across the institution,” Hawley says. “Everyone who works at ACC has a role to play in assisting students.”

The first opportunity for everyone to give input will be a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) survey. The QEP is a mandate from the college’s accrediting organization – the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – but also will further the goals of SSI.

“SSI focuses on learning and teaching, and doing so in such a broad way the entire community can join the conversation,” Hawley says.

Next: What’s Your QEP?

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