Futures Institute gets underway

Austin Community College’s Futures Institute is at work gathering information that will guide new strategies for helping students complete a degree or certificate on time and move on to career-path jobs or university classes.

The group is exploring how college programs and services can be organized into easy-to-navigate “guided pathways.” Throughout September and October, members are meeting with various college constituencies and visiting other institutions to see the concept in practice.

“The more we learn through our research and discussions with others, the more excited we’ve become about the potential this holds for ACC and its students,” says Dr. Charles Cook, ACC executive vice president and provost.

What are guided pathways?

Guided pathways refer to broad categories of majors – similar to individual colleges within a university – that are accompanied by targeted support services and interventions to keep students on track to graduation. The approach is detailed in the book “Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success,” co-authored by Dr. Davis Jenkins, a senior research associate at Columbia University.

Jenkins visited ACC in September and presented examples of institutions that have successfully adopted guided pathways. He noted that recent ACC initiatives, like a mandated student success class and degree mapping tools, provide a good foundation for implementing the approach.

Dr. Davis Jenkins spoke with ACC faculty and staff, including Soon Merz and Dr. Charles Cook, during his September visit.

Dr. Davis Jenkins spoke with ACC faculty and staff, including Soon Merz and Dr. Charles Cook, during his September visit.

“ACC has a lot of things going for it. You have a lot in place,” he told Futures Institute members and others from across the college who gathered to discuss challenges and strategies. “The key is to always keep the students in mind and the students’ end in mind.”

Jenkins said both faculty and advisers play essential roles in keeping students on track to their goals. “Advising is really critical to this,” he said. “The relationship between students and faculty is powerful.

“What’s important is the human connection. What we’re really looking for is how to improve the connections.”

Focus teams

Futures Institute members have formed teams to focus on different parts of the college experience — from onboarding through completion. Teams will explore their areas on fact-finding visits to Miami Dade College, City Colleges of Chicago, and Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. Teams are:

Teresa Ashley
Josh Beach
Angie Diaz‐Miranda
Rennison Lalgee
Christian Raymond
Nancy Laudenslager.
Team leaders: Susy Thomason, Soon Merz

Nereida Celis
Alison Judice
Vanessa Malo
Rafael Ochoa
Giao Phan
Eva Thomsen
Team Leaders: Virginia Fraire, Charles Cook

Nicole Eversmann
Deanna Johnson
Stephanie Marquez
Catherine Mas
Don Morris
Grant Potts
Team Leaders: Missi Patterson, Mike Midgley

Estrella Barrera
Laura Lucas
Matthew Pappas
Ruth Reinhart
Adam Rethlake
Kelly Stockstad
Team Leaders: Mary Gilmer, Christina Michura

Join the conversation

In the spring Futures Institute members will work with administrators, faculty, and staff to convert their recommendations into a strategic, measureable plan for implementing guided pathways in fall 2016.

To give input or ask questions about guided pathways, complete the Futures Institute survey form or contact a Futures Institute member.

Read more at Learn about guiding principles for guided pathways.

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