Let’s not call them Meta-majors anymore

I’m at the College Spark Metamajors workshop in Vancouver, WA with many of he Guided Pathways Steering Committee members. We are learning about some great work other colleges are doing which I would like to share with you.

But before I do that, I want to make it publicly known that we’re officially going to change from using the phrase “metamajors” at EvCC. Nina Benedetti is heading the metamajors subcommittee and the first thing that committee did was vote to no longer call them metamajors. Henceforth, we will call them “Pathways”. Why relabel? First, we have a lot of certificates and programs that are not the same as “majors” and second, using a phrase students aren’t familiar with does not make anything more easy to understand. So think PATHWAYS.

Pathways are program groupings, like Health Sciences, Business, etc. The idea is to put similar programs together with a label students pick correctly when they start college. Once we have these groups we can work on developing how students will interact with them and what kind of supports are needed for students within them. Some of the cool things we’re hearing that other colleges are doing:

  • Changing from course catalogs to program maps. Instead of an alphabetical list of courses, students see a 2 or 3 year map of what to take and when to choose a pre-req stacked right when appropriate.
  • Contextualized Math. When a Pathway involves a specific college-level math course, we can design a Pathway that will get students to that specific class as soon as possible, in hopes of ending the current need for students to take up to five quarters of pre-college math before taking that Math 107 or Math 146 course.
  • Pathway-specific College 101 courses. This could be a powerful tool in getting our students on the right pathway and headed to a career. For example, there are so many Health Science careers that our students don’t know about. If we’re going to put potential Health Science students into a College 101 course, why not have that course discuss material about the career options so students can make a more informed decision?

Can you tell we’re eager to get Pathways pinned down so we can start on all the other good stuff we can do within them?

We floated our current draft of Pathways at the Department Chairs meeting last week. The Chairs agreed on the number of Pathways with mild suggestions on renaming of those Pathways, and a possibility to have Humanities separate from Art. There is still work to be done to gain consensus. Our goal is to have the Pathways groupings of programs finalized this quarter.  Much work was completed last spring and we have recent  input to help us finalize this. We will continue to review and assess so think of this as the starting point. Consider these groups as organizational architecture which will help us to move to the next stage of designing how students will interact with them on our website, what they’ll be labeled, how to provide advising and/or counseling support, etc.

Please use the comments space here to give your feedback on the Pathways. Everyone on campus is committed to student success. Please contribute your voice so we can all do this redesign work together.

If you’re interested in working with one of the sub-committees and adding your voice to the discussion in a more regular way, here are the sub-committee meeting dates and times:

: Nov 14 from 2-3pm in Nippon Business Institute
Equity Gap Research: Oct 31 from 2-4pm in WHI 228
Pathways: Nov 2 from 3-4pm in Rainier 227
Technology: Nov 2 from 3-4pm in Rainier 227

Guided Pathways Steering Committee and Sub-committee update

Who’s on the Steering Committee?
The GP Steering Committee had their first meeting Oct 3.  The members of the Steering Committee are myself (Anne Brackett), Kristine Washburn, Nina Benedetti, Elizabeth Stam, Masashi Kato, Gail Muilli, Laurie Franklin, Heather Bennet, Eugene McAvoy, and Megan King, the ASB president.  Kristine and I are co-chairing the committee.  The insight students can provide to the development of GP at EvCC is crucial, yet they are balancing service in multiple roles while also studying for classes, so Megan and two other ASB officers will rotate attending the meetings.  We had hoped to have an additional faculty to serve from the areas of Advising/Counseling/TriO; however, while there was definitely a desire to serve, many faculty with this expertise have already committed time and energy to other aspects of college service and simply cannot make the commitment at this time. Given the crucial nature of advising and a need to have someone with knowledge on the committee this year, we have invited Andre Guzman to fill the remaining spot, making the overall group five faculty, five administrators, and one student.

What was discussed at the meeting?
You are welcome to read over the minutes for specifics (click here to see the minutes). We decided who would chair which subcommittee (listed below) and tasked each chair with contacting the people who have already let us know of their interest to coordinate meeting dates and times.  If you haven’t let us know of your interest, that’s ok, we’ll make another blog post listing dates and times of each meeting so that anyone can attend.  At the first sub-committee meeting each group will read over the 5-year Implementation Plan to develop goals for the work they will do this year:

Advising/First Year Experience: Jessica Cain and Andre Guzman
Meta-Majors/Pathways: Nina Benedetti
Technology: Betsy Stam
Equity Gap Research: Kristine Washburn
Communication: Masashi Kato

What will happen next?
The general format moving forward is that each sub-committee will tackle a particular facet of developing GP, the chair will report to the Steering Committee, the Steering Committee will either give feedback, inform other communication partners (Faculty Forum, VP Staff, all campus via this blog, etc.) to seek additional feedback, and/or progress with the recommendation.  Minutes will be taken at each sub-committee meeting, and the GP Steering Committee meetings, and will be posted in the GP Canvas course, so if you want to know what’s up, you can always check the minutes.

Meta-majors: what is this even about?

Last spring a group of cross campus faculty met regularly and developed a draft of seven different meta-majors. Meta-majors are groupings of programs to help students simplify the complex choice of what to study to gain the skills they need for the career they want. At the All-Instruction and Students Services meeting during Opening Week we shared this first draft of the meta-major groupings and asked for feedback. The wordle below captures the themes which emerged from your comments:


The first thing I noticed while reading people’s comments was that it was not clear to many what a meta-major is and how it is different than our current divisions. Let’s consider this from a student perspective.

A brand new student comes to EvCC. They encounter the “Wall of Curriculum Guides” and are asked to pick a program. That’s terrifying. There are over 100 curriculum guides to choose from. Psychology research tells us that when the number of choices is that large and overwhelming people either turn away or they use something arbitrary to decide (eg, “that’s what my cousin is majoring in so I’ll major in it, too”).

Consider the same scenario from the student’s perspective, only now, instead of the “Wall of curriculum guides” there are six pathways (meta-major groupings) to choose from.  This is a much simpler choiceThe pathways are consciously organized by general student interests: STEM for those that say “I want to do something technical”, Arts and Humanities for those that say “I want to do something creative”, Health Sciences for those with an interest in the many areas of medicine, Social Sciences & Human Services for those that say “I want to help people”, etc. These are meant to be big broad buckets based on general interests instead of the narrow ones we have now (eg, “do you want to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education or Education?”).

There are some great things that can happen with meta-majors. For example, we could offer meta-major specific College 101 courses. If they’re interested in Health Science, that College 101 class might go into what all the different career choices are within Health Sciences, many of which the student may not have heard. The student can get advising from an advisor within that meta-major who knows all of those programs very well, getting them started on the right courses in their first quarter, not their third.

If we offer an “Exploratory” meta-major option, the truly Undecided students could be funneled into a College 101 course that is connected to an HDEV course to do more extensive career exploration. The idea behind an “Exploratory” meta-major would be to have students start there and transition to a different one within one to two quarters. The goal is to get the student to the path they want to be on faster, earning credits that will count towards their degree while they narrow down career choices.

These meta-major buckets should be designed with STUDENTS and their career goals in mind, not academic traditions or our own opinions about where we think our disciplines should be or with whom we like to work. The idea here is that we collect up all of the similar programs into a group so that students who only have a vague general sense at first can immediately start to funnel into the places they can start working on achieving their goals. This way a future graphic designer can start in ART 110 during their first quarter instead of realizing it later and making their whole degree plan longer. I think Engineering is a great field for helping people, but most of the students who come here saying they want to help people are generally more interested in Social Sciences and Human Services than Engineering (which I’m a little sad about). So I don’t expect Engineering to get cross-listed with Social Sciences.

Meta-majors will not necessarily disrupt divisions. But they might require some people to cross train in advising and they will need cross division conversation to help meet the needs of our students effectively. For example, someone who says they’re pre-med would likely choose Health Sciences. Traditionally, pre-meds have always been STEM students so in this case we would want to make sure Health Science advisors and College 101 faculty were able to advise the pre-med student accurately, which means regular conversation between biology, chemistry, and allied health faculty about the full spectrum of career options available to students in the field of healthcare and the coursework needed to get the necessary degree or certificate.

There were some great comments made during the All Instruction and Student Services meeting that will prompt good conversations moving forward. There are a lot of programs that don’t fit neatly into one bucket (eg, Fire Science) that would benefit from being crosslisted in more than one meta-major so that students who have a particular career goal in mind end up able to take the classes they need for the job they want.

With this understanding of meta-majors in mind, I’d love to hear more of your comments about this topic. Here is a link to the current draft of the meta-majors. Ask yourself this: If a student wants to go into career X or to earn a degree in field Z, what meta-major might they pick? Give your general thoughts, specific thoughts, and ideas you have about how we can use meta-majors to help students get where they want to go without spending extra money on classes that don’t fit their end goals.  I’ll send an announcement out next week calling for volunteers for the meta-majors subcommittee. If you are passionate about this please join that committee!

Guided Pathways Q&A

Last week we hosted two Q&A sessions for the purpose of answering questions that folks might have about Guided Pathways. We realize not everyone could attend these sessions so wanted to summarize some of the questions and answers here on our blog.

Question #1: What is Guided Pathways (GP)?

Guided Pathways is a model, outlined in the book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, which hopes to address the challenges community and technical colleges face in helping students succeed in earning a degree or certificate. Guided Pathways is not an initiative, but rather a shift towards viewing what we do from the lens of a student and making changes so that our very complex system can be more easily navigated by those who have little to no background in college. The model involves the following:

  • Getting students started on their path (enrolling, placement, registration,etc.)
  • Clarifying the path (advising, curriculum guides, grouping majors/degrees/certificates into meta-majors)
  • Keeping students on the path (program advising, community building, academic warning, etc.)
  • Aligning pathways with careers (program outcomes, assessment, transfer, etc.)

Want to know more? We have an earlier resource blog post which gives more background or you can check out Redesigning America’s Community Colleges from the EvCC library. We have lots of copies!

Question #2: We received a grant from College Spark for developing Guided Pathways (GP) at EvCC. What does the College Spark Grant ask us to do?

We are in year zero of the grant, a year in which we focus on developing the work plan for years one and two, assess what we do (or do not do), and develop meta-majors. A large focus of GP work in Washington state is to eliminate the equity gap so much of the GP work we do will be with an equity goal in mind. This is a very brief overview of the goals of the grant, to find out more, check out the Guided Pathways 5-Year Implementation Plan.

Questions #3: What work has been done and what will happen next?

Last spring several groups started working on Guided Pathways. One group looked at our current curriculum guides and began drafting a curriculum guide template to incorporate some elements students would like to know including: a suggested sequence of courses for each quarter, recommended courses for common transfer partners, pre-requisites, etc. Another group created a draft of meta-major groupings. An opportunity to give feedback on these groupings occurred at the All Instruction/Student Services meeting and other opportunities will be announced. Many faculty engaged in Jump Start grants and explored various aspects of GP work at the college including a world languages transfer guide, a color coding scheme for engineering students to better understand which courses count towards multiple goals and which are more specific, and some initial work on how a meta-major specific College 101 might work. These are all summarized in the GP Canvas course under the Jump Start Grants button.

What happens next?
We are forming a GP Steering Committee and several subcommittees (Advising, Meta-Majors, Equity Gap Research, Communication, Technology Products) and recruiting volunteers from across campus who have an interest in poking their head up and joining a college wide discussion. The GP Steering Committee will meet on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month from 1-3pm. Interested in joining? Let us know before Thursday, Sept 22!

Questions #4: How can I stay informed?

Well, you’re reading the blog which is a great first step! Sign up to follow the blog and you won’t miss any new posts.  We have also created a Canvas course which houses much of the information related to GP work at EvCC. The Canvas course is only accessible by link, due to the constraints of our system and the number of users, so bookmark the link so you don’t have to hunt for it later. If Canvas isn’t your thing, we also have a Guided Pathways Intranet page. Check it out!


What does advising have to do with Guided Pathways? Well with the given feedback from the book club meetings hosted by faculty and the “Redesigning America’s Community College” book it seems that advising plays a very critical role.  If we are trying to help students obtain and complete their certificate and/or degree then we need to help them map their courses to meet their end goals.  This map needs to be clear and communicated early and constant throughout their educational endeavor here at EvCC.  Sounds easy, right?

I believe that this initiative is right for our students here at EvCC, but it will take work, time, and will be important that we work together to give it a real chance. Communication and having critical conversations will be key to the success of Guided Pathways here at EvCC.  We can no longer shy away from the issues or misunderstandings that may be crippling the advising infrastructure that is essential to make this work for all, especially our students.

At EvCC there are three main strands of advising that we are currently practicing.  There is mandatory entry advising (MEA), mandatory 3rd quarter advising, and program advising.

We are working on these important strands of advising now, but have really focused on 3rd quarter advising.  In 3rd quarter advising, faculty and students are assigned to one another by their program of study and area faculty can advise.  Then they both meet to create an educational plan that meets the students’ needs for their given program.  Again, sounds pretty simple…but not everything is what it seems all the time.

I had the pleasure of having a dialogue with 65 Mandatory 3rd Quarter advisors late last month.  This was a great conversation and as some faculty have said, “eye-opening” and “interesting on how there are so many perspectives that we all have, trying to do the same thing for our students”.  Those were my thoughts, as well, as I reviewed the comments from my notes and reflected on the conversations.  What was very evident was how faculty had student success as their primary goal.  I believe we all do here at EvCC…that’s why I came here!  We just need to look at what we can change today and see what changes are needed to get us where we are aligned with our advising goals and objectives within each given strand of advising.  There are some easy fixes and then there are other issues that will take time.

Some of the issues brought up, not all, were advising training, use of technology, clear definitions of what each strand of advising is, equitability in 3rd quarter assignments, uniform processes, evaluation of advising for all faculty advisors is needed, transfer advising issues, and some departments would like to see their students first quarter vs. 3rd quarter, but others don’t… list goes on.

What was clear is that a “one-size fits all” approach will not work. Currently, we are working with Engineering and Computer Science on a pilot. We are assigning students to each program as a group and having the respective department (per their request) assign the students to their faculty to ensure quality and equitable assignments.  These particular departments are using “youcanbookme” and seems to work well for them.  Since, other departments have heard of this and are interested in doing this come fall quarter. This started by having a critical conversation between myself and an engineering faculty, but we were able to come out with a plan that worked for the faculty and more importantly was better for our students.

So, it is clear that advising is very critical to the success of the Guided Pathways model.  I will continue to work with faculty and working on getting an advising committee together. This committee is meant to be long-standing and not a 3-6 month committee that will fall off the face of the earth after we meet a couple of time.  Faculty who are ready for change and take action have expressed interest in this committee which make me excited.  We have to give this a chance!  Our leader is committed to this work and I know that we are all for making change for the better when it comes to our students.  What attracted me to EvCC you’re your willingness to go big, take action and be leaders in our CTC system… and more importantly, with a PASSION for student success!

Work we are doing now and/or will be working on the next 3-5 months

  • Training: We are currently providing and working to improve entry, 3rd quarter, and program advising training for new and current faculty
  • Communicate to students and faculty advisors the importance to have the updated and correct program code for students. This will allow for a better assignment for both the student and faculty advisor
  • Share the definitions of Mandatory Entry Advising, Mandatory 3rd Quarter Advising, Program Advising. This would help the confusion especially between Program Advising and Mandatory 3rd Quarter Advising
  • Find another name for Mandatory 3rd Quarter Advising. It seems to confuse many of our students and faculty has also expressed the need to change the name. Mandatory Education Plan is an example of a new name
  • Review curriculum in College 101 to see how we can better educate students on the advising process and expectations from both the student and faculty
  • Look to see if 3rd quarter advising should be tied to quarters or credits
  • Create a clear mission statement for advising across campus
  • Continue to work on equitability of assignments within departments
  • Themed College 101 sections as we go forward with Guided Pathways
  • Jason Pfau is working on Degree Audit and we have already seen some improvements
  • Cross training for some departments who may need more demand for advisors in their department
  • Work with Peg Balachowski to be part of new instructor training which will help staff understand advising expectations and process
  • Work with other institutions that have already implemented Guided Pathways and also share the same advising model as we do here at EvCC
  • Work with individual departments to see what model may work for best for their students
  • Other important issues that will arise…

Thank you,

Andre Guzman, Associate Dean of Advising and College Success

Guided Pathways Resources

As we move forward with incorporating the elements of Guided Pathways into our work here at EvCC, it will be good to have a group of resources to refer back to and to pass on to those who are just finding out about Guided Pathways and wondering what this model is. With this need in mind this blog post is focused on gathering some of the most helpful articles and websites we have come across in hopes that we can continue to equip you with solid sources about what Guided Pathways work may look like. I’ve also included links to institutions across the nation who are a bit ahead of us in doing Guided Pathways to help us build an awareness of possible options as we decide what will best suit EvCC.

Wondering what the Guided Pathways model is? The Community College Research Center (CCRC) has published a number of papers on Guided Pathways. This short, 6 page review, titled What We Know About Guided Pathways, outlines the basic ideas and gives you a taste of what the book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, explores in much greater detail (FYI, we really recommend reading the book – there are many copies available in our library.). A companion paper Implementing Guided Pathways: Tips and Tools can give you an idea of the timeline and philosophy an institution will need to develop to succeed. You’ll notice that faculty buy-in is defined as a crucial component critical for success of Guided Pathways at any institution.

The National Center for Inquiry and Improvement published a longer article delving more deeply into typical questions occurring when an institution moves towards a Guided Pathways model in Guided Pathways Demystified: Exploring Ten Commonly Asked Questions about Implementing Pathways.

The CCRC has also developed an in depth packet of Guided Pathways resources, containing a research case study from Miami Dade and Planning and Adoption templates to help institutions effectively determine where to target their Guided Pathways efforts.

The State Board for Community and Technical Colleges of Washington has created a Guided Pathways page including information about the College Spark and SBCTC Guided Pathways grant, an editorial by Jan Yoshiwara (SBCTC Education Director), and handouts from the Clover Park Technical Guided Pathways Workshop which occurred earlier this year.

We’ve also been researching other institutions and how they are already incorporating pieces of the Guided Pathways model into their curriculum guides. Here are a few examples which have stood out:

Broward College in Florida has a clear approach for students interested in a biology degree to determine what classes to take each quarter for both those attending both full and part time. In addition Broward’s guide includes links to up-to-date career information for the degree, financial aid, prior learning credit, and internships.

Baltimore County Community Colleges have developed clear pathways for students heading into the Arts and Humanities in their Arts and Humanities program path guide by using an approach which demonstrates how Guided Pathways can keep diverse course choices available to students while communicating clearly what is needed for each degree option.

WA’s very own Shoreline Community College has included transfer-ability of courses to 4 year institutions in their program/curriculum guides for students. The physical therapy guide is particularly noteworthy for advising students on which courses to take for the 4-year institution they hope to enter. Scroll down to the 4th page of the guide to see the section on Select WA state college/university major preparation and recommendations.

Do you have a resource for Guided Pathways work which you would like to share? Post links in the comments section so that we can build a source which people can refer to as we move forward. Keep an eye out on this blog for more resources as well as a blog post on meta-majors coming soon.

Notes from Guided Pathways Book Club meetings

There were several book club meetings around campus this quarter to discuss Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, the book full of research behind the Guided Pathways initiative. Book clubs were attended by faculty and staff from across campus. Facilitators asked participants what themes they noticed in the book and what solutions they saw as interesting ideas for EvCC.

I facilitated four of these book clubs. Anne facilitated another four, Gary Newlin did a couple as did Andrew Wahl. I wrote down all the notes participants in my book clubs made on giant post-its and the notes I took of people’s discussions and made a “wordle” (see below).

Guided Pathways wordle

As you can see, the focus of conversations was STUDENTS. Many different topics came up, including ADVISING, METAMAJORS, ORIENTATION, and UNDECIDED.

Friday is the deadline to apply for an EvCC Guided Pathways Jump Start Grant. These are small projects that can be completed by June 30 of this year. Funds from this are leftover from the college’s Instruction budget and must be spent, with 800 faculty hours total available. If you have an idea of work that will fit in with Guided Pathways and help us mobilize please consider applying for a Grant. Feel free to use the above Wordle for inspiration! The application was emailed to all-faculty last week. It’s also available online at http://goo.gl/forms/be6EYXocdq.

Some ideas that have been circulating are

  • Develop a Canvas shell for the advisees of a particular type of major (pre-med, photography, business, etc.) to act as a central resource for students.  The course can contain curriculum guides, transfer information, a calendar for meeting with advisors, and would generally serve as a contact point for students to program faculty.
  • For a DTA degree in your department, research the EvCC course transfer-ability for each local institution and create an up-to-date list.
  • Meet with your department to create a default 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarter list of classes for students who enter your discipline.  Create one scenario for full time students and one for part-time students.
  • Host a Guided Pathways work day for your division to focus on doing any of the above 3 ideas as a larger group.

If you have more ideas and want to discuss whether or not this grant is a good fit, leave a comment below or contact Kristine Washburn or Anne Brackett. We’re here to encourage faculty participation in this faculty-driven process.

Guided Pathways mini grants for Spring 2016

At the Department Chairs meeting earlier this week, Alison Stevens announced the college has money left over in the Instruction budget to jumpstart the work on Guided Pathways. Specifically, there is enough money for 800 faculty hours of work to be completed by June 30. Guided Pathways work is interwoven with what we already do to help students succeed, and this money offers us a chance to do some initial work targeting areas in which we believe students would benefit from changes.  The department chairs who were present had a discussion on how to use this money and three ideas emerged: 1) Form a committee of interested faculty to create a curriculum guide template. 2) Form a committee of interested faculty to research meta majors at other institutions, decide on meta major categories which are a good fit for EvCC, and seek input from all departments on which degrees fit into which category. 3) Ask for grant applications from individuals, departments, and/or other faculty groups of interest for how they would use the funds to accomplish Guided Pathways work at EvCC prior to June 30.

The last one is particularly exciting. This is the beginning of a new era where faculty identify things that need to change and change them. Whenever I’m talking with colleagues we’re never at a loss when it comes to identifying problems and how we think they should be fixed. I think the thing that’s kept most of us from fixing them is time and money. Though this go around doesn’t provide the former it at least provides the latter. The college isn’t always able to find money for the things we need to get done so we need to take advantage of this.

Start thinking about what we can do in the next two months. You don’t need to propose something grandiose. If you have a small project in mind that can be finished by June 30 that’s great. If you want to spend time doing serious planning and starting something bigger that’s great, too. You can see the book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges for ideas on things that various other colleges have been doing. Common themes are

  • Mapping pathways to student end goals
  • Helping students enter a path
  • Keeping students on the path
  • Ensuring that students are learning.

And while you are planning, keep in mind the main point from Achieving the Dream: using data to make informed decisions and to test whether changes have had an effect.

Please use the Comments section of this blog to vet ideas you might have for projects.

A Grant Opportunity

Take a walk with me out of your office and into the nearest parking lot.  Stand there for a moment and imagine that you have never been to college, no one in your family has been to college, and your best resource for figuring out college is a friend of yours who is in their first quarter of classes.  You’ve been told that going to college means a better paying job.  As you stand in the parking lot and look at the buildings, which one should you go in?  Who will you ask to find out “how do I get in”, “how am I going to pay for this” and “what classes should I take for the job I want”?  Stand in the parking lot for a moment and consider that the answers to those questions, are set up in a complex system which fundamentally assumes that you know what you are doing and who to ask for help.  Consider terms like curriculum guide, prerequisite, credits, and acronyms like DTA, FAFSA, and COMPASS which are crucial for navigating the college system and ask yourself if someone like you, who’s best resource is a friend in their first quarter, will be able to make it?  If you want to earn a transfer degree you will have to figure out what a Humanities, Social Science, and Science requirement is and to determine, for example, which of the 135 options of Humanities classes you should take, whether they are offered this quarter, and whether the times and dates will work with your work schedule.  You will do this task probably on your own unless you figure out the value of a program advisor (another new role you are not familiar with) and get connected to one prior to the end of your second quarter.  It’s highly likely that you will pay for classes you don’t need, possible that you will register for classes for which you are not adequately prepared, and that you will eventually give up on this process and become one of the 75% of students at EvCC who entered planning to earn a degree but who do not complete it. (Data collected in 2015 EvCC Institutional Research)

As faculty we believe passionately in the power of learning, the transformative change possible in people who arrive at our classes on the first day and who leave more knowledgeable and better equipped on the last day.  We work incredibly hard, devoting countless hours to helping the students in our classes succeed.  While what happens in our classrooms may be stellar, the scenario above points out that our organizational structure needs adjustment; we need a different model of how we get students into our classes.  This is not a structural change which an administrator can develop and implement, it must come from faculty who are experts in their discipline who know what kind of skills are needed for the jobs in their fields and how best to help students acquire those skills as part of completing a degree.  The organizational change I am talking about, which requires us to examine what we do with a lens for smoothing out some of the road blocks in a student’s journey, is fundamental to the guided pathways model.  We have the opportunity to apply for a grant from College Spark for $500,000 over five years to financially aid us as we fix the issues we know need solutions.  By applying for this grant the administration of the college is taking steps to secure financial support for the work that we will do to craft the changes we want to see at EvCC.  The deadline for this grant is coming up quickly on April 21.  A requirement of the application is a letter of support from our faculty union or the Faculty Forum.   If you think this money will be helpful to our work here at EvCC as we move forward in ways that improve a student’s abilities to attain their educational goals, please contact one of your AFT officers and attend the next Faculty Forum to express your support for guided pathways.

What is Guided Pathways?

The other day a student asked me to explain Guided Pathways to him. I used the following severely outdated analogy: Remember when it was really hard to buy airplane tickets? It used to be so complicated with all the different class options and connection possibilities that you had to hire a travel agent to do it for you. Then airlines figured out how to present the options more clearly. Now we all buy tickets online and it’s easy. College should be the same way. The actual classes should stay rigorous but the process for figuring out where you are going and how you plan to get there should be easier.

I asked the guy how he got started here. He said he and a friend were thinking of coming to school here so they drove to the college to check it out. They walked around campus for three hours before they figured out where to start the application process. He said every part of the process was complicated: financial aid, placement testing, figuring out what classes to take, starting in pre-college math, what books to buy, choosing a major, etc. He said this whole Guided Pathways thing sounded like a good idea.

Guided Pathways is very simply the idea that we ought to make the path through college from start to finish clear to students. That’s it. College is not a well-designed system. It’s evolved into an overly complicated system that dissuades people who don’t already know how to navigate it or who lack the confidence needed to weather all the little roadblocks and confusions. Our mission is to make higher ed accessible to the whole community. It’s time we re-evaluated what we’re doing to make sure it actually is accessible.

If you read Redesigning America’s Community Colleges (available at the EvCC library!), the Community College Research Center (CCRC) folks recommend many ways we can make students’ paths through college clearer. You can think of it in terms of broad categories:

  • Getting students started on their path (enrolling, placement, developmental ed, etc)
  • Clarifying the path (advising, curriculum guides, restructuring majors into meta-majors to prevent lost credits as students choose a major, etc)
  • Keeping students on the path (program advising, academic warning, etc)
  • Aligning pathways with careers (program outcomes and assessment, transfer advising, etc)

Over the break, while you are hopefully lounging on a sunny beach sipping a margarita, give some thought as to how we can use this Guided Pathways philosophy to help students at EvCC. The Board of Trustees and administration are solidly behind this but they want the faculty to lead this change. This is not a quick fix thing like common course numbers. This is a rethinking of how we do things. The goal for spring quarter is to have lots of conversation all over campus about what areas need improving and then to collect ideas for what we might tackle first. The formal venues for this are the book clubs which you’ll be hearing about from Anne Brackett soon. Reading the book (Redesigning America’s Community Colleges) is good. Looking at what other colleges are doing is good. Reflecting on the experiences of your students is very good, especially those students you had that did not make it all the way down their college pathway.