Guided Pathways: “Coming to College Should Be Easy” Part 2

Jacob Dorsey

Here are some other highlights from my interviews with both President Elliott and Professor Hindhede:

What does Guided Pathways mean to you?

J.E.:It means that students will be able to complete their program of study within two years, which is what they’re supposed to do in a community college, rather than spending four years accumulating credits. The Guided Pathways model is designed to ensure that students finish on time without taking credits that they don’t need and that don’t transfer. Students will be able to complete their degree without spending more money than is necessary. At the end of the day coming to college should be easy. Navigating courses and academic programs should be easy. There should not be obstacles.

K.H.:Unfortunately, we currently have a system that doesn’t work very well. For me Guided Pathways is an opportunity to provide equity to students; students know ahead of time the classes they need to take.  There are still a lot of options and choices, but they know the sequence in which to take them, and there is an end in sight.

Just how much of an undertaking has Guided Pathways been so far?

J.E.:An enormous undertaking. Our faculty have given up their Fridays to come in and map because they know this is the right thing for students. We are taking it slow – I feel like it’s better to take it slow and consider every aspect, to involve students in the conversation and the design of these aspects. We just came back from an AACC Pathways workshop just two weeks ago in Louisiana. That went all the way through Sunday, so people are giving up their weekends to do this work as well. We were lucky to get the Title V grant which financially helps support these efforts. We are able to pay for extra professional development. Nothing was spared in making sure we had the experts and appropriate coaching and resources that faculty and staff need.

K.H.: It has been an enormous amount of time, both during the week and on Fridays, but we are seeing the maps come together, and it’s very gratifying and exciting.

What do you hope to achieve with Guided Pathways?

J.E.:I hope that our student graduation rates hit 80 to 90 percent. I hope our student persistence hits 90 percent. I hope students are able to leave CAC, if their intention is to transfer, and that they transfer with junior status immediately. Students that come to get a certificate or an Associates of Applied Science are 100 percent employed upon completion. I hope to achieve student success rates that are some of the highest in the nation because right now they are not so good. That’s what I hope to achieve.

K.H.:We know there are difficulties for students – from the registration process to taking credits that aren’t needed for transfer or graduation.  We need to make things right.  I don’t think anyone can work at a community college and not really care about students. We love being here. We’ve put in unintentional barriers, and they need to be removed.

How does the school benefit from Guided Pathways?

J.E.:I think the college benefits in that even I will be able to have meaningful conversations with students about their academic pathway. Everybody will be able to see the academic maps, the pathways and understand. People will be able to further assist our students in meaningful ways. In the colleges that have adopted this, everyone from facilities, to campus police, to the president are engaged in the student success experience because they all know what it looks like. Right now our understanding of that experience is bifurcated, it’s not a collective understanding. I’m excited because I think the college will be able to collectively, as a team, have the opportunity to solidify student success.

K.H.:We can do more as faculty members to reach out to students and talk about transfer opportunities or careers in their areas of interest. Guided Pathways give faculty a better way to connect, support and guide students.

Why should students care about Guided Pathways?

J.E.:I think they should care that the college cares about making sure that they aren’t wasting time and money. We want students to walk in and say, “Can you get me out of here in two years with something that has meaning in the work force and/or allows me to transfer out in junior status and doesn’t cost me a lot of time and money?”

K.H.:There is now a recognition of what classes students need to take, and when. A recognition of how long it’s going to take them in order to graduate and on what campus they can get a particular degree. Guided Pathways has also helped us reduce the number of developmental education classes that students are required to take which saves them time and money.

Do you have anything else you’d like to say to readers in regards to Guided Pathways?

J.E.:As we start to roll out components of Guided Pathways, you are going to see a different CAC. I would encourage students to give us feedback. Student input is critical. Tell us what we are doing well, and what we aren’t doing well, so we can deliver the best experience possible. Students need to be more actively involved with their educational experience. It’s a very passive relationship right now – students come in, advisors tell you what to do, we register for classes, we tell you about student aid, we throw deadlines at you – but how can we make it a more engaged experience for students. Creative ideas are welcome. Innovative ideas are welcome. Kudos go to all the staff and faculty; they’ve done all the leg work. I’ve done nothing other than support and share the vision. They’ve done all the heavy lifting.

K.H.:We know that we as a college have to do better. It’s a process. But we are really working to make the student experience better. If something is not working, students need to keep saying it’s not working until someone listens. They are not going through this process alone. I think it’s really important they connect with someone who can advocate for them and help them overcome the barriers – a faculty member or someone in advising, student services, etc.

Some students serve on the teams and committees, and as you read above, President Elliott would like to have more students get involved. If you want to get involved or would just like to know more about Guided Pathways, contact Professor Hindhede at Karen.Hindhede@centralaz.edu. If she can’t help you herself, she will get you in contact with someone who can.

Student involvement is important because the student perspective and experience is crucial to the success of Guided Pathways. If you have any ideas or opinions, don’t hesitate to contact someone – you might provide input that could benefit students for years to come.