Category Archives: Student Services

The “One Thing” and it’s Not Bragging

Welcome back to Week 3 of “The One Thing You can do to Raise Enrollment,” a six week “how-to” series.

Study after study has produced empirical evidence to support the fact that reputation is the most important factor influencing people’s college and class choices.

Without a strong reputation, colleges are unable to attract the resources necessary to build an effective educational environment. Institutional reputation attracts everything from the best professors and research talent to philanthropic donations and star students. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team, and in education, that means investing in the best academic brand,” writes Joseph Torrillo, vice president of Reputation Management.

As employees, we cannot sit back and passively place our hope in the power of the marketing department alone to define and manage our institutions’ reputations. Why? Because no amount of marketing can trump a personal experience with a brand.

I love this definition: Brand equity “is the intangible asset of added value or goodwill that results from the favorable image, impressions of differentiation, and/or the strength of consumer attachment to a company name,” writes Michael Belch and George Belch in their book,  Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective. (if this were a paper, the attribution would read, (Belch and Belch p. 56) …go ahead, makes me giggle a little, too.)

When a student has a good experience with a GCC employee, a curious thing happens: The student does not say, “I love that GCC employee named Lupe.” No, the student says, “I love GCC.” A single good experience with a single employee packs a powerful boost to GCC’s overall reputation. Suddenly someone is singing praises of GCC to their friends, family, and strangers on social media.

However, experience is a double edged sword. When a student has a bad experience with a GCC employee, it’s not the employee they heap coals upon, it’s the overall institution.

Last week you spent some time writing a few statements that speak to your personal humanity.

This week your task is to… take a deep breath… list your achievements.The purpose of this task is to make public any information that enables students to make an informed decision to choose you.

“If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted.” – Francis Bacon

The simple act of listing your areas of expertise and accomplishments in your Employee Biography page serves to significantly elevate GCC’s reputation on a local, national, and international scale.

It’s not bragging.  You ARE the secret sauce in GCC’s reputation! You have a history of proud moments, achievements and accomplishments that needs to come up in a google search.

A bio page with secret sauce includes naming your areas of expertise, credentials, a personal quote, and some information that reveals your humanity and proudest moments.

Here is an example:

Name: John Doe
Credentials: AAS Computer Science; M.A.Ed, Ph.D.
Areas of Expertise: Curriculum design; Community Partnerships

Personal Quote:  “I got my Doctorate at Yale University, but I identify more with the students who come to GCC.”

Bio: Four generations of my family have come to GCC to get their degree and come back to teach or to serve here. Ask me why we love GCC and I’ll tell you – everywhere you look are caring, compassionate, and smart people who want to help you succeed.
I am proud to be a part of GCC’s legacy of helping the next generation move forward in acquiring the education and skills that will bring them closer to their dream job.
My part in helping students involves…
My proudest moments are…
My contributions have… [been recognized, rcvd awards, resulted from specialized training, earned degrees, been published, been in the news, led to grant funded…]
I don’t believe my degrees define me – I only earned my Doctoral degree to be a better teacher, so I tell my students to call me Mr. Doe. I look forward to the start of each semester. Meeting the next generation of students is like unwrapping a present: What wondrous potential lies inside!”

Teach others how and what to think about you, and it forms a reputation in their minds for GCC as well. Take this time detail what you offer – leave no doubt in the reader’s mind that not only are you are a devoted educator, but you are a nice person to boot.

Reputation wields compelling, persuasive, influential power.

Your homework this week: Begin listing the ingredients that make up your particular secret sauce. These may include your personal areas of expertise and scope of services, awards, thesis topic/description, published works, patents, specialized training, published news about you, your motivation, what inspires you, the thing(s) you love most about what you do, and…

…(at least) one thing you want to be remembered for should you drop dead tomorrow. 

It’s Presidents’ Day weekend, established in 1885 to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln whose reputations for honesty and integrity still inspire us today.

This weekend, carve out some time to work on defining YOUR enduring reputation. Then come back next week for Step 4: A Picture is Worth a 1000 Likes

 

Week 2: The “One Thing” and its Powerful Sway

Did you complete your Week 1 homework assignment? If not, take a moment to search for your name on gccaz.edu, click on your employee bio page, and make a note of any information that uniquely reflects your own personal humanity.

When it comes to class enrollment, do you leave it up to chance? You have a lot to offer, and are a passionate educator. But students don’t know this about you ahead of time. What if you could influence students before you even meet them?

Studies show that when it comes to choice, a good reputation is king. To influence a student’s choice in which class (or college) they enroll, we must increase perceived reputation. Reputation is a fragile thing, and a student’s initial experience plays a critical role in the decision-making process.

This brings us to the old adage, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.” A first impression is critical to reputation, and Step Two is all about taking control of the timing of that first good impression.

Timing, they say, is everything.

So, the “one thing” you can do to influence the student decision-making process, raise enrollment, and raise GCC’s reputation in an increasingly crowded marketplace is to teach others what to think about you before you even meet.

I am going to show you how to not just make a good first impression, but a viscerally good first impression, using your employee bio page. During the decision making process, students check out who is teaching a class – why? They are looking for clues  for who to choose. The purpose of this blog series is for you learn how to make it easy for student to choose you, and thereby GCC. When you are done with your bio page, students who view it will “get” you. I have done random checks of comparable faculty at NAU, ASU, UofA and GCC. The sad fact is that very few instructors have posted any information on their bio page beyond name, email, and office hours.

As a result, students turn to sites such as RateMyProfessors.com to help them make a decision. The problem with these ratings sites is that other people are defining your reputation for you – and influencing reader choice. Remember, reputation is a fragile thing.

Consider the following:

“I grew up in a poor family, and I identify with the struggles some of my students have.” – Dr. Carlos Nunez

When I first read that quote, a picture of who this man is immediately formed in my mind: Genuine. Sincere. Empathetic. Successful. When I met Dr. Nunez, I quickly became aware that he was all this and more. He was courageous in and out of the classroom, and we all miss him, bless his soul.

Quotes – we love them. We share them, post them, tattoo them, frame them and hang them on our walls. We love quotes because quotes resonate with something deep inside of us. Quotes inspire us. Quotes give us hope. Quotes make us laugh at ourselves and life. Quotes make us cry with empathy. Quotes rally us together.

But the greatest power of a quote is that it connects us to each other’s humanity.

Your homework is to write a compelling introductory statement that reflects on a particular aspect of your personal journey through college. Here are a few examples to get your juices going:

  • “Juggling work, family, and college was hard, but I wanted a better life.” (inspires resilience).
  • “The first time I looked through a microscope I saw my future.” – (conveys vision)
  • “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. College helped me find my passion.” – (inspires hope)

Experiment writing statements that uniquely reflect your own personal humanity.

“It’s not up to chance, it’s up to you.” ― Rob Liano, Author and Business Speaker

Come back for Week 3, Step 3: The “One Thing” and It’s Not Bragging.

 

 

AHHHHH, Perfection!

I learned to use perfection as a way to survive life.  Perfection is exhausting.  Perfection is impossible.  Perfection leads to denial, shock and disbelief.  Perfection limits success.  Perfection was how I was rewarded, noticed, and regarded.  Perfection limited my ability to successfully navigate difficult situations.  Using perfection to navigate difficult situations increased my stress level, reduced my self-worth and confidence, and interfered with relationships.

Ahhh, connection!  Connection acknowledges our frailty, vulnerability, and humanness.  When I allowed myself to connect during difficult situations, I gained strength, knowledge, and support.  Connecting is scary.  Connecting means I may be rejected.  Connecting means I have limitations.  Sometimes I didn’t know how to connect.  I didn’t know what to say, how to act, or how to fulfill expectations.  Connection meant I wasn’t alone.  Connecting is healthy and helpful.

The dilemma of perfection and connection happens on a daily basis in Testing.  It is easy to celebrate success.  It is easy to praise perfection.  It can be hard to connect through disappointments.  Connecting in the imperfect moments builds strength.  Connecting becomes difficult because we may be unsure of how to connect, the other person may reject attempts to connect, or we see our pain, fear, and insecurities in others.

Connecting, whether with ourselves or with another, is human.  I feel successful when I have connected with at least one person.  Connecting is easier when I build rapport, express empathy, and know my limits.

Rapport becomes crucial because it leads to trust, respect, and confidence.  In Testing we must establish rapport quickly.  This video describes strategies we use to connect with students.  Students who are anxious, disappointed, elated, satisfied, and content.

We compliment rapport with empathy.  In most cases, we are not taking the tests.  So we are not always feeling what the student feels.  We can acknowledge, accept, and validate the student’s feeling(s).  It is in these moments we connect through differences.

I am human too.  I have limits and needs.  I connect better when I am energized, refreshed, and focused.  Sometimes, difficult situations means I have to reflect.  I need to understand the impact on me.  Once I know the impact, I can take steps to recover, recharge, and rejuvenate.  As a Testing team we are working on creating this space in our department.  When the demand is high, it is easy to neglect ourselves and serve others.  It is in these precise moments, when we need to take time for us.

 

When you wish upon a star

From a young age I was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  As with most, my answer changed regularly.  Then high school came.  At this point, I had to decide upon a dream.  Then college started, I was encouraged, maybe even expected, to make my dream a reality.  At this point, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor.  I grew up in a small town.  I loved school.  I was a certified nursing assistant in our small rural hospital.  I started college by majoring in psychology with the intent to apply to medical school.

Then life happened. College started.  I joined clubs, continued working to finance my degree, made friends, and my interests changed.  I stuck with my dream of going to medical school through the end of my sophomore year.  This is when I learned I could work in a college for the rest of my life.  Somehow this dream took priority over my dream of being a doctor.  Some may say I gave up on my dream.  Others know dreams change as we change.  So did I give up?  Did I find a new dream?  I’m still not sure.

In America we grow up being told we can be anything we want to be.  In reality, our choices lead us closer or farther away from our dreams.  We make choices based upon what is important to us.  Some days I know I choose work over learning sciences.  Other days I think I did not have this choice.  If I gave up on work, I would have been homeless.  I, like so many college students, financed my own college education.  Thankfully I had a scholarship to cover tuition.  I needed money for housing, food, and books.  Some may ask, “well why didn’t you just borrow money?”  I can honestly say that I thought I would need to wait to borrow money once I got to medical school.  So I didn’t want to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a high level of debt.  So my dream changed.

Looking back, I know that my story is not much different from others.  We can dream a good dream.  We are told to dream big.  Dreams provide hope and inspiration.  When we reach our dreams we develop a sense of satisfaction, confidence, and pride.  Letting go of unattainable dreams is hard.  It is especially hard when we are raised to believe anything is possible.  The reality is that each dream comes with choices.  Sometimes we do not realize the sacrifices that we will have to make along the way for our dreams to come true.  I’m incredibly grateful for the mentor who allowed my dream to change with grace.  When we change dreams it shows strength and courage, not failure.  I’m so thankful that I did not have a mentor questioning my capacity to become a doctor.  Rather I had a mentor that recognized my interests changed.  Today I’m grateful that I made this change.  Now I get to see students live their dreams and change their dreams.  I hear stories about persistence, success, and change.

So far, I have talked about big dreams.  Dreams, wishes, and goals can also be small.  I see this regularly in Testing.  We have students who are coming in for the third time to get reading exemption or the student trying to qualify for the presidential scholarship or a student wants to reduce the number of college-prep classes they need to take.  It is a good day when we get to celebrate these successes.  These little dreams help them move closer to achieving the big dream.  In this moment, we get to be a part of the journey.  It is through my story of the big dream that I understand the value and importance of little dreams.  I need several little dreams to happen for me to reach my big goal.

 

 

 

Catch ’em Being Good

Thank you, Louise So. Reading your post, DON’T FORGET THE GOOD ONES inspired me to write about intrinsic motivation. As an elementary school teacher, I made an effort to encourage intrinsic motivation in addition to using extrinsic rewards such as handing out stickers and saying “good job.”

I learned that if I just narrated the behavior of a student, I didn’t need to compliment or correct the student. Simply describing the scene allowed the individual to create their own intrinsic compliment or correction. For instance, if a student was totally on task and following instructions, I would announce to the class, “Jennifer wrote her name and the date on her paper and she’s highlighting the nouns and underlining our sight words.” Now, Jennifer can create her own intrinsic reward in her mind and the rest of the class is reminded of the expectation.

I think the narration technique builds intrinsic motivation. Using explicit and relevant details sends the message that I noticed Jennifer’s efforts. Recently, while grocery shopping, I noticed how nice the produce section looked. I told the produce employee, “Your produce section looks beautiful. Every item is in perfect rows.” I think he was stunned by my observation.

I imagine that’s what most of us want – to know that once in awhile someone notices our hard work, not just our shortcomings.  As adults, we don’t need stickers on a chart, but isn’t it nice when someone notices our everyday efforts? Just like the swimmers in Louise’s post, recognition of our efforts encourages us to do even better.

 

 

Success or Failure?

“Did I pass?”, asks the student.

Testing employee responds, “Placement exams are not pass fail. Placement tests assist the college in making sure you are placed into the appropriate class. It looks like you placed into MAT 09X, ENG 101, and are reading exempt.”

“Can I take the test again?”

“Yes, students must wait 24 hours between the 1st and 2nd attempt and 3 months before taking the test a third time.”

“What can I do to improve my scores?”

“We have practice questions, an in-person test prep workshop, and a phone app that can help bring forward prior knowledge”

This is a common conversation that Testing Services employees have with students completing placement exams. We have the difficult job of being realistic & responsive, providing hope, and encouraging students to enroll in classes. In this moment a person is more than the results and course placement. In these moments students may be questioning their ability to succeed, wondering why they have so many college prep classes to take, or feeling defeated and rejected.

In this moment, Testing Services is more than just administering a test. We are human. We feel what the student feels. We wish the student met their goal. We want to see the student succeed. We want the student to know that GCC is here for them. We want to see the student come back for retesting, start classes, and persist. When we see a student struggle through a setback, it is a reminder that we are not defined by scores and numbers.

In these moments, we let the student know that we see and hear them. We let the student know there is hope. We manage our fears so they do not become the students. We stand strong, tall, and confidently. By doing this we respond to a challenge by providing support. We embrace our humanity.

Placement testing tells us what we know and what we don’t know. It helps students learn where to begin their college journey. Testing evokes feelings. Placement Testing is more than greeting a student, telling them where to place their belongings, selecting a computer or desk, setting up the exam, and printing results. Testing is a human experience.

 

 

Challenge + Support = Success

Someone once told me that you learn the most from your mistakes. Another wise person encouraged me to find my green lights. A third mentor brought these two words of wisdom together when she shared her expectation that we need to provide adequate support in challenging situations. Throughout my life, I will never forget friends, colleagues, supervisors, family, and faculty who help me live through and become stronger during emotional, financial, interpersonal, and intellectual difficulties.

The way support was offered varied based upon the people, my need, and our relationship. Sometimes it was a brief smile from a stranger when I was walking across campus. Other times, people supported me by telling what I needed to hear but didn’t necessarily want to hear in a kind and gentle way. Still others, helped me embrace my feelings which seemed to be getting the best of me. Sometimes it was about listening. Other times it was about solving problems or figuring out action steps. Regardless of what the person provided, I responded best when I knew why the person was responding to me in a particular way.

At the time I never really thought about how people decided to provide support. I have come to realize there are two different ways, the golden or platinum rule, to respond to others. From a very young age I was taught to treat others how I would want to be treated (the golden rule). This works best when someone is like me. Throughout life, there have been times when I thought I was supporting when I wasn’t. It was through these times I learned it is not about how I want to be treated, rather it is how others want to be treated (the platinum rule).

Looking back, I find myself relying upon the golden rule when I do not know the other person well. In these cases, it is easy to respond based upon how I would want to be helped. Sometimes it is scary to ask what another person needs. At times I have been uncertain on how to ask what a person needs. Sometimes I avoid asking about a need because I’m not sure I can respond. Still other times, I’m afraid to ask because I might identify the wrong need. So the golden rule is safer and works.

The platinum rule – while good in concept – requires connection, risk, trust, and sometimes getting it wrong. The platinum rule takes valuable time. With the platinum rule, I need to communicate my needs to others. I need to give others the space and time to share their needs. There will be times when I ask for something I cannot receive. There will come a time when I am asked for something I cannot do. In these cases, I will learn what is reasonable or doable. I will learn what I must do and how others help. When I am able to practice the platinum rule, I find that connection occurs, service improves, and relationships strengthen.

What will it be for you today? Gold or platinum? Testing Services recently adopted the platinum rule for our team. This means we have spent time defining workplace expectations, discussing individual & group needs and learning about the impact of the “office” on the team. It has taken time. It is an ever-evolving practice and conversation. Just when we think we know everything; new things come up. We are stronger because of the conversations, experience, and memories. We made the change because it provides strength in time of stress or challenge. When we work together, the load lightens.

 

Picking the best path

As I sit here writing, I’m remembering a time when I had to make a decision without fully understanding my choices.  I remember feeling anxious and unsure of how it would turn out.  I recall trusting others with valuable information to help me process the decision and learn about my options.  In some cases, it was empowering when I was able to make a positive decision about my path with the help others.  Even with all the information and best support, sometimes I still made a bad choice for myself.

Looking back, I wonder how others decided if I should be given the chance to make the decision or if they should make the decision for me.  It would be my hope that others allowed me to make a choice when they felt I would be empowered and successful.  I hope that when it has been noticed that multiple individuals struggle with the same choice I was offered, the expert would make the choice for us.  Now that I think about it, it must be hard for experts to know when to make the choices for others or give the choice to me.  Offering too much choice too soon is harmful.  Limiting choice unnecessarily is hurtful.  So how do we decide?

In my experience, my capacity to make an informed choice depends on the complexity of the options, consequences of the decision, and my confidence in the expert.  If the options are complex, the consequences are significant, and I trust the expert more than myself, I would want to the decision to be made for me.  If the expert makes the options easy and the consequences are low, it seems like giving me the choice would be empowering.  As with everything, what may be best for me may not best for everyone.  I can see how it would be hard for an expert to evaluate in the moment if a choice should be given to or made for me.

Every day in the GCC Testing Center, we are balancing the right for individuals to choose how to complete their placement exams.  Students have choice on whether to take all exams at once or split up the Reading, Writing, and Math placement exams up into different testing sessions.  Students have the choice on the order they take the exams.  These choices may influence the outcome.  It is difficult to blame these choices on the course placement outcome.

In the past, we gave students a direct choice on which of the 3 math placement exams to take.  We found that students struggled understanding the options for the math exam.  We knew about the struggle because we frequently had to repeat the question in different ways, explain our terminology, and still received looks of confusion and bewilderment.  So now we make the choice for students (everyone starts with the moderately difficult exam and goes up or down based upon their answers). We made this change to reduce the possibility that the selected exam artificially lowered course placement for a student.  We knew this change may increase the testing time for students who needed to take 2 exams.  We decided the increase in testing time was worth it because the results would lead to more accurate course placement.  Accurate course placement is the most important goal when we test incoming students.

 

SciTech Night of Student Success

Friday night was a night filled with stars, meteorites, comets…chocolate, ramps, burning gumming bears, fossilized arthropods, and so much more. Friday night was the third annual SciTech Festival Event held at GCC North. I had the distinct pleasure of officially starting the event by welcoming everyone…of course, I was so excited I forgot to introduce myself, but I was not the star of the show…our students and faculty are the real stars.

We are so fortunate to have such amazingly dedicated faculty, committed to their discipline and committed to our students. The level of expertise displayed by our students is a direct result of the care and commitment, and their hard work, that our faculty have shown to these students.

My two daughters, ages 10 and 12, gave up their gymnastics class so they could be part of this event, they loved it so much from last year! We all learned so much and I finally have a point of reference regarding light years. As we were looking at a double cluster of stars through one of our high-powered telescopes, Caushlin, the young student who wants to be an Astrophysicists, explained that it was 7500 light years away….”Ok, what exactly does that mean?”, I asked her. “We are looking in the past…7500 years in the past.”, she patiently explains….What? Then she explains that it takes 7500 years for light from those stars to reach our eyes so we are actually looking at the double cluster of stars as they were 7500 years ago…are they even still there? Next things I know, there are two other brainiacs with us, explaining to the uninformed Vice President, the obvious facts about Astronomy. A special thanks to Curtis and Angel for your patience and for not laughing in my face.

Watching our faculty in action takes my breath away. Learning the chemistry of how chocolate is made, as explained by Dr. Christina Clark, was interesting and so well explained that even a non-chemist like myself could understand it…and the chocolate was delicious. Watching the theatrics of Dr. Joe Springer as he blew up balloons and showed florescent chemicals made it clear why our students enjoy his classes. Listening to the excitement in Dr. Sally Watt’s voice as she explained the stars to community members was inspiring.

I have always thought that being an excellent teacher was part art and part science; the art of performing and engaging your audience to learn the science of our disciplines. Watching our faculty and students in action on Friday night, proved to me, that this belief still rings true.

 

Student Success and Financial Aid – Week #2

Count yourself lucky if you didn’t have to rely on Federal Financial Aid for your college education.  At GCC, approximately 60% of our students must battle this maze every year.  In my time as the Vice President of Student Affairs, I have heard many stories from students, learned to understand the secret language of federal financial aid, and offer suggestions on ways to improve our service to students.  For example, take the U.S. born student whose parents were undocumented immigrants from Mexico.  When our student was 13, the parents were deported back to Mexico, leaving our student to fend for himself. Fortunately, he had an older sister who could help but nothing can replace the care and guidance of parents.  I learned there is help for exactly this situation, it’s called a Dependency Override, and while complicated, it allowed the student access to federal financial aid.

Every semester, a process called Enrollment Cancellation begins 35 days before the start of the semester.  This is a District-wide process that drops students from their classes for non-payment.  It has a complicated long story, but suffice it to say, there is a lot of angst surrounding this process.

Last summer, GCC was preparing to drop approximately 7000 students for non-payment.  Luckily, we were able to push robocalls to these students, encouraging them to sign up for a payment plan.  We also learned that approximately 3500 students had a federal financial aid application on file but had not completed the steps for awarding.  We saw this as a call to action, an opportunity to reach out to these students and to try to push them through the maze of financial aid.  We coined the phrase “Financial Aid Friday” and on a hot Friday in July, we were able to reach over 300 students.  GCC gained a lot of attention from District Office that day and a representative was sent over to witness and participate in our big event.  As a result of our focus on student success and financial aid, the messaging that students received was streamlined and made easier to understand.

So, what has GCC done now that we understand the impact of the federal financial process on our students and their success?  We have streamlined the GCC Financial Aid department and have hired four part-time staff to focus solely and completely on getting students through the maze we call federal financial aid. We are also planning additional Financial Aid Fridays throughout the summer.  The biggest take away for me has been in seeing the positive impact of one-on-one attention to our students.  It is time consuming and costly but ultimately, worth the price if we can help one more student through the maze.