Tag Archives: student success

Aspen Road Trip to Broward College

Hello again! I am late posting my second college on the Aspen Top Ten Finalists, but better late than never. I am learning a lot in the short bits and pieces of time I am carving out to finish my posts.

This post is about Broward College (BC) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Part of the Florida College System, it was established in 1959 and is now a state college offering selected four-year bachelor’s degree programs as well as numerous certificates and associate’s degrees.

  • 52% PT/48% FT
  • 34% Hispanic/33% African American
  • Median age 21
  • 47% First Generation
  • 63,000 student in the District – 13 locations colleges/centers
  • $82 In State Tuition per Credit Hour with fees $118 (online $123)
  • Little to no textbook costs

This year Broward College was named as a top ten Aspen Finalist for the third time. That’s epic.

Broward College serves 63,000 students from more than 184 countries with a strong culture of collaboration and commitment to continuous improvement. The College ensures that students are on the right track to graduation and have what’s needed to transfer to a four-year university by creating clear, career-oriented pathways and mandatory academic advising when students reach certain credit-accumulation milestones.

Joshua Wyner, who is also the author of “What Excellent Community Colleges Do,” commented on the College’s clear, career-oriented pathways and excellent student transfer success as well. “Broward College excels at creating clear pathways for students to complete their associate’s degrees and then transfer to a four-year college and get a bachelor’s degree. Transfer students at Broward are about 50 percent more successful than at the average community college. This success is even more amazing given its diverse student population. Broward College is busting a myth by proving that all students can succeed at high levels.”

http://www.broward.edu/news/Pages/Broward-College-Named-Among-Top-Ten-Finalists-for-2019-Aspen-Prize.aspx

You may imagine my surprise when at first look, I wasn’t impressed with what I was finding online, especially the lack of information about Advising. Thanks to spring break and the extra week, I’ve been able to dig deeper and found some wonderful things to share with you.

I wish I had time to write more, but I don’t so I’ll keep it simple. The top three good things about Broward College I learned and believe are what contribute to their success are leadership, culture, and customer service.

A History of Experienced Leadership

Seriously, who gets these kind of experienced, super-qualified college presidents?

• From 1987 – 2004, College President, Dr. Will Holcombe, set a vision and worked to connect with the local community and workforce by developing community partnerships.  Holcombe was a protégée of Dr. James L. Wattenbarger, the architect of Florida’s community college system. He left Broward to become Chancellor of the Florida College System.
• An expert in strategic planning and former President of Ventura College, Dr. Larry Calderon was appointed President in 2004.
• In July 2007, the Chancellor of the Florida College System, J. David Armstrong, Jr., somehow left his position and stepped down to take the reins at Broward College until December 2017. I think Armstrong is the key leader who shaped Broward’s success.

With a strong commitment to the community, a business owner’s understanding of the evolving workforce landscape and the changing role of higher education, President Armstrong has led a redesign of the College to focus on new programs that better address skills gaps for students and employers. Several workforce bachelor’s degrees, for example, have been added in the fields of information technology, nursing, supply chain management, education, and aerospace science.

In a challenging financial environment where colleges face state budget reductions, President Armstrong managed to balance the budget while prioritizing initiatives for student success. This includes spearheading programs that focus on the entire student experience from prospects to post-graduation. While most colleges and universities implemented significant cost increases to students, Broward College under his leadership increased tuition only once in the last five years, maintaining an affordable value and increasing number of programs with no textbook costs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._David_Armstrong_Jr.

A Powerful Culture

Broward celebrates students and beyond. Faculty play an important role and the institution is committed to small classes to give each student more individual attention. The student-faculty ratio at Broward College is 25:1, and the school has 35.3 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. 100% of students were identified with a Pathway and assigned to an academic advisor.

A Place for Everyone

Broward College is committed to fostering a learning-centered community that celebrates diversity and inclusion by empowering and engaging students, faculty and staff.

Student Success is Our Passion

Our mission at Broward College is Transforming students’ lives and enriching our diverse community through academic excellence, innovation, and meaningful career opportunities.

We approach every day and every student with this in mind. Whether you’re new to college, a lifelong learner or somewhere in between, we are committed to providing the highest quality education that’s affordable and accessible coupled with the support you need to succeed.

http://www.broward.edu/discover/Pages/default.aspx

One of the pieces of the Guided Pathways model they have down is the link to careers. Check this out!

Broward College Graduates Highest Earners in the State

According to the Florida Department of Education’s recent economic study, Broward College graduates not only meet the demands of the job market, but also make more money their first year of employment, than those completing the same degrees at other schools. The report, which is a result of the partnership between the State of Florida and College Measures, documents the variations in median first-year wages of graduates from two-year and four-year higher education institutions.

The report, which is broken down by specific degree program, documents Broward College associate degree holders as making more money than the statewide averages. The median first-year earnings of associate in arts (A.A.) graduates is $27,712, which is higher than the statewide average of $26,504. For associate in science degrees (A.S.), 84 percent of Broward College graduates are employed and rank number one in income, making $49,970, which is considerably more than the statewide average of $45,060. Associate in applied science (AAS) degree holders, especially those with an A.A.S. in Business Administration, earned approximately $10,000 more than graduates of other colleges.

http://www.broward.edu/news/Pages/BrowardCollegeGraduatesHighestEarnersintheState.aspx

Old-fashioned Customer Service

As it turns out, I am referring a student to Broward College after learning about their online degrees. I’ve called several times in the past week. The service is genuine and has exceeded anything I’ve ever experienced at any institution of higher education! No kidding! It’s great.

At Broward College, each employee is primarily focused on students’ success and committed to the college’s strategic imperative of Transforming Students’ Lives by Connecting, Challenging, Completing.

Broward College has in place a strategic plan that guides every action of the institution, allowing us all to connect with students, challenge them to succeed and help students complete their academic goals.

All of these elements tie into a motto that has been used at the
college for many years — Finish What You Start.

http://www.broward.edu/news/Pages/Transforming-Lives.aspx

In case you want to know more, here are some videos and links to keep learning!

Strategic Plan

http://www.broward.edu/leadership/strategicplan/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-xpm-2012-09-14-fl-editorial-bcc-dl-20120914-story.html

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVFPhl_uuxVuh3Vesi7ZwOA

 

WEEK 6: The “One Thing” and The Final Step

Welcome back to the final week of the” One Thing” you can do to raise enrollment, a six week “how-to” series.

The NUMBER ONE REASON employees cite for NOT completing their employee bio page:

Now you know!
Your employee Bio Page is 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.

If you’ve been following along, you know by now that completing your employee bio page is a seemingly SMALL thing that pacts a powerful, influential punch.

But if you are just joining us, follow these links to catch up on this data-driven strategy:

Week 1: What’s on your GCC bio page right now?
Week 2: Quotes – their power to connect.
Week 3: How to get a rep.
Week 4: Your face.
Week 5: The “One Thing” Before and After

Here we go – Week 6 – the final step: today you find out how to copy and paste your story into a simple Employee Biography online form, and click “submit”.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • GCC email address
  • Credentials (such as MS, Ph.D.)
  • Biography (Hint: Review Weeks 2, 3 and 5, and be relatable, not stiff)
  • Areas of Expertise (Special knowledge or field of study)
  • Office Hours
  • Headshot (This is a photo of your face. It should be cropped to a perfect square. You will click to upload a jpg, which will be resized to 280×280 pixels. See Week 4 for photo tips)
  • Personal Website URL (This is a separate step: To include a link to your work-related Website, login to your Maricopa profile using the Manage My Account tool, and add the url there. It may take up to a week for the link to appear on your Employee Bio page, depending on how often the Web Team refreshes the Website.)

Ready? Use this form to update your bio page.  (The link to this form is listed here on the GCC website.)

That’s it! 

For those itching to know the broader impacts, read these final bits:

Dear Faculty, you, perhaps more than anyone else, are uniquely empowered to factually communicate GCC’s reputation by explicitly stating your credentials and experience, why you continue to choose to teach at GCC, your areas of passion, and your teaching methods. You have been empowered to give the community concrete reasons to choose you, and GCC, over every other institution. The broader impacts of doing this one thing includes reputation, enrollment, media attention, and funding.

College Reputation
Your employee bio page impacts the reputation of the college. Faculty completing their Employee Biography pages serves to significantly elevate GCC’s reputation and raise its credibility on a local, national and international scale. We need to tout the talent and body of experts who teach at GCC. It hinders efforts to fill classes when faculty are too humble to talk about their personal contributions and proudest moments.

Student Enrollment
Your employee bio page impacts enrollment. When comparing colleges, student not only look at cost, location and facilities, but they also compare faculty between colleges. “Who will be teaching me? What are their qualifications? Will I like them?” Students want to pick the “right” instructor and are looking for a reason to choose you. Your employee bio page empowers you to teach students how to think about you. Be relatable.

Media Attention
Your employee bio page impacts media attention. The enormity of all faculty specifying their “areas of expertise,” on their employee bio page cannot be emphasized enough. Members of the Media are using google to find experts to weigh in on current events and issues. For example, a USA Today reporter used a google search to find an expert on “Living Libraries,” and GCC popped up in the top of the search results. “Everybody has a fascinating story, all of us,” said GCC faculty member Heather Merrill in a USA Today article on the Human Library. “Our students are craving this, and they’re craving help having these conversations.”

Funding Awards
Your employee bio page impacts the GRANT AWARD decision-making process. It is common for REVIEWERS to search the web for insight into the applicant’s reputation. When a GCC Faculty member applies for grant funding, they are competing against other institutions to win that award. Faculty bio pages provide an opportunity to showcase your integrity and past performance, both of which work to influence the REVIEWER COMMITTEE’s decision to award a grant.

Small things make a big difference. Tell your story in your employee bio page.

 

Pride and Prejudice

After last week’s feel good story, this week is going to focus on the other side of the emotional coin: struggles and frustrations.

As an educator, there is a particular situation which can be extremely difficult and painful to deal with. That is entitlement.

Online course, end of the semester, grades due in 48 hours, inbox flooded with excuses ranging from computer malfunctions to ill pets, and in the digital pile of alibis one has several attachments. Teeth grind, palms clench, eyes close as the message opens:

“I was sick so was not able to hand in the last three essays, I have now completed them. Please remove the 0’s and update my grade. I need to pass this class to graduate.”

There are only a few options available in terms of response, and though limited, the repercussions are numerous.

If blessed with a deity-like ability to forgive, grade the papers, update the scores, and accept that by doing so, both syllabus policy and self respect are thrown out the window.

OR

Stand firm, say no, and accept that by doing so, both inbox and patience will be pushed to their limit by messages of vitriol and accusation.

As an educator, the reality is there is only one choice that maintains the integrity that is expected of the position.

Say no.

By doing so it will feel like the other tenets of education (kindness, understanding, and a desire to see every student succeed) are forced to the side like sediment from a river.

I promise they are not.

In education, scenarios like this will arise. They will be difficult, and that gnawing guilt those hate-filled messages leave is just a shadow on a wall, a fictional monster created by the fingers of a student who just learned some of the most important lessons of life.

Anything worthwhile must be earned, not given.

To be successful requires personal responsibility.

The earlier these lessons are taught, the easier they are to absorb. Have faith that once learned, the inevitable outcome is a wiser, better individual. That is what education is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wore compression socks to work today

My non-teaching job forces me out of bed at 4:30am to work stock crew at a retail store and requires me to be on my feet for long periods of time. In an effort to combat the leg fatigue and edema, I broke down and purchased compression socks—and not the really cool kind that lifters and runners and crossfitters wear. The ugly kind…the ones that are purely functional and “flesh”-toned, with subtle hints of jaundice.

They are glorious.

I’m pretty sure they solidify my status as “old,” and while I may be a few years shy of my AARP card, they are a reminder of the ever-growing age gap between me and my students. Every year, I get older, but my students stay roughly the same age. When I first started teaching at community colleges, I was 29, just 11 years older than my youngest students. Finding course content that connected with them was easy, mostly because they had experienced the same significant cultural moments that I had. I could pepper a class discussion with references to the O.J. Simpson trial or Brandi Chastain’s game-winning kick and subsequent disrobing; and my students responded with knowing head nods.

AP Photo/The San Francisco Examiner, Lacy Atkins, File

That isn’t the case today. I’m 15 years older; they’re still roughly 18-25.

Earlier this week when a class discussion on precise word choices afforded me the opportunity to quote Inigo Montoya, I suggested that it’s important to choose words wisely to avoid comments on their paper like “you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” My students didn’t laugh. Instead, they just stared at me…blankly. Even when I humbly offered, “The Princess Bride?…anyone? No? Just me?”…nothing. And in that moment, I realized that another one of my “go-to” references needed to be updated.

Giphy

Every semester, I’m faced with the reality that connecting with my students is much harder than it used to be. I am growing increasingly more aware of the fact that my students aren’t knowledgeable of the same events I am, nor do they relate to the world the same way I do.  As educators, we talk a lot about the importance of student engagement and its direct correlation to student success and retention, and so every semester, in an effort to close the growing age gap, I actively seek out new supplemental content that will help them make connections between their reality and the skills we ask them to master. Surprisingly, a majority of this new content comes from former students.

When a class asks me if I have heard about a recent event or seen a viral video or a social media post or a T.V. show, I carve out time to look it up. At worst, I find it obtuse or offensive; but even then, I am learning more about the interests of this generation of students, and that knowledge helps me connect to them in other ways. More often than not, though, it is something I can use during a future class discussion, and in those moments, they teach me, helping me understand their world—and mine—a little bit better.

I hope that I never lose the ability to make those connections with my students, that I never get to the place where my class never changes and I have become Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher Professor Binns, droning on incessantly and completely oblivious to my classroom of sleeping students. I hope that I never run out of new material…but if I do, I can always fall back on a cute kitten .gif. Everyone loves a cute kitten .gif.  

Giphy
 

Making an Entrance

In my heart of hearts, I genuinely want those around me to succeed, and I take pleasure in watching them do well as they develop. I’d rather help people work out their problems than tell them what they need to do. I don’t consider any of those things character faults, but very early in my teaching experience I learned that certain actions can be confused with weakness. Weakness in the classroom leads to problems that are not easy to correct.

To say I was nervous on my first day in the classroom would be an understatement. I made the mistake of not wearing an undershirt, and my  light blue dress shirt was a drenched dark mess by the end of the 45-minute period. I imagine I seemed as ridiculous as Sir James Martin from Love & Friendship:

That lack of self-confidence and abundance of nerves  lead to problems throughout the rest of the semester. I found out very quickly that if a classroom doesn’t respect you as a person, they also will not respect your lectures, your grading, or your discipline.

That was a difficult semester, but as time went on I gained confidence and my nerves subsided. This lead to better relationships with my students and more success in the classroom. Year to year things improved incrementally. Eventually though, something happened.

Image of Luke from Star Wars about Overconfidence.
Ah George Lucas, your horrible dialogue rings true.

With my nerves fully at bay, my inner-nice guy came out again. With it, the entire catalog of issues I had in my early years started to manifest themselves again. Why?  Because while my students may have liked me, they did not respect me.

So here we are at the heart of the lesson folks: Respect is key. Respect should always be in the back of your mind when standing behind that desk. Whether it was nerves or being “Mr. Nice Guy”, I lost the respect of my students, and with it, full control of my classroom.

It wasn’t easy, and I still make mistakes, but I have learned to balance my kind demeanor with the responsibilities of being an educator. I found that I can still joke, have fun, and be myself, as long as students know I am serious about my job.

The most effective method I have found to encourage a healthy classroom dynamic is to start off strong. I like to make my first week of class filled to the brim with activity. I like to give students things to do, show them the gamut of what is to come: a journal, a discussion, a short essay, a quiz, and a reading. I do it all, because it lets students know that the primary goal of my course is for them to learn. If we end up having fun in the process, that is a bonus.

The classroom is a world with its own environment, dynamics, and life. It has the power to evolve and overtake you if you let it. Start off strong, confident, and focused, and that classroom will turn into an environment that encourages both learning and respect.

 

 

 

Humility + Assessment = Success

I have always been fascinated by assessment, unfortunately I know not everyone shares my feelings on the subject. I have had colleagues who consider it a dirty word. They dread the thought of it, and treat it as just another hoop to jump through when the time comes to participate.

A pre-test here.

A post-test there.

A journal reflection.

Or the ultimate avoidance, just saying a regular class assignment is, in fact, assessment.

Unfortunately, those who avoid confronting the challenges of assessments are not helping with the end goal, to improve student education through meaningful analysis and feedback.

The reason that some fear to participate in a group assessment and decide to take a solo route is that assessments are looked at as inconvenient or difficult; however, these approaches often overshadow efficient strategies for approaching this dilemma, strategies that which rely on one, simple trait: humility.

I love my standardized rubric for essays. It isn’t perfect, but it is consistent, and students appreciate that. The rubric is based off of one that is required to be used in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. That system consists of 16 colleges and every writing instructor uses the same rubric for their essays. I was lucky enough to see that rubric be initially implemented as well as its evolution over the last decade into its current form.

Now there was significant pushback when the rubric was first forced upon the faculty. Arguments ranged from “but I don’t grade essays with a rubric” to “my rubric is already better than this one”, but top to bottom it was adopted.

It is difficult to adjust teaching habits, but understand that a standardized rubric doesn’t change the way we teach, it simply unifies the way we grade. In that way, a standard rubric is even less intrusive than requiring a specific assignment for assessment.

So what is gained from using the same rubric for every essay?

Starting on the class level, it is easy to get a snapshot of student’s skills improving (or not improving) over a semester. It also allows the teacher to see if the class as a whole is struggling in a specific area (I’m looking at you point of view slips). This lets allows class needs to be addressed on a holistic level through lectures. I do this with my youtube series “English Power Lectures”, but setting aside 15 minutes when essays are handed back to address major problems does the trick as well.

When multiple faculty start to use the same rubric the assessment becomes that much more valuable. Now trends can be seen over a much larger group of students, it is also possible to see where one class struggles and another doesn’t. With this knowledge, teachers can share techniques for dealing with that particular issue. This is the beauty (and truly the purpose) of assessment. It serves as a common tool and focal point that can start an analysis, conversation, and implementation of course wide improvements.

Now implementing something district or even school wide is difficult, so start small. Talk to a group of fellow faculty (or adjunct faculty) and do your best to develop a rubric that works for multiple assignments or essays. Use that rubric in a course and compare notes. It won’t be perfect, but assessment can always be improved upon. It may be difficult to unify your grading techniques with others, but remember that teaching isn’t meant to be a solo endeavor. Instructors are stronger as a community, and students will benefit from that community. All it takes is a little bit of humility.

 

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.

 

Making the Most of the Last Five Minutes

We have all been there as a student….the class is close to over; we start gathering materials, opening and closing backpacks, planning our escape as quickly as possible to the door to either run to a next class or sprint to the car to beat traffic.  As an instructor though, these final minutes of class are extremely valuable and we need to think of creative, strategic ways to use that time wisely.

As I wrote in my initial “6×6” post, the first five minutes of class are critical to establishing the purpose and tone for the day.  Similarly, the final five minutes of class are equally important to assess learning and establish expectations for the next class meeting.  Specifically, I believe the final five minutes of class are perfect to administer some type of classroom assessment technique (CAT) to determine, in a low-stakes, low-stress manner, if students learned the content for the day.  A resource I have used and shared with others with much success is “Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Instructors” by Thomas Angelo and K. Patricia Cross.  This resource includes how-to advice regarding implementing classroom assessment techniques into instruction to determine how well students learned material for the day.  The beauty of CATs is 1) instructors receive immediate feedback regarding student learning and 2) instructors can modify instruction based on the results of the assessment to better help students learn.  Personally, I have a few favorites.  I use “The Minute Paper” at the end of class and ask students to respond to two questions: What was the most important thing you learned during this class? And What important question remains unanswered?  I also use concept maps frequently, where students draw or diagram the connections they make between a major concept and other concepts they have learned in the class or throughout the course.

Although I’m more of a dog-lover myself, CATs (in this sense) are something I enjoy and try to keep in my bag of teaching tool tricks as much as possible.  And, they really help to make the last five minutes of class more worthwhile and meaningful for students.

For more info about CATs, visit: http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/cats/

 

Student Success (from a Fiscal Perspective)

How many times a day do you see, hear, or think about the phrase “student success”? It is our primary goal, our focus, and the driving force behind everything we do. What about when your job duties (including the “other duties as assigned”) do not bring you in direct contact with students? Can you still contribute to student success? The answer is yes.

This is something I think about often because we are frequently asked to report on how we promote student success and I have a job that does not bring me in direct contact with students. However, after reading some of my fellow bloggers’ posts, I found that I am not alone in my assertion that yes I can contribute to student success.

I promote student success by helping faculty members navigate the myriad of forms, processes, and systems we have in the fiscal world. When faculty members are successful at the non-teaching part of their jobs, they are likely to translate that feeling into a happier and more successful learning environment. In “Sincere Thanks from an Adjunct” Chris Krause says, “The positive feelings and willingness to help I have experienced outside the classroom spills over into my classes as well. Students are the direct beneficiaries of this. I can be more available and am more willing to advocate for them when needed, because I am happy and comfortable in the environment” (Write 6X6 Blog).

I promote student success by participating in the One2One mentoring program. This program allows me to share with students strategies I have used to overcome obstacles in obtaining a college degree or finding my way around campus or dealing with the pressures of family, job and college all at the same time. It gives me an opportunity to listen and learn what that student needs to be successful and offer guidance and reassurance that their goals are attainable.  Ladonna Lewis, in “Coming Out of the Closet,” says “We all have closets that we can come out of with our students when appropriate” and “Maybe we can just listen to them sometimes, and try to connect them with resources. Sometimes for students, just seeing that someone like them can be a college professor, or administrator, or professional, can help them see themselves achieving their goals” (Write 6X6 Blog).

I promote student success by identifying myself as an employee of GCC. When I walk through the Enrollment Center or across campus students routinely stop me and ask directions, how to work the computers, or where to get help with… you name it.  Every day I come to work there is an opportunity for me to make a difference, taking the time to stop and answer their questions (or find someone who can) is a little thing that can make a big impact. In “Feeling Disgruntled?” Ingrid Austin says, “Just remember that we’re here to make a difference and that everything we do should be done with pride, joy, and self-satisfaction because what we do matters.  It matters to the students who are out there making an effort to better themselves” (Write 6X6 Blog).

Finally, I hope to promote student success in the future by accepting the suggestion of President Kovala. In “Random Acts of Relief” she says, “… to pay it forward with these and any other great ideas to give our students the extra nudge to the finish line. Stopping a student on the sidewalk and simply asking how they are doing, or walking through computer commons or the Library and checking in with students as they are busily working on the computer. Better yet, when a student is in line at Grounds for Thought, offer to pay for their coffee. These small gestures go a long way to assure students know we care about them and their success” (Write 6X6 Blog).

 

Becoming a Student Once Again

I recently made the decision to begin a doctoral program through ASU.  Earnign a doctorate has been a goal of mine for a number of years, but I always found reasons why the timing to start a program was just not right – new job responsibilities, young kids, cost, time, etc.  But, as many mentors in my life told me, “There will never be a perfect time,” so I took the plunge beginning last summer and what a journey it has been thus far.

I recall my first day of class last summer for our introductory course.  One word sums up my feelings that day – defeated.  First, I, along with my fellow students I was meeting for the first time, were locked out of the building where the classroom was scheduled.  Obviously, being locked out does not make you feel very welcome?!?   Second, our new professor began class asking us to refer to the responses that were due today.  Well, my heart sank as I had no idea what she was talking about but noticed many of my new classmates did.  I realized I made the mistake of not logging into Blackboard at the start of the week to review any assignments that were due for the first class.  So, in just thirty minutes, I found myself locked out of the classroom and already behind in assignments – let’s just say my confidence was a bit shaken.

I share this story for one main reason – becoming a student once again has helped me to better understand our students’ experiences and feelings.  I am currently doing well in the program (knock on wood), but I experience many frustrations with unclear assignments, bureaucratic hurdles, time management, and even at times, my own motivation.  Our students of course experience these same challenges, and most definitely, even greater challenges than mine.  But, returning to school has allowed me to experience what it is like to be a student again.  And, these experiences help me in my job to work with others across the college to better support our students.  Being a student is not easy.  Hopefully, we continue to develop support programs and services and create welcoming classroom environments that alleviate students’ fears and anxieties.  Or at least, hopefully we don’t lock them out on day one!