Faculty and counselors at Community College of Philadelphia are part of a vibrant learning community. “We rely on each other,” said Dr. Aubria Nance, a College counselor and associate professor of Counseling, who, with the support of President Donald Guy Generals, assembled a group of faculty members working on advanced degrees. It all started with a “Dissertation Blues” gathering hosted by the president last year.
“When you walk into a room and you see other people who are striving, it makes a difference,” Dr. Nance said. Convening occasionally, the group stays in touch via email. They share research tips and encourage each other through the rigorous and often lonely work of research and writing.
Dr. Nance knows how hard it can be. Like many of the College’s students, she was the first in her family to attend and graduate from college, earn a master’s degree and work toward her doctorate, which she earned in Higher Education Leadership and Innovation this year. When Dr. Nance started her doctoral work, she was struggling to balance her educational pursuits, her job at the College, and the demands of raising two young daughters, all the while coping with her dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.
“I was lucky that teachers saw my potential, even though I didn’t have the grades,” she said. As a popular counselor, Dr. Nance strives to return the favor. “Our students are persisters. They hit a lot of brick walls, but I’m here to help them.”
Students seek out Dr. Nance for inspiration, encouragement and guidance. She is working on the implementation of Guided Pathways, which uses intentional advising and progress tracking to provide students with a highly structured experience, giving them a clear academic roadmap, while helping them to clarify goals and career direction.
Having diverse professors with advanced degrees encourages students, especially students of color, Dr. Nance said.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she said, quoting educator Marian Wright Edelman. “They may be coming out of the city and may have never seen someone who looks like them with a doctorate degree.”