by Dr. Donald Guy Generals
The Guided Pathways initiative is moving along nicely. The work has been recognized by our peers and by leading organizations in the community college sector. This is a testament to the hard work of our faculty and staff who believe that an environment of organized engagement fosters deep learning and civic mindfulness.
The first phase of the initiative was a structural integration of Academic and Student Affairs. By combining the two areas under one leader with the goal of creating a blended educational environment, we’ve reduced the tendency toward silos and fragmentation. The second phase, and clearly the more challenging, is the collaborative integration of Academic and Student Affairs. Recognizing the whole student encourages us to stress their developmental needs, including the associated maturities and educational values of a productive citizen. Finding areas in which support services can reinforce classroom engagement requires time and a collaborative spirit between faculty, academic support services, counselors and advisors. Under Dr. Hirsch’s leadership, curriculum mapping to vertically align common subject areas in a rational and deliberate manner is well underway. Faculty have attended Guided Pathways workshops and worked diligently throughout the summer to create clusters that reflect particular fields of study within given careers. At the same time, the team is well on its way to ensuring vertical alignment between the precollege, or developmental education courses, and the college-level courses.
The redesign of developmental education and the freshman year experience is perhaps the most important work we will do. Many refer to it as onboarding. That is, we know the choices students make during their first weeks of registration and classes, and we know how critically important those choices are and how they will impact their college experience. As such, we have prioritized our onboarding practices with the goal of creating a smooth transition for all students while helping them to clarify their career interests and related obligations. To ensure the smooth transition into college classes, faculty are finding ways to contextualize the developmental subject matter to ensure high interest, high impact and relevance. These best practices have proven to increase first-year persistence while producing better student learning outcomes.
According to the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the use of high impact educational practices produces outcomes consistent with deep learning, expansive subject matter awareness and an awakened social consciousness. These practices are rooted in the fundamental ideas of curricular integration: helping students understand the relationship between their formal educational experiences, and the relevance to their careers and the world around them. The resulting educational outcomes are much deeper, and the human associations strengthen their communities and their places of employment.
As we continue to find areas of curricular alignment, we will begin to create opportunities for students to be civically engaged. By bridging the gap between their classroom instruction and real-life challenges, students will understand their value as an educated citizen and contributing member to their respective communities.
The College offers many service learning opportunities. By building on those existing programs, it is my belief that we can fully integrate service learning, civic engagement and community service as vital parts of a Community College of Philadelphia education. With a robust civic engagement program, students will have the opportunity to apply classroom lessons to real-life circumstances, but on a more practical level, they will establish a network of contacts throughout the city for future career opportunities.
In the past 18 months, the College community has rallied around the core values associated with the vision described as Impact 2025. That vision describes a college that will be recognized as one of the best in the nation by the year 2025. Helping students realize their goals, increasing our graduation rates and closing the equity gap are essential elements for the College to receive the recognition it deserves. With the full implementation of the Guided Pathways model, and the support of all, we will increase retention and graduation rates, and we will be recognized among the best community colleges in the country.