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about student success is emerging and encouraging.
We all have something in common—student success.”
“If, at the end of the week, you still feel like it’s a good
fit, that then the culture is for you and we welcome you
on,” he says. “If not, we’ll pay you $1,000 and say we’re
sorry that we disrupted your life.”
Six months, a year, and three years later, they have the
same conversation. If the culture still fits, they stay. If not,
the college will give them $2,000 and wish them well.
The result has been a shift in morale, says Provost
Rebecca Woods. Since she started seven years ago, she’s
seen the culture shift dramatically, especially among
faculty who are often steeped not just in the culture of
their particular department but also in the particular
culture of their individual classrooms.
“It’s an opportunity for faculty to learn about the
institution as a whole, to connect with people in different departments about how their role supports and is
supported by the institution as a whole,” she says. “It’s an
opportunity to understand what the college stands for.
And it gives them the opportunity to become part of a
culture that’s larger than their department.”
BRINGING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Like a lot of colleges, Paris Junior College (PJC) in Texas
has been trying to address student success for years.
The college has a mandatory student success course,
Learning Frameworks, which asks students to fill out an
interests inventory and exposes them to career options.
When the semester ends, every student meets with an
advisor, who helps them map out a plan.
Then there’s their participation in the New
Mathways Project, out of the Charles A. Dana Center at
the University of Texas at Austin. In it, the math cur-
riculum has been aligned with meta-majors—a change
that has removed college algebra as one of the biggest
barriers to student success at the college, says Pamela
Anglin, PJC’s president.
It turns out that college algebra may be essential
for students in STEM fields. But for business students?
Statistics was actually more useful, says Anglin. For
students interested in the social sciences, algebra wasn’t
that applicable. Contemporary math was.
So now, students are sorted into meta-majors and
assigned the appropriate math course.
The result? The number of students completing went
Anglin and her team want more, though. That’s
why they turned to the Pathways Project. For their
medium-sized rural college, which serves as the only
entry way to higher education in their part of the
Texas panhandle, Anglin doesn’t see this as a matter of
It’s a matter of the college’s survival.
“When you look at how we operated for so many
years, we’re still operating in a model developed in the
first half of the 20th century,” Anglin says. “Now, with
all the changes in workplace demands, we need to get
people completed and graduated with marketable skills.
“It made us look at everything,” she says.
Heather Boerner is an education writer based in San Francisco.
Leading change is not something that
most college presidents learn about
in school, even in community college
doctoral programs. It’s courageous.
KAY MCCLENNEY, senior advisor, AACC
February’s Pathways Institute brought
together the 30 colleges chosen to
participate in the Pathways Project.