Achieving the Dream is a nationwide program that strives to improve student success within the college setting, recently awarded Pierce College as one of its 2014 Leader Colleges. Pierce was one of 16 new colleges to receive this title.
This program encourages colleges across the country to look at the different demographics within their schools and examine how different groups are ranking in success.
“The goal is to make more students more successful. It’s really focusing on equity. You look at the achievement gaps, look at your data and see who’s coming to the college and break it down by groups,” Pierce College President Marty Cavalluzzi said. “You look at race and ethnicity, gender, full-time versus part-time students. You can break it down a million different ways. Then you just look at who’s successful and who isn’t. And then you just try and work on those inequities.”
Each college under consideration to become a Leader College is assigned two coaches to help them navigate the process of implementing programs to improve student success. Since the Achieving the Dream committee was so impressed with the amount of changes Pierce College made in the past two years, they urged the college to apply for the 2014 Leader College title a year earlier than expected.
One of the programs that distinguished Pierce College as a Leader College was the mandatory student orientation that is required for all incoming students.
“One of things we’re trying to do is make this orientation mandatory because if you come here and spend time with people and they talk about college and what it’s like, you get your answers,” Cavalluzzi said. “You look around and see you’re not alone. You’re not the first person to come in here alone, and there are others like you.”
Another program that will be made mandatory in the coming year will be a College Success class. This three-credit class focuses on topics such as time management skills, communication and study skills.
Also on the agenda for this year is studying and improving different demographic groups within Pierce College.
“This year alone, there are many of us that are focusing on students of color and just trying to figure out why they’re not doing so well,” Cavalluzzi said. “Just overall as a group, there are a lot of things that are playing into that. One is looking around and seeing role models that look like you. If you don’t see role models that look like you, maybe the message is that they can’t do this, when they actually can.”
Cavalluzzi also stated that this year is focused on mentoring students in striving to succeed, as well as implementing student involvement in improving the college.
“We’re trying to look at everything in detail. So if, for example, someone registers for a class and doesn’t show up, we’re going to call them up as ask what happened and where they are. We’re not just going to let them fall behind,” Cavalluzzi said.
Cavalluzzi predicts that many more programs will be put into effect to increase the success rate of students at Pierce College.
“It’s a big deal, trying to make people successful in college,” Cavalluzzi said. “It is unacceptable to have someone come here with a goal, and having them not get it.”
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