President's Monthly Reports
Guided Pathways: A Student’s Perspective
“The guided pathways model is based on coherent and easy-to-follow college-level programs of study that are aligned with requirements for success in employment and at the next stage of education. Programs, support services, and instructional approaches are redesigned and re-aligned to help students clarify their goals, choose and enter pathways that will achieve those goals, stay on those pathways, and master knowledge and skills that will enable them to advance in the labor market and successfully pursue further education.”
- American Association of Community Colleges, The Movement Toward Pathways
I suppose you could say that Joe Olson was a typical student, to the extent that any student is “typical.” He struggled a bit in high school, played a bit of basketball but wasn’t the team star, took the normal courses and did okay but didn’t really excel in anything in particular, and “finally” graduated with a 2.20 GPA. Joe was, in his own words, “ready to move on,” but he didn’t know exactly where to.
Thanks to his high school counselors, visits from one of the LBCC high school partnerships people, and a polite but persistent series of emails and mailings reminding him of the opportunities for him at LBCC, Joe may not have known exactly where he was going but saw LBCC as a place that might help him figure it all out.
Joe had completed a FAFSA and had listed LBCC as a college he might want to attend and, while he wasn’t eligible for the Oregon Promise due to his grades, he hoped that the Oregon Opportunity Grant, combined with Federal Financial Aid, would give him enough to give college a try.
With this information in their system, LBCC sent Joe a personalized letter informing him of his financial aid options, next steps for his admission and registration, and an estimate of the net cost (not just the gross cost) of his education at LBCC so he could begin planning. He was also invited to identify his preferred contact information (email), and to provide the college with a bit more information about his career interests and college readiness, using a simple on-line form, that would help LBCC point him in the right direction and get him connected with the right people.
Based on the information that he provided, Joe received a follow-up email from Chad Lewis, a faculty member and new student advisor whose focus area most closely aligned with Joe’s expressed interests (social sciences), welcoming him, inviting him to make an appointment with the New Student Center (using an easy on-line process) to get him admitted and registered for his first term of classes, and to let him know that Chad would be tracking Joe’s progress and would be available to help should he have any questions or difficulties. Joe thought “Wow! There’s a real person out there who’s actually watching out for me!”
Joe scheduled and attended his New Student Center appointment where he confirmed his admission, got registered for his first term of classes, was assigned to a Destination Graduation (DG) cohort, and finalized his financial aid. With registration and financial aid taken care of, Joe also received a copy of his estimated bill for his first term. It seemed so simple and straightforward to Joe – for which he was grateful – but, in order for all of this come together so smoothly, there was a lot “behind the scenes” work that had taken place, all of it designed support Joe’s success in the long run:
- The faculty who taught in the social science “meta-area” had done some serious work to develop/identify a common starting point for all of the programs in the social sciences area so that, no matter which of those majors Joe eventually chose for himself, his first term classes would both apply and form a solid foundation for what came next.
- His meta-area advisor, Chad, had developed a keen understanding of all of the programs in the social science meta-area so that he could guide Joe through the process of finding the right program for himself.
- The DG cohort to which Joe was assigned was designed specifically around the social science meta-area, and all of the students in it identified social science as their interest area. And Joe was added as a participant of a Canvas website specifically designed for his DG class so all of the students in it could connect with each other and begin to “chat” about the class and the various hopes (and anxieties) that they might have as they began their journey and LBCC students. Chad would be a frequent visitor to BOTH his DG class and his DG website.
With his schedule in hand, Joe attended Welcome Day and was greeted by faculty (specifically his Advisor, Chad) and staff and students who made him feel welcomed and “at home,” and showed him around campus and especially where each of his classes would be. The LBCC campus felt so different from the high school he had attended, so it was reassuring to “get the lay of the land” before classes actually started. While on campus, Joe also picked up his class books, which he had ordered on-line via the Bookstore’s textbook website.
Well, the first day of class finally came and Joe hit the educational pavement running….. he was ready! Not that he wasn’t still a little bit anxious, but he already knew where his classes where, already had his books, and – most important – he knew where Chad’s office was if he got lost or just needed encouragement.
Destination Graduation jumped right into it! It was a class designed around Joe’s needs, his interests, his questions, and his success, and it brought him together with other students who shared all of that with him. Who did he want to become? What did he want to do (more than a job or a degree, but a “vocation” in the true meaning of that word)? What pathways were available to his for him to get/be there? How was LBCC prepared to guide him there? There were the questions that DG focused on and, while Joe didn’t know so at first, there were the questions that he most needed answers to. At DG he learned more about the various programs and careers within the social sciences area and it didn’t take long before Joe began to hone in on Sociology, mostly because it brought together two of his major interests: people, and statistics (yes, statistics!). It was especially helpful to have Chad sit down with him and discuss the Sociology pathway and the career opportunities associated with the “major,” knowing early on that most of these opportunities would require that he go on to earn an 4-year degree and probably even a Masters, and especially helpful to learn exactly what classes he would need to take, and when, in order to be ready to transfer in 2 years. Again, there was a lot of “behind the scenes” work that had taken place to make this discussion possible:
- The Sociology faculty had worked diligently to identify a most effective pathway of courses for him – and all Sociology students – to complete a 2-year program in that “major.”
- These same faculty and their Dean had worked to make sure the LBCC Sociology pathway was also the most effective pathway into a 4-year program at Oregon’s universities.
- The course schedules for all of the terms for the next two years were set in advance to include all of the courses that the pathway prescribed. In other words, all of Joe’s future courses at LBCC were identified and guaranteed to be available to him in the term that he needed to take them!
With all of that understood, Joe officially declared himself to be a Sociology “major” and discovered that, in doing so, was afforded a new member of the faculty to guide him toward his success – Diana Clark. Diana was a faculty instructor in the Sociology department and would be Joe’s advisor for the remainder of his time at LBCC (assuming Joe didn’t change “majors”). Chad had been able to tell Joe something about Diana, a bit if her bio, the kinds of classes she taught and where her office was, and it was only a few days later that Joe received an email from her, inviting him to make an appointment for them to get together. Joe made the appointment and, a week later, met with Diana to review his academic plan and, to be honest, get some reassurance for the directions he had chosen for himself. Their first meeting when great and Joe agreed to meet with Diana at least once per term from then on.
One of the added things that Diana was able to share with Joe was information about a student “social action” club that she advised and felt would be a great place for Joe to connect with other LBCC students with similar interests. There was a club meeting later that same week, which Joe attended and was pleased to discover that a number of students from his DG cohort were there as well. Again, Joe felt “at home.”
Joe was in his third term at LBCC, and one of the courses he was taking – a course that was part of his pathway – was one in Theatre Arts, and he LOVED IT! Who would have known that Joe could act (and even sing a bit!). In fact, Joe loved it so much that he began to wonder if Sociology was really the path that he wanted to be on. Having established a strong relationship with Diana through their regular advising meetings, Joe felt comfortable sharing his pathway doubts with her. Together they reviewed Joe’s interests, ambitions, and the pathway options he had from that point forward, especially focusing on the time and number of courses (and cost) it would take for him to complete these various pathways.
One of the things that really aided both Joe and Diana in this review of Joe’s options was the “pathway monitor” that was part of Joe’s personal LBCC web portal. Every time Joe logged into his LBCC portal, there was a part of his screen where he saw a graphical representation of his own education pathway and exactly where he was on it. He could clearly see the number of credits he had already earned, the number he was currently taking, and the number he had left to take in order to complete his program. And, if he clicked on the different parts of pathway graphic, he could review the specific courses already taken, currently taking, and yet to take, his grade in each, and his current GPA. He knew exactly how many credits – and how many terms – graduation was into his future, and on those days when Joe wondered if he was really making progress and/or if he would ever finish, this little graphic provided him with a helpful reminder of all that he had already accomplished, and that the road ahead was finite, and within his reach.
Anyway, after he and Diana considered all of his options, Joe felt reassured that completing his Sociology program at LBCC was his best option and that, if interested, he might pursue some theatre as an avocation after he transferred. Diana sent a note to the LBCC Theatre instructor, Dave Fields, making him aware of Joe’s interest in Theatre and asking if he might have contact information on someone at the university that Joe might connect with once he transferred. Dave responded almost immediately with a name and contact information for someone that Joe could connect with….. along with an invitation for Joe to try out for a role in the next LBCC play.
Well, Commencement day finally came and Joe was again ready to move on. Only this time he had a much better sense of where he was going! Walking through the Commencement line, Joe received his AAOT with a “major” in Sociology (he earned it with a 3.27 GPA!) and then was congratulated by a receiving line that prominently included his two Advisors, Chad Lewis and Diana Clark. It was a day of success for everyone!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sincerely, and in the confidence that so many more of our students will experience this same success,
NOTE: Joe Olson is not a real student, and this is not an actual student experience. Instead, this story is a way of describing the kind of experience that we will be able to provide more and more of our students as we move toward the full implementation of a “guided pathway” framework.