College zeros in on Achieving the Dream partnership
PCC News Service
Sunday, August 18, 2019
WINTERVILLE — Pitt Community College employees kicked off the 2019-20 academic year focused on ensuring the college leverages the full power of its affiliation with the prestigious Achieving the Dream (ATD) National Network over the next three years.
During Convocation on Tuesday, PCC President Lawrence Rouse told administrators, faculty and staff that ATD membership represents a “paradigm shift” for Pitt in its effort to increase educational equity and ensure students — particularly low-income students and students of color — achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth and economic opportunity.
“ATD Network colleges engage in a three-year, capacity-building experience focused on bold, holistic and sustainable institutional changes designed to increase student success,” Rouse said. “… With ATD, we have an opportunity for excellence for all students.”
As an ATD member, Rouse says the college will work extensively with Dr. Mary Fifield and Daryl Davis, who are the leadership and data coaches tasked with identifying PCC’s strengths and areas for improvement in seven core areas: Leadership & Vision, Data & Technology, Equity, Teaching & Learning, Engagement & Communication, Strategy & Planning, and Policies & Practices.
Fifield and Davis spent Tuesday and Wednesday on the PCC campus leading workshops and meeting with employees in small groups to offer insight on ATD and their roles with the organization. It was the first of three visits they will make to Pitt in the first year of the partnership.
Davis, who has 14 years of experience in higher education and institutional research, says he and Fifield will be asking tough questions to get PCC to take a good look in the mirror as an institution and determine the path for future success. He says the coaches will also help the college analyze data to gauge the effectiveness of current student success initiatives.
Fifield, a former community college president with 45 years of community college experience, noted that ATD membership is designed for colleges with strong leadership and a readiness to improve. She also explained what ATD is not, saying it isn’t a proposal to lower academic standards, “a boilerplate program with one answer,” or an attempt to dictate what takes place in the classroom or anywhere else on campus.
“What you do or what you don't do over the next three years is going to have an effect on your students” Fifield said. “The mission is to help many more students finish what they start. You’re not the only community college in the country that struggles with persistence rates and achievement rate differences between whites and people of color. But you are one of (relatively few) to see the issue and decide to work on it through Achieving the Dream.”
PCC’s path to ATD membership began in 2015, when experts from the respected Aspen Institute visited campus as part of the “North Carolina Roadmap to Excellence Project.” After receiving a report summarizing the Institute’s recommendations for increasing student success, the college developed a Student Success Action Council in 2016 to focus on recruitment, retention, processes and data, and improving the ‘front door experience’ for new students.
Earlier this year, PCC administrators sent a clear message regarding the college’s dedication to improving the delivery of quality education and support services to all students, when they announced the school had been selected to be part of ATD’s 2019 cohort.
“Data shows that connecting with ATD positively benefits students,” Rouse said. “But let’s not confuse ATD with being a magic solution to what can be perceived as a stubborn problem. It is still up to us to make the improvements happen.”
Based in Silver Spring, Md., ATD reaches more than four million community college students through a network currently comprised of more than 220 community colleges in 41 states and the District of Columbia.
Conference for adult literacy instructors, staff a hit
A professional development conference organized by PCC’s Transitional Studies Department has drawn rave reviews from the approximately 150 College and Career Readiness (CCR) instructors who participated.
According to PCC Transitional Studies Director Laurie Weston, the conference featured a general meeting and breakout sessions that covered a wide range of topics, from web conferencing to retention strategies to tips for working with dyslexic students.
Weston said the Aug. 9 conference was originally supposed to give PCC’s adult literacy teachers and staff a chance to interact, learn about recent developments, and share best and promising practices. It ended up being a valuable learning opportunity for adult literacy personnel at Pitt and nearly two dozen nearby community colleges.
“During a regional advisory board meeting on community college adult literacy, some of the members expressed concern about a lack of professional development opportunities for CCR teachers and staff,” Weston said. “We decided at PCC that we’d organize a ‘drive-in mini-conference’ for our CCR personnel, and the idea took off. We had colleges from across eastern North Carolina asking if they could join us, and it turned out to be a huge success.”
Weston says the feedback she’s received from participants has been extremely positive.
Keisha Jennette, who heads James Sprunt Community College’s Pre-College/Basic Skills Programs Department, sent Weston an email, telling her how “amazing” the conference was.
“My staff and instructors came back talking about how good it was to be with other instructors and staff members and how much they learned,” she wrote. “You, your staff and the region did an excellent job. You should be extremely proud.”
Verlando Frazier, an instructor from Coastal Carolina Community College, agreed. “My head is still reeling from the immense level of relevant and useful information” presented during the conference, he said.
Weston says she hopes the CCR conference will become an annual event.