Voices from the Local Level and Support from Sacramento Combine to Help Students Succeed

Photo of California community college staff and faculty
For the first time since the California Community Colleges embarked on creating a support network of regional coordinators for the Guided Pathways framework, all seven regions in the state are now staffed with teams of coordinators to ensure local campuses have ready access to the support they need in transforming their approach to education.

The Chancellor’s Office sees regional coordinators as a critical component in ensuring Guided Pathways becomes a bedrock of the California Community Colleges. The 18 coordinators assigned to seven different regions not only work with the state’s 115 community colleges by facilitating local workshops and providing a bevy of resources, but they also ensure the local voice is heard at the state level.

“Our job is to serve as a resource for our partners at the community colleges,” said Angelica Ibarra, a regional coordinator hired in the fall 2018 to serve the Inland Empire and Desert region whose 20-year career in higher education includes serving as a former Director of the Latinx Student Center at Cal Poly Pomona and Assistant Dean for Institutional Diversity at Harvey Mudd College. “That involves understanding that each college is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

The regional coordinator model was introduced in January 2018 in the Central Valley/Mother Lode area with the hiring of Laura Lara-Brady as the first regional coordinator. That area was selected in large part because the long-established Central Valley Higher Education Consortium had already set the standard in working with the Chancellor’s Office on coordinating the Guided Pathways implementation at the sprawling region’s 15 community colleges.

In the Inland Empire/Desert region, Ibarra and co-Regional Coordinator Leslie Valmonte are building on the work done via the Inland Empire Guided Pathways Consortium that has been collaborating since shortly after the Guided Pathways framework was introduced by the California Community Colleges in November 2017.

“Every college is invested in this,” Ibarra said. “Every college is participating on a regional level. Every college is excited about Guided Pathways.”

Efforts in the Inland Empire were enhanced through a $194,000 grant from the College Futures Foundation for rethinking and re-engineering the existing college infrastructure to ensure student success via Guided Pathways. Riverside City College, Norco College and Chaffey College are at the forefront of regional efforts and were critical in organizing the Inland Empire Guided Pathways Planning Summit held March 4 and 5 at the Riverside Convention Center, a summit that attracted teams from a dozen local colleges.

“These folks were already connected and already had the buy-in,” said Ibarra, who was named a regional coordinator in late 2018.

Ibarra and Valmonte have been busy building relationships, offering resources, highlighting best practices and making sure Guided Pathways initiatives are focused on students, equity and data. “We’ve had a lot of meetings, we’ve held a lot of events, and we’ve been engaged in a lot of relationship building, letting people know we are here to provide support in any way we can.”

Similar efforts have long been in place in the Central Valley region. The Central Valley Higher Education Consortium, which includes 14 colleges in four community college districts spread across nine counties, focuses on a unified effort to ensure that Guided Pathways eliminates equity gaps while substantially boosting the number of students who earn a certificate or a degree.

Laura Lara-Brady, one of three regional coordinators in the Central Valley, emphasized that a regional approach does not mean a top-down approach. “Each college has its own culture. We have rural colleges, urban colleges. Large colleges, small colleges and everything in between,” said Lara-Brady, who has spent much of her career exploring equity issues in higher education, most recently as a dean of Student Equity at City College of San Francisco.

Central Valley coordinators are keying in on several areas of support, including workshops; in-person support, such as flex-day presentations and facilitated discussions, webinars on specific subjects and the Vision Resource Center.

“We’re definitely focused heavily on equity; we want to make sure Guided Pathways is benefiting all populations,” Lara-Brady said “This is not just about meta majors. Meta majors is just one part of Guided Pathways, which is very much tied to the Vision for Success.”