Ensuring Students a Seat at the Table

Fullerton College students at a Guided Pathways workshop

Fullerton College is writing the playbook on engaging students in developing a Guided Pathways framework.

“Students are the experts on student experience,” said Fullerton College Professor Miguel Powers, who is co-chairing a Guided Pathways workgroup at the campus. “It shouldn’t be any other way.”

An August 14 symposium for campus workgroups is a case in point. As many students – 50 – took part in the strategic planning event as did faculty members, classified professionals or administrators, and their input is impacting the direction of Fullerton College’s Guided Pathways reforms.

The process was methodical; the college’s guided pathways leadership team that facilitated the student engagement – Deniz Fierro, Brandon Floerke and Dr. Powers – didn’t simply grab the first 50 students they saw to take part in the symposium. “We were intentional about trying to get a diverse group of students in the room,” Dr. Powers said.

Among the highlights:

  • Student recruitment began by reaching out to counselors and coordinators with various programs on campus, including the Umoja Community, EOPS, the PUENTE Project and the North Orange Promise. That was followed by Fullerton College President Dr. Greg Schulz sending personal email invitations to every student, ensuring that no student was left out. To compensate students for their time, the college offered an honorarium of $150, resulting in 250 student respondents; 50 were chosen for the symposium. Those who were not, however, remain engaged in the process.
  • Students attended a detailed 4-hour training session the day before the symposium, which included student expectations, an overview of the symposium, an overview of the Guided Pathways framework and data on student achievement. Breakfast, lunch and snacks were provided.
  • The training session prepared students not only to participate as equals in the process but helped them develop connections with their peers, providing critical social and emotional support for the symposium. “I was appreciative of learning other students’ insights,” said sociology major Janet Carreno. “It was invaluable.” As a result, on the day of the event, students freely engaged as co-participants with faculty, staff and managers and emerged as confident leaders.
  • Students were debriefed following the symposium, which provided invaluable insights into student thinking and expectations. The debrief focused on developing a better understanding of the student experience, planning next steps, and encouraging their ongoing participation in the Guided Pathways process. Students not only said they felt valued that their voice was heard but laid out some of the goals they hoped to reach, such as adopting a program mapper similar to what is being implemented at Bakersfield College, improved guidance, more information about available financial aid, and an expanded Summer Bridge or Summer Bridge-like program.

“Our students provided great insight into some of our Guided Pathways plans moving forward, said Melissa Serrato, Marketing & Outreach Assistant who co-chairs the same Guided Pathways workgroup as Powers. “They shared experiences and challenges to help shape our guided pathways workgroup plans, and even created dream posters of what their dream guided entry process would look like. They also got a better understanding and awareness of what Guided Pathways is all about.”

Virtually every student who took part in the symposium said they wanted to continue working on developing Guided Pathways and signed up to participate in one or more of the ongoing Guided Pathways workgroups. Meanwhile, the college is now collaborating with its Institutional Research office on a ‘guided entry’ survey to include the voice of approximately 500 more students.

“Fullerton College is doing a remarkable job of centering the student voice in their Guided Pathways reforms. They are exemplifying what it means to create with students and not just for them,” said Libby Lee Curiel, one of three Guided Pathways regional coordinators in the Los Angeles/Orange County region.

What’s more, the college is organizing student focus groups to learn how it can replicate and even improve on the success of the August 14 symposium in connection with other campus initiatives.

“The entire process has been informative, and I feel like we are contributing to finding some possible solutions,” Carreno said.

Workgroup leaders said their goal is to present a Guided Entry Roadmap in January.