Guided Pathways’ Success Rooted in Teamwork

Guided Pathways staff members from State Center Community College District

The State Center Community College District serves a population of 1.7 million across 5,700 square miles and four Central California counties. The district’s enrollment exceeds 67,000 students, 20% cross of which are enrolled in two or more of the district’s three colleges.

Cross enrollment within the district presents an opportunity to collaborate on the following: How do different colleges within the same college district maintain their unique organizational culture while developing a Guided Pathways framework that supports students who take classes at multiple campuses?

“We need to speak the same language and use the same terminology while at the same time being true to the culture of each college,” said James Ortez, dean of Instruction for Humanities, Social Sciences and Athletics at Clovis Community College.

Mission accomplished. Thanks to a collaborative approach that places a premium on sharing resources and thoughtful design – all highlighted by effective partnerships with the Central Valley/Mother Lode area’s three-member Guided Pathways regional coordinator team – faculty, staff and administrators at the State Center Community College District, Clovis Community College, Fresno City College and Reedley College are setting the standard for working together.

The aim, said Regional Coordinator Chelsea Esquibias, “is to strengthen frameworks and practices while honoring college culture to increase interconnectivity with state-level reforms and current tools and resources.”

The colleges approached the Central Valley/Mother Lode Regional Coordinator team, which also includes Dr. Laura Lara-Brady and Michelle Stricker, to plan professional development workshops focused on developing their collaborative approach to supporting guided pathways efforts. The result: an Adaptive Strategy roadmap with a series of objectives and a ‘Just In Time’ model aligning with California Community Colleges’ policies and priorities.

Numerous meetings and strategic sessions have been held and conversations about sustainability and progress continue well throughout the next semester. For example, the team supported an October 31 workshop with district employees; a November 1 workshop with administrators and managers from the three colleges and the college district to discuss the collaborative approach; and another November 1 workshop involving all Guided Pathways leaders throughout the district and its colleges to digest and further hone in on the input that has been received.

“We’re looking at how we’re going to structure, or re-structure, the way we’re doing things so we have a more braided approach,” Esquibias said.

The State Center Community College District is among seven districts and more than two dozen colleges in California meshing Guided Pathways frameworks at colleges that are at different levels of implementation.

 

“If systems are different in allowing for individuality, we need to look at how they can collaborate and work on the commonalities. A lot of students are going to more than one college at the same time, so districts such as the State Center Community College District have realized the need to collaborate and effectively support students together.”

 

Where do district officials fit in? Renee Craig-Marius, Reedley’s vice president of Student Services, said they can be most helpful in the areas of professional development, technology, data, and communication.

“We’re moving forward pretty well,” she said. “We all want to do what’s best for our students and we’re all willing to come to the table and have the hard conversations. We need to stay together as a team in some way while integrating into the Vision for Success.”

Craig-Marius and Ortez also highlighted the value of the area’s regional coordinators for not only supporting a braided approach but keeping them apprised of best practices and keeping them on top of what’s happening in Sacramento.

That is especially important when one college is further along in the Guided Pathways process than others. Reedley College, for example, is one of 20 colleges participating in the American Association of Community College’s California Guided Pathways Project. It has taken part in all six Guided Pathways institutes, and it has already identified its pathways, or meta-majors, and will complete its mapping this fall. Clovis Community College has been focused on its foundational work and is in the process of mapping.  They anticipate having Guided Pathways fully implemented within the next two years.

Those variances in progress, however, are an advantage as colleges can collaborate on effective practices.

“All of us are so thankful for Reedley College,” Ortez said. “They’ve done all the stumbling that we don’t have to do. They’ve had all the success that we can learn from.”