To prepare for the rest of the 2021 school year, Pierce College continues their work with Achieving the Dream, a national nonprofit aimed at addressing educational inequities and increasing student success for every student.
Pierce College joined Achieving the Dream in 2012 and has been partnered with them since, continuing the work to reach the college’s goal of removing equity barriers for all students.
As a campus partner with Achieving the Dream, Pierce College receives support in the form of national experts in community colleges that come and meet with Pierce faculty and staff once a week to discuss goals in place for Pierce and advising on how to reach them. For example, when Pierce faculty members are facing a certain challenge that they’re not sure how to fix, Achieving the Dream experts help by directing the faculty member to another community college that might have a solution.
“It helped us to place emphasis in terms of students success and to look at our models and how we design our programs and also specifically reaching minority populations since we know we place a great amount of emphasis on that area because again, it doesn’t make sense for us to continue to have certain groups thrive while others don’t,” said Dr. Darrell Cain, president of Pierce College Puyallup.
Since joining Achieving the Dream, Pierce College has reached goals set in place by staff members according to the college’s mission, like doubling and raising the graduation rates for all students. Pierce managed to raise student retention rates by administering a mandatory college success course for all students entering Pierce College, have doubled the college’s tutoring and advising staff and started a new prerequisite math course for students who need extra help in that area.
“When you think of Achieving the Dream it’s sort of our umbrella for all of the efforts across the college that are bringing in those research-based practices that we think are going to have an impact on students,” said Dr. Julie White, president of Pierce College Fort Steilacoom.
For the work Pierce has accomplished with Achieving the Dream, the nonprofit awarded Pierce College with the Leah Meyer Austin award in 2017, the highest distinction a college in the Achieving the Dream network can earn.
This quarter Pierce College moved to the next phase of goals planned with Achieving the Dream. There are five core objectives including closing equity gaps for males, Black and brown men, and single parents, creating a learning environment that all students are engaged in, aspirational career advising, academic support services and community engagement and partnerships.
“Those were the areas where we saw that we still had some students who are at a disadvantage and we need to continue to design our systems, courses and services so that all students are having that equity that they came here for,” says White.
Focusing on the first objective of closing equity gaps for Black and brown men, Pierce’s administration worked with Achieving the Dream to form the Black and Brown Men’s Priority Group, which was introduced in fall 2020. The group was created to bring Black and brown men, both students and staff, together via a virtual summit to discuss various issues, share their experiences and build purposeful relationships.
According to Cain, creating the Black and Brown Men’s Priority Group has helped tremendously with providing data on why the graduation rates for men of color weren’t as high as their white male counterparts. Creating the priority group and bringing them together also provided the opportunity for the administration to hear about the educational journeys and experiences of the men involved.
“As you think about quantitative data when you think about the numbers and percentages, we know that part as to why they aren’t persisting, but now let’s tell us the deeper aspect of it, and that’s where the qualitative data came in and helped,” says Cain.
Switching to a completely remote system last spring has also helped Pierce’s work with Achieving the Dream, as it allowed more flexibility in hours for students and staff to meet. Before going fully remote, Pierce didn’t provide online services like drop-in Zoom meetings to gather with academic advisors or with financial aid employees as they do now.
Moving forward with current goals, Pierce’s administration continues to work on implementing specific strategies that will address many of the barriers and infrastructure issues in place that are disadvantaging students. Updates on new developments involving Achieving the Dream can be found on the Pierce College webpage.
Interviews and article by @alexisg_news on Twitter.
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