Help is on The Way!

One question Reinvention Team members often get is; “What are you working on that is going to help me?”

The question is a good one because it demonstrates that faculty and staff are genuinely concerned about improving what they are able to do in their jobs to help our students.  Or when asked by students, the question looks for ways to help students understand how to get more out of their City Colleges experience.

During the spring semester, the Student Support and Services task force began to take a closer look at City Colleges’ processes to determine the best ways to make tutoring more available and effective for our students. In doing so, we hope to make recommendations that support the District mission by promoting consistency in management and delivery of services for our students. The areas we hope to address with tutoring are:

  • Develop consistency of services
  • Strengthen communication between college tutoring centers
  • Train tutors and provide regular professional development opportunities
  • Recommend assessment practices used by all colleges
  • Implement GradesFirst in scheduling and providing student, advisor, and faculty feedback
  • Investigate alternative tutoring options (e.g. online) available to assist students during weekends and evenings

As part of our efforts to fully understand the current tutoring services on each campus, we investigated current tutoring practices at all colleges, examined the multiple job descriptions for tutors, researched tutoring best practices at other institutions, explored professional development and training organizations specifically for tutors (particularly, National Tutoring Association and College Reading and Learning Association). We also conducted campus surveys and focus groups targeting students, college tutor coordinators, tutors, faculty and advisors. Finally, we explored some online tutoring options available for students. Through our research, information gathering, and analysis we will make recommendations that promote uniformity amongst the colleges in services and staffing, as well as increase greater communication among the various tutoring centers.

For example, one area we’re examining further is the disparities between tutoring staff among colleges. Some colleges have less than twenty tutors while others have over forty. Through our research efforts, we hope to examine the impact those numbers have on tutoring services and student retention and develop a formula for determining a more accurate tutor number. Additionally, the popularity and effectiveness of embedded classroom tutors will also play a factor in the tutor count as well as the ratio between student tutors and professional tutors.

Those are just a few things we hope to examine further this fall as part of our research efforts on tutoring.  We hope in doing so that, for CCC students… Help is on the Way!

We need your continued help as well. So if you have suggestions, please share.

 – Stephanie Owen, Student Support and Services Task Force

UPDATE: New Student Orientation

Last semester the Student Support and Services Task Force examined new student orientation as one of its proposed projects. After researching other institutions, discussing with campus colleagues, and meeting with students through focus groups, the Task Force felt comfortable enough to recommend a two part-orientation model.

The first is to develop an introductory orientation video that provides information for students prior to arriving on campus. The purpose is to disseminate critical information to new/potential students on policies and procedures before coming to campus by providing them with clear steps on what needs to be done immediately after applying for admission.  It includes information on degree/program offerings, financial aid, payment plan options, placement testing, and expectations upon arriving on campus. The emphasis in the video is on financial aid and the placement test. The video outline has been created and development of a final script, student casting, and filming will be soon under way. This component includes working closely with Marketing and Communication, OIT, WYCC, and key campus members. Reinvention’s goal is to roll out the video for students, potential students, and parents for Summer, 2012.

The second part includes exploring how the campuses can improve their current face-to-face new student orientation so it’s more consistent across campuses and that students are getting correct information on key service areas relevant to their learning. The purpose of the face-to-face orientation is to provide students the opportunity to engage with each other, faculty, and staff and to learn about the technological, academic, and student support systems available to them. Because each campus is unique in its student population, programs, and services, the Task Force is developing core competencies and objectives that all campuses will meet when they redevelop their new student orientation programs.  Some proposed competencies include providing hands-on training for using Blackboard (classroom management system), (student portal), student email, and review of key areas of the student policy manual such as; financial aid obligations and satisfactory academic progress.

Additionally, students will learn about the academic and student support systems available to them at their particular campus such as access to Wellness Centers, Disabilities Access Services, Tutoring Services, and their campus Library. Students, furthermore, will learn about the benefits of campus involvement and service learning opportunities such as participation in student organizations such as Student Government and Phi Theta Kappa and academic programs like the Honors Program, Learning Communities, and various campus bridge programs.

Effective assessment models will also be explored since it’s important to determine the effectiveness of both these services on student retention by examining and developing improvement strategies. Determining effective assessment instruments will be done at the campus-level either through homegrown instruments or nationally recognized ones such as those administered by the The Center for Community College Engagement (CCCE).

Recently, CCCE, which administers and tracks the Survey of Entering Students Engagement (SENSE) and Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), has developed a new initiative of identifying and tracking high impact educational practices. Their first, of three reports, A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success, examines thirteen practices such as placement testing, learning communities, new student orientations, tutoring services, and accelerated developmental/remedial programs to determine their effectiveness in promoting retention and graduation. Using data collected from SENSE, CCSSE, CCFSSE (Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement) and CCIS (Community College Institutional Survey), their initial findings revealed that there was a “disconnect between institution and students” in the services they provided and the policies that governed those services. Such reports like this will help Colleges examine, or reexamine the effectiveness of their programs and services. To read the Chronicle article which summarizes the report’s findings, visit: or to read the report, visit:

By continuous assessment, and reviewing data such as those provided by CCCE (and others), City Colleges of Chicago can work toward improving those touch point services that impact retention and success, particularly those being reviewed by Student Support and Services Task Force.

Finally, as we prepare to develop the online orientation video, we’re turning to CCC student talent to serve as “actors”. Communication with campus faculty requesting assistance in casting is forthcoming along with casting and recommendation guidelines. Please look for them in the next few weeks and share with those students who might be interested in participating!

As always, if you have suggestions, feedback, or comments regarding the face-to-face new student orientation (ideas, inclusions, exclusions, etc.), please feel free to share.

   – Stephanie Hong Owen, Student Support and Services Task Force

What Are Adult Education Bridges and Why Do We Need Them?

Bridges are defined formally by the Illinois Community College Board as “programs that prepare adults with limited academic or limited English skills to enter and succeed in credit-bearing postsecondary education and training leading to career-path employment in high-demand, middle- and high-skilled occupations.” It’s important to note that “career-path employment” is a key bridge concept; we don’t want to steer ESL and ABE/GED students who are in the job market into dead-end, low-paying jobs, but rather into careers that offer opportunities to start out with a basic certificate and an entry-level job, then return to school and apply previous coursework toward additional certifications and/or a degree. Despite an unemployment rate of almost 10% in our area, “middle-skill jobs [defined as those that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree] will remain essential to Illinois’ economy into the foreseeable future, accounting for over one million jobs openings in Illinois—some 45 percent through 2016.”*

Effective bridge programming should:

  • prepare students for an industry sector, not a single occupation, so that students have options (e.g., a healthcare bridge rather than a nursing assistant bridge)
  • include reading and math instruction contextualized to the particular sector (e.g., math for healthcare) as well as basic sector-related knowledge, career development, and support services for transition
  • accelerate learning and provide motivation for students who test as low as a 6th grade reading level
  • prepare students to pass the GED exam if they did not complete high school

Bridges are one of several transition strategies that will help CCC achieve the fourth Reinvention goal, to increase the number and share of Adult Education students who advance to and succeed in college-level courses (other transition initiatives include the Gateway program and College Prep GED). By the end of FY13, each of the six City Colleges offering Adult Education will have bridge programs in place. Daley College is already taking bridges one step further as one of eight Illinois community colleges selected to participate in Accelerating Opportunity, a nationwide adult education transition initiative with support from the Gates and Joyce Foundations and other major funders. Under this initiative, Daley is incorporating a transition program called I-CAPS, based on the highly successful Washington state I-BEST model, which embeds a basic skills instructor in the college classroom along with the occupational instructor to ensure student success. Daley now offers a new manufacturing bridge/I-CAPS program along with its successful healthcare bridge/I-CAPS programs.

Bridges will be an integral part of the major City Colleges of Chicago initiative recently announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “College to Careers.” C2C is initially focusing on preparing students for a spectrum of well-paying jobs in two high-growth industries—healthcare and transportation, distribution, and logistics. Thanks to the contextualized basic skills preparation afforded by bridges, individuals at the Adult Education or developmental education levels will have a fair chance of entering and succeeding in these programs on an even footing with students who enter without the need for remediation.

*2009 National Skills Coalition report,

     – Ann Darnton, Center for Operational Excellence

Success from the Inside

Hello all, my name is Yami Guzman, and I am student at Harold Washington and will be completing the Associate in Arts program in May, 2011. I am also the Northeastern Regional VP for the IL Region of Phi Theta Kappa. This semester I had the opportunity to work on Reinvention – a City Colleges of Chicago collaboration led by task forces comprised of faculty, staff and students. Each semester, task force members look closely at areas that need improvement district-wide.

As a member of the Student Support and Services task force, the three major areas that we have been focusing on are: advising, orientation/career pathways and registration for both credit and adult education students. These are areas that we all know affect student success. Working on the task force I was always aware of what my team members were doing to improve opportunities for students. I had the opportunity to interact with other task force teams and learn what they were working on as well.

One of the projects I worked on during this semester was collecting all advisor training materials from the seven city colleges and combining them into a district-wide training handbook. I also assisted in gathering information about our current advising process from both students and academic advisors through focus group sessions. It’s important that students know that their opinion counts. So if you ever wondered if you are being heard through the surveys that CCC asks you to complete, well you are. Your comments are reviewed and compiled into data. This is one way that Reinvention members can make recommendations to administrators about what is, or is not working on each campus.

As part of Reinvention, I was not treated as a student but equally as a task force member. I knew that my opinions and ideas were valued. As my semester as a task force member begins winding down, I want to take this time to thank everyone for all their hard work and dedication. The opportunity to work on Reinvention has been a rewarding and educational experience that I will never forget.

     – Yami Guzman, Student, Harold Washington College

Are Employers Interested in You?

We all know that showing up for class and earning good grades increase your chances for success in college and in finding a job after you graduate- but is there more to it?

According to an article posted by NACE , (National Association of Colleges and Employers ) there’s a lot more to consider than grades and attendance, and it’s based on one’s ability to interact with others and be a good team player. Simply stated, you need to possess soft skills like teamwork, ethics and verbal communication, to name a few.

Employers looking to hire new college graduates are looking at the ability to be a team player, decision-making/problem-solving skills and the ability to obtain and process information as “top” skills, when considering someone for a job.

Check out the article for more information on what skills YOU need to land the job .

     – Irene Castaneda, Student Support and Services Task Force

Taking Advising to a Whole New Altitude

Academic advisors play a vital role in the success of our students. We wear many hats: a coach, a mentor, a teacher, etc. City Colleges of Chicago is committed to quality, impactful and accessible advising to all students across our seven colleges. Consequently, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the National Academic Advising Association’s (NACADA) 35th annual conference held October 2-5th in Denver, CO.

NACADA is the premiere association supporting academic advising in higher education in the U.S. and abroad. With participants from all types of higher education institutions, there was one common theme that bound us all: supporting student success is at the heart of everything we do.  My goal in attending the conference was simple: uncover best practices nationally in advising. With close to 300 workshops and over 2,500 attendees, the options to learn better ways to support our students were endless.

One way to support our advisors is to provide more in-depth professional development opportunities. This led me to attend workshops on advisor training. Best practices ranged from an Academic Advisor Certification program with Utah Valley University to an innovative online advisor training program at Florida International University. Both institutions have a well thought out strategy with one goal in mind: creating an environment where advisors are equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge about campus policies and procedures.

CCC’s Reinvention is currently looking at ways to evaluate advising effectiveness. NACADA had numerous workshops on what schools are currently doing, what methods they use and why. Most schools have an approach that fit their unique institutional needs. What stood out for me was an ongoing evaluation system done by Coastal Carolina University. It sends out evaluations to faculty, advisors, and students asking them about their perceptions of advising. This institution is able to get insightful information about opinions of advising, motivations to provide or seek it, etc. This process enables CCU to gain more insight into the opinions and values of advising from all who are engaged with it.

I also had the opportunity to attend a workshop facilitated by Dr. Anttonen and Dr. White from Millersville University. Millersville set a goal to create greater access to advising through the creation of advising video clips via YouTube. Development of the videos was a collaborative effort between student film interns, advisors, faculty and administration. The outcome is a colorful and humorous way to relay important advising information. What a great way to inform students about various policies and procedures and on-demand!

Some takeaways I shared with the Reinvention teams are:

  • Need for closer collaboration between Academic and Student Affairs to develop a common advising strategy and vision
  • Creation of an advising reward and recognition program
  • Evaluation methods to gauge effectiveness and improvement of advising
  • Professional development and training opportunities for advisors

Upon return to CCC, I began working with the Reinvention team to discuss many of these best practices and applicability for City Colleges of Chicago. We will keep you posted!

If you have any questions about the NACADA 2011 conference in Denver, please comment on this post.

     – Brad Elwood, Student Support and Services Task Force

“It goes beyond passion….. careers that will pay off in the future”

It’s no secret that college grads are facing a job market that is tougher than any other the U.S. has seen. It’s also not a secret that one should pursue their dreams and passions when in college right? After all, that’s the reason why we are encouraged to go to college isn’t it? Well, maybe not…..

Slowly but steadily, the landscape of the college scene is changing and new students are putting passion aside and looking at what careers will provide the most economic stability in the long-run. Bloomberg Businessweek, recently took a hard look at which careers are paying off and which are not-

The Student Support and Services Task Force is working on ways to help prepare you for the market during your college experience and after graduation – through workshops, career exploration assessments and mock interviews. We are working on ways to keep you competitive in today’s market and on the right track to a career that will pay off in the future….

Tell us what YOU think…..

     – Irene Castaneda, Student Support & Services Task Force, Career Pathways