Semester-by-Semester Program Maps going live across CCC

Beginning on Friday, November 1st, semester-by-semester program maps designed to assist students and advisors in getting students on the right pathway earlier in their academic careers, started going live. “Pathways” is a concept that you may be familiar with as it is one that we’ve been embracing as key to the College-to-Careers initiative and now have expanded across the rest of our programs. Each pathway is a series of one or more stackable programs leading toward a given career. In some cases the pathway is a single program (e.g., an AA where there are no basic or advanced certificates to be earned along the way). In other cases, the pathway may offer a student the opportunity to earn multiple credentials along the way (e.g., a Basic Certificate that leads to an Advanced Certificate that leads to an AAS).

Semester-by-Semester Maps (often referred to simply as Semester Maps) are the physical manifestation of the pathways. Each Semester Map provides an example of what a full-time student’s semester-by-semester route along a given pathway might look like. The map is not intended to replace an education plan but rather to assist both the student and advisor in understanding what’s required to complete a pathway. The map will be used by the advisor in working with the student to customize an education plan.

A sample semester-by-semester program map.
A sample semester-by-semester program map.

All of the Pathways have been categorized into ten Focus Areas. The purpose of the Focus Areas is to allow a student to declare an area of interest at a broad level (meta-major) as early as possible so that they can begin taking courses with far less risk of taking courses that won’t work toward their future program. The ten Focus Areas are: Advanced Manufacturing; Business and Professional Services; Construction Technology and Drafting; Culinary Arts and Hospitality; Healthcare; Information Technology; Life and Physical Sciences; Liberal Arts; Public and Human Services; and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (TDL).

The Ten Focus Areas for City Colleges of Chicago Pathways
The Ten Focus Areas for City Colleges of Chicago Pathways

For each Focus Area we have developed a Focus Area overview and education plan template, a starter plan that includes space for the advisor to plan the first two semesters at most. We’ve also developed a new standardized Education Plan for use by advisors and students across the district. The new format is being developed by advisors (based on the various versions currently in use) to provide better clarity and accuracy of the plans.

So, how will it all work together?

The first choice a student makes is which of the ten Focus Areas they are interested in. This is a much easier choice than trying to decided between hundreds of specific programs. However, if the student isn’t ready to make the choice yet, and are undecided, the default is Liberal Arts. Based on their focus area choice, the advisor helps them develop a Focus Area Education Plan to get them started in the right direction. During his or her first semester the student engages in career exploration (through enhanced College Success and other means) and meets with their advisor to consider specific pathways. Once the student chooses a pathway they review the Semester Map for the suggested course sequence and work with their advisor to develop an Education Plan that customizes the pathway represented in the map based on the student’s starting point and preferred credit load.

These pathways and the maps that guide students along them are the culmination of a great deal of work by too many people to thank individually here but I want to thank everyone that’s been involved.  Your dedication serves our students well!

     – Scott Martyn, Associate Vice Chancellor, Strategy

Transition Specialists and College Advisors Collaboration: Key to the Success of the Gateway Program

In 2008, I was hired as a part-time Transition Specialist in the Adult Education department at Malcolm X.  At that time, I was one of only two part-time and one full-time Transition Specialists working with Adult Education students at two of the six colleges that offered Adult Education classes.

As a Transition Specialist my responsibilities varied from working with students enrolled in the newly created Bridge, Fast Track and online GED prep classes, identifying and referring students to off-campus resources such as child care, financial assistance and employment; and arranging graduation and homecoming activities, etc. With a total enrollment of 2,930* Adult Education students at Malcolm X, it was impossible to provide even minimal service to the majority of our students.

Fast forward to fall 2012; building on the success of the Truman College Incentive Program, Reinvention has worked with administrators, faculty, and students to pilot and expand the Gateway to the City of Chicago program to all seven colleges and two satellite sites. The Gateway program provides high-level ESL and GED students the opportunity to earn college credits toward the completion of a basic or advanced certificate and/or work toward an associate’s degree at a reduced cost while completing their Adult Education program.

A recommendation of the Adult Education Reinvention Task Force was to increase the number of Transition Specialists district-wide. In addition, their collaboration with College Advisors would be a key part of the college transition goal of the Gateway Program. As of today, there are 11 full-time and 2 part-time Transition Specialists, with at least one College Advisor assigned at each campus to work with the Transition Specialists to foster the transition to college-credit classes.

Transition Specialists are an integral part of the success of the Gateway program and are charged with recruitment and advising. Their primary focus is ensuring that academic and student services are in place to support Gateway students, known as Gateway Scholars. It is important that the Transition Specialists are able to share their success stories, creative ideas and yes, frustrations with one another.

The Transition Specialists and nine of the assigned College Advisors recently came together at the District office to receive program updates and to share best practices. This meeting was the culmination of weekly conference calls that provide the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics, including marketing efforts, current and potential roadblocks, and student successes.

Attendees received updates regarding PeopleSoft, the online application, registration business process and updates to the policy manual. They were also able to share best practices at their individual colleges.

Abdul King, a Transition Specialist at Kennedy-King, shared some of his recruitment tips that included being a self-starter, persistence and to always provide good customer service. Abdul states, “I just want the best for all of the students and I am willing to help them get there if they put the work in.”

Yanet Diaz, an Academic Advisor at Wright has a caseload of more than 600 college credit students, but realizes the importance of advising students in the Gateway program. Yanet shared the following with the group, “Academic Advisors must cater to the needs of Adult Education students as they transition into credit classes because they have different needs from credit students. As an advisor, we must make an extra effort to ensure that they know our names and contact information, schedules and where our offices are located.”

Gateway Scholars are well on their way to securing a quality education and training that can lead to an advanced degree or employment or both. Transition Specialists are now in place to provide the assistance and guidance to help make our students’ dreams of obtaining a certificate or degree a reality.

For additional information on the Gateway program or to contact a Transition Specialist, click on

*October 31, 2008 – ICCB Headcount enrollment includes on-campus, off-campus, and satellite sites.

-Brenda Baker, 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

Faculty Council and Advisors Introduced to GradesFirst

At the February Faculty Council meeting, the GradesFirst student support system was presented and the potential for supporting success in the classroom was discussed.  At the district-wide Advisors’ Professional Development Day in February, advisors were given a comprehensive overview of the GradesFirst system and expressed their enthusiasm for the potential of the system to help them work with faculty to support student success.  Faculty and staff across the district have volunteered to serve on an implementation team that will begin work in March.  As the time line for implementation evolves, we will post news to this blog. In the meantime, if you want to read about the system go to

     – Anne Brennan, Center for Operational Excellence

City Colleges of Chicago Boosts Outreach With New Student Support Software

At the February meeting of the City Colleges’ Board of Trustees, the purchase of a comprehensive student support system was approved as part of an on-going initiative to boost student success. The support system, called GradesFirst, will  allow advisors and faculty to provide City Colleges’ 120,000 students with online advising appointment systems, communication tools for faculty and advisors, and a number of online services aimed at supporting student success.  As the implementation of this software takes hold across the district, students will find that the faculty and staff at the City College are working together to help students succeed.  Watch for future updates about the implementation of GradesFirst in the upcoming months.  In the meantime, if you want to read about the system go to

– Anne Brennan, Center for Operational Excellence

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