College Reflection: Bellevue College’s Valuable Kickoff Institute Experience

In June, Bellevue College, a member of Achieving the Dream’s (ATD) 2017 cohort of new Network colleges, attended ATD’s Kickoff Institute held in Cleveland, OH. The Kickoff Institute is designed to prepare cohort college teams to begin or intensify the process of transformative, institutional improvement. For these diverse cross-functional college teams, the Kickoff Institute offers a robust and in-depth look at ATD’s Network resources, including an introduction to the Institutional Capacity Framework and Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT), a forum for peer learning, and designated team times to begin launching and organizing with their ATD data and leadership coaches.

Bellevue College’s Journey to ATD

Prior to joining ATD, Bellevue College highlighted student success efforts as a priority, but had been inconsistent in establishing the evaluative framework and data collection necessary to measure outcomes and determine which practices to bring to scale. By joining ATD, Bellevue hopes to develop a culture of data-informed decision making that positively impacts student success outcomes and closes achievement gaps.

“With guidance from ATD, we can improve student supports and services that lead to more students completing their degrees and/or transferring for further education, and we can close the achievement gaps among traditionally marginalized groups,” explained Bonnie Berry, Director of Grant Development and ATD Co-Lead.

The Value of the Kickoff Experience

At the Kickoff Institute, Bellevue College began their ATD work by participating in a number of activities, from breakout sessions on ATD’s funded learning initiatives to an engaging plenary about ATD’s professional development tool, the Finish Line Game. For the Bellevue College team, two of the most valuable takeaways from the three-day experience were meeting other members of the cohort and the closing plenary by Dr. David Dodson, president of MDC, an ATD founding partner focused on equity and economic mobility.

“While Bellevue College is fortunate to have a multitude of resources, we were able to identify with and personalize several struggles others articulated,” said Dr. Sayumi Irey, Bellevue College Interim Vice President for Diversity/Chief Diversity Officer. “The Kickoff experience gave the Bellevue team an opportunity to bear witness to the colleges who are seeing positive outcomes from their diligent work.”

Dodson spoke to the critical role community colleges play in economic mobility.

“Dr. David Dodson reminded me that it is through community colleges that many people access higher education when there is no other way for them to access it,” said Berry. “It is imperative for community college faculty and staff to keep that in mind in all that we do, and be deliberate about removing barriers for those who struggle the most to obtain upward economic mobility.”

Next Steps

Following the Kickoff Institute, Bellevue College plans to leverage the relationships they cultivated within their own team and with ATD coaches, ATD staff, and other Network colleges to begin the process of transformation to be more responsive and meet the needs of all students, especially underserved populations, in ways that empower them to be successful and achieve post-completion outcomes.

“As far as the Bellevue team goes, we will meet regularly and continue to build trust and team rapport. We also believe that our two ATD coaches will guide us to navigate accountability throughout the implementation process,” said Irey. “In terms of the ATD staff and other colleges, we are excited that we have already received an invitation to learn from them and are inspired to share our experience, knowledge, and resources!” 

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