DREAM Reflections from the Aloha State

Four weeks after returning from the annual DREAM conference of Achieving the Dream’s Network colleges, Rachel Mullins Veney, iPASS Grant Project Manager, and several colleagues reflect on their experience.


The Achieving the Dream conference was three jammed packed days of learning, sharing and inspiration.  I arrived early for the iPASS convening and collaborated with institutions across the nation participating in the three-year grant project to use technology tools as the catalyst for driving a more strategic, sustained, intrusive, integrated and proactive model for student advising and planning.  We heard engaging speakers and had the opportunity to do intentional, collaborative exercises with our teams in hopes of driving us into the next stages of our grant work.  Following the iPASS convening, I joined my other colleagues at the main conference for continued learning.  We walked away with more knowledge, a stronger team, pride in our work and motivation to share our successes.  To learn more about the experience of colleagues, I sat down with three members of the Honolulu Community College ohana who attended the conference.  I met with Kalani, a staff member who runs a Title III Grant focused on increasing student success through rooting the campus in culture-based learning; Coco, a math faculty who was attending her second ATD conference; and Brenda, an English faculty.   

By attending sessions, particularly the concurrent sessions presented by colleagues from across the nation, we left with best practices and simmering ideas for next steps.  Kalani indicated that Achieving the Dream conferences were valuable for “the ability to see how other community colleges implement best practices.”  I, for example, attended several workshops on creating an evidence based, data using culture.  Presenters from Houston Community College, Santa Fe Community College and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College provided strategies for engaging faculty around data.  By putting data into the hands of faculty, for example, they could drive solutions from their faculty who thus welcomed data and took great ownership over solutions.  Colleagues attended sessions covering broad ranges of topics.  For example, Coco was inspired by a session about apprenticeship.  When I spoke with her, she commented that although the session did not directly relate to her work it helped her understand the bigger picture and gave her motivation to engage with colleagues around these types of initiatives at Honolulu Community College.  She sees apprenticeship as addressing students’ financial and motivational needs, which are two barriers to success.  Brenda was excited to learn more about Open Educational Resources and build connections to those across the nation using these tools.  She hopes to building more OER into her curriculum.  

Outside of the sessions our team of faculty, staff and administrators bonded.  As Coco said the conference creates an opportunity for “links between faculty and staff who do not normally get to see each other.”  Brenda described how the opportunity to interact outside of our normal workday built trust.  She said “I liked getting to know all of you.  We learned a lot about each other.  Now we have a kind of bond.”  Additionally, beyond the bond that our team strengthened, all participating in the conference could come together as “one community, united in student success.”

Our experience at ATD left us with pride for the work we are currently doing at Honolulu Community College.  In listening to others present about the work they are doing in developmental education; our faculty reflected on the great strides we have made at Honolulu in implementing our co-requisite model.  As Brenda stated, “It is so cool to find out that HCC is not out here alone in the Pacific.  We are actually on the cutting edge.”  Kalani noticed one way we are on the cutting edge; few institutions shared about culture/place-based pedagogy and practice, something that we are fervently working on here at Honolulu.  Coming together with those from across the nation dedicated to student success, helped our group to see how we fit into the work taking place on the national scale and where those across the nation can learn from us.

Feeling proud about the work that we do at HCC has energized us to want to tell our stories.  Our faculty and staff are doing work which has value beyond our island in the Pacific.  Next year we need to return to ATD ready to present on topics ranging from culturally responsive, place based pedagogy to the use of embedded tutoring in developmental education and the creative and rigorous engagement of high school students in college courses.  We will be ready to come back to learn, share and strengthen our community as we work towards greater student success.         

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