ATD Holistic Student Supports Institute challenges community college leaders to make changes for student success

More than 400 community college leaders participated in Achieving the Dream’s (ATD) third annual Holistic Student Supports Institute, where they had an opportunity to tackle how to more holistically support their students and dive deep into the implementation of addressing all student needs. Over the course of three days, participants learned from experts within Achieving the Dream's diverse network of colleges and national experts working to design, implement, and assess a "whole college" approach to improving student outcomes. In addition to 22 sessions covering topics such as deepening faculty engagement, creating small changes on campus, and serving underserved high school students in their community. This year, ATD offered two distinct tracks for college teams to follow: Holistic Student Supports Exploration Experience and Holistic Student Supports Design Experience.

The Institute offered two pre-conference workshops, one presented by Amarillo College, an ATD Leader College and a recipient of the 2019 Leah Meyer Austin award. The workshop provided attendees information about the strategies Amarillo has employed to overcome poverty barriers to student success. In 2014, Amarillo adopted a “Culture of Caring” program based on five principles: love, listen, understand, empower, and invest in the students you have. “By following these five principles, we have really seen a transformation at our own institution. We have really put in the work to keep the student at the center of every decision we’re making,” said Cara Crowley, vice president of strategic initiatives at Amarillo College. “We believe that our no excuse culture of caring means that there truly is no excuse to why a student cannot complete their degree with us. We have changed the procedures and policies that we had in place and we really got to know who our student was to make that happen.” The workshop provided attendees with the tools to develop action plans to reorganize their institution at every level to better serve their students.

The second pre-conference workshop, “Faculty Roles in Supporting Students Holistically,” led by Jon Iuzzini, ATD Director of Teaching and Learning, and Dr. Laurie Fladd, ATD Director of Holistic Student Supports, examined the way in which faculty currently support students on their individual campuses. The attendees worked collaboratively to focus on developing new structures, processes, and a culture that promotes faculty contribution to a holistic student supports approach. Teams left the workshop with an action plan to implement on their campus that would allow them to move forward with their work of creating a streamlined experience for their students.

During the afternoon opening plenary, ATD Executive director of Holistic Student Supports Shauna Davis called on attendees to challenge their perception of what student supports looks like on campus, “Changing the way we work, is the big key here. How are we working to shape the experience of our students? How are we implementing and supporting their outcomes by the things that they’re experiencing at our institution?”

The breakout sessions focused on small systemic changes that can be made on campus, creating equity-minded and student-ready initiatives, and redesigning the advising and onboarding experience for students. Colleges were encouraged to take a deep dive into their data and take ownership of the obstacles placed in the way of the students’ success. Dr. Tiffany Beth Mfume, assistant vice president for student success and retention at Morgan State University, discussed the long journey of transformation at their institution and the practical strategies that have allowed them to achieve a 14 percent increase in completion.

On the final day of the Institute, college teams participated in intensive working sessions, taking the lessons from the week and turning them into actionable plans. Attendees explored how to effectively communicate the benefits of the holistic student supports work with the community at large.

 

 

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