Holistic Student Supports Institute Highlights

Teams from 50 colleges totaling more than 300 people convened this week in St. Louis for Achieving the Dream’s Holistic Student Supports Institute, an immersive experience that prepared colleges to redesign their student supports and adopt a holistic supports approach. The Institute was structured to help attendees develop a vision of holistic supports on their campuses, determine goals and action steps, and identify ways to engage college stakeholders in efforts to put holistic student supports in place.

With guidance from trained Institute facilitators, including ATD staff, coaches, college peers, and other experts, the colleges began working to make navigating college less formidable, especially for students facing financial instability and other obstacles to completion. ATD’s holistic student supports approach aims to break down the barrier between academic and nonacademic supports to provide a seamless, high quality, and personalized experience that supports every student’s academic and basic needs to ensure that more students, particularly students of color and low-income students, can achieve their goals.

Colleagues Learned from Each Other
Participants heard lessons and advice from peers already engaged in redesigning their own colleges’ student supports. Chad Thompson, Director of Sparkpoint and Career Services at Skyline College, shared a theory of change model and framework that integrates transformative teaching and learning, guided pathways, and a Promise Scholars program. Joanna Zimmerman, Associate Vice Chancellor, Student Services at San Jacinto College offered strategies for identifying and engaging stakeholders who can help students learn and succeed.

West Hills College Lemoore Vice President of Student Services Val Martinez-Garcia and ATD Strategic Data and Technology Coach Leon Hill tackled hard questions about community colleges’ opportunity and duty to address equity and increase students’ economic mobility. Their plenary asked college teams how well they know their college and community data, how they define equity, and what it means to design a systems approach to removing barriers to student success. Marvin DeJear, Director at Evelyn K Davis Center for Working Families discussed the critical work of the center and alignment of the Working Student Success Network with the underlying principles of holistic student supports:  sustained, strategic, integrated, personalized, proactive.

ATD President, Leadership Coach and Executive Dean Discussed Building a Culture of Leadership
One of the Institute’s plenaries featured a discussion about building a culture of learning and growth by Dr. Karen A. Stout, ATD president and CEO, Dr. Joanne Bashford, ATD Leadership Coach and former Miami Dade College InterAmerican Campus president, and Dr. Desiree Polk-Bland, executive dean of student affairs at Columbus State Community College. They emphasized the importance of leadership at all levels of an organization, not just at senior levels. They also noted a cultural fear of asking questions and its power to discourage growth.

Team Time Sparked New Thinking
During working sessions, teams spent time identifying the ideal components of the student experience and discussing the disconnects in their current services and grappling with the challenges of redesigning them. For example, sessions offered opportunities to craft a vision and goals for their redesign work, use process mapping, identify pain points in the student experience, and define structural, process and attitudinal changes required for holistic student supports.

Want to relive the fun? See our Wakelet story about the Institute here or go to Twitter and look at #HolisticStudentSupports.

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