Michigan's College Access Blog

Student-centered Transformation at Jackson College: Our “Total Commitment to Student Success”

A number of years ago at Jackson College, a community college located in Jackson, Michigan, we had an epiphany. For a very long time, we focused our efforts on getting students college-ready. Like most community colleges across the country, we offered a host of developmental education courses in reading, writing, and math. We piloted small-scale initiatives to help students who were not deemed ready for college yet. We did all this work with good intentions, but with minimal, small scale results.

We believed we could and should do more to support the success of our students. To that end, about eight years ago, we began working to reimagine the future of our institution, engaging in research and contemplating innovative strategies that tested long-held assumptions about what works best for students.

We concluded that nothing short of cultural and institutional transformation was necessary to get us where we needed to be. Long story short, we became laser focused on what we call our Total Commitment to Student Success, or “TCS2” for short.

TCS2 has led us to make many significant changes as an institution. For example, we implemented guided pathways, a student-centered model that provides clear curricular roadmaps for students to more efficiently and effectively complete a credential. We redesigned the role of college advisors into Student Success Navigators, and hired enough Navigators to ensure that we had client ratios of less than 1:300. Our Navigators proactively check in with their students regularly throughout a term. We also worked to replace standalone developmental education with more innovative and effective co-requisite course designs. We adopted a holistic approach to help students address the range of non-academic challenges they, unfortunately, too often encounter. Some examples of our “Serving the Whole Student” efforts included opening a food pantry, modifying our student meal plans, expanding transportation options, adding a health clinic in partnership with the local hospital, and creating a mental health clinic on our central campus, called the Oasis Center, in partnership with a local provider, which is readily accessible to students who need the support.

Looking back, we have recognized the TCS2 transformation we have experienced could be summed up in this way: Instead of focusing on getting students college-ready, we shifted the focus on us as a college to be more “student-ready.”[i]

By putting students first and becoming more “student-ready” as a college, we recognized that we needed to ensure that equity is at the center of everything we do. As an equity-driven institution, we aim to give every student what they need to be successful...

  • Instead of inquiring about how to address student actions or behaviors that might be holding students back from being successful, it requires that we ask hard questions of ourselves about what college policies and practices might be holding students back—and changing them.
  • Instead of relying on a transaction-based college advising model that enrolls students in classes as quickly and conveniently as possible, TCS2 has guided us to embrace a relationship-based college guidance model that is rooted in Navigators taking the time to get to know their students and supporting them throughout their academic journey.
  • Instead of offering more developmental courses or adding more pre-requisites to gateway courses in response to the growing numbers of students who are deemed “unprepared” for college, we have tapped into the grit and talents that students already have, connected them with the best, most student-centered and passionate faculty on campus from day one, and provided them a launch pad into college-level coursework their very first term.
  • Instead of accepting the notion that college is supposed to be challenging and weed some students out, we moved to proactively provide more holistic supports to students, so they can focus on their academics rather than worrying about where they are going to get their next meal or how they are going to manage the unrelenting stress in their lives.

The results to date of our TCS2 transformation and our efforts to become more “student-ready” have been extraordinary. In 2015, 35% of our first-time-in-college (FITIAC) students earned at least six college credits their first term; in 2017, that percent doubled, reaching over 71%. In 2015, 17% of our students completed both college math and English in their first year; in 2017, that percent also more than doubled at just over 36%. 

Something I’m particularly excited about is what our math department is embarking on. Last semester (Fall 2018), we piloted an innovative co-requisite math model whereby students, who placed in developmental math, enrolled in two math classes (one developmental, one college-level), actively studied math for two hours each day Monday through Thursday, and received collaborative inquiry-based instruction from some our best faculty on campus. Previously, just about two in ten students who placed in developmental math would pass college-level math within two years... In the pilot, nearly all students passed their developmental math class with flying colors, and better yet, nearly seven out of ten students passed college level math their very first semester.

Our mission at Jackson College is “Together, We Inspire and Transform Lives.” As part of our efforts to transform lives, we realized we needed to transform ourselves. We have grown deeply committed to the service of others and are putting equity at the center of everything we do by being totally committed to the success of each and every student.

Our transformation is only just beginning. We continue to strive to be a student-ready college in many ways, including by offering more 7-week classes, embracing competency-based education, and expanding our early college programs. We are on an exciting journey and welcome the chance to connect with other equity-driven, student-centered colleges, so we can learn from each other and inspire each other. We have a great responsibility as higher education institutions; the work we do matters.

Kate Thirolf, Ph.D., is Vice President for Instruction at Jackson College. More about Jackson College can be found at www.jccmi.edu.


[i] Note: The book Becoming a Student-Ready College (2016, Association of American Colleges & Universities) by Tia Brown McNair, Susan Albertine, Michelle Asha Cooper, Nicole McDonald and Thomas Major, Jr. deserves credit for coining the term and promoting the need for colleges to be “student-ready.”

 

Author: Kathryn Thirolf
Posted: February. 12, 2019

 

2018 CARDINAL AWARD RECIPIENT: North Branch High School

These award recipients boost the college access activity in communities on the ground level helps drive the state toward the Big Goal – 60 percent by 2025. They also promote campaigns that urge students, parents, school staff and citizens to take direct action helps to create a sense of urgency around the postsecondary planning process. The recipient of this award is an individual or organization that has advanced the college-going culture through significant investment in statewide campaigns. 

1. College and credentials can be life-changing to people across the state, why do you believe that is true in your community?

North Branch is located in Lapeer County, where the current degree achievement rate is only 29.5%. As we strive to increase the achievement rate in the North Branch community, we also believe it will increase the economic status of our community and have an overall positive impact on our county.

2. As a college access champion, how will you continue to work toward promoting college access in your community?

We will continue to have a strong relationship with the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) as we work to achieve our common goal of 60% obtainment by 2025. The next few years will be vital and we understand that those in our current and upcoming graduating classes are extremely vital in achieving this goal. Our Post-Secondary Advisory Council (PAC) has already begun working on ideas for next school year to further promote our college-going culture at the high school and expansion to lower grade levels.

3. Your hard work and commitment are helping us draw closer to Goal 2025, please describe a challenge you faced in your postsecondary planning process, and how your efforts helped to address it?

The most difficult challenge was getting started and figuring out what would have the strongest impact in a short amount of time. We opened our PAC membership to everyone and in effect formed a strong group of individuals who believe in the work and are extremely excited about it. We also have the support of our administration and Board of Education, which we continuously update on our progress, ideas, and implementation.

North Branch was extremely fortunate to receive a Reach Higher grant and then the following year to have the privilege of including an AdviseMI Adviser.  The support of MCAN has been extremely vital in the acceleration of promoting the college-going culture in our district.

Author: Amy Hyrman
Posted: February 5, 2019 

 

Michigan's Student Veteran and Military Student Educators

The Consortium of Michigan Veteran Educators (CMVE) formed as a grassroots effort in early 2012 to help share best practices, support and information between Michigan’s 43 public colleges and universities concerning military-connected students and their families.  It remains the core mission of CMVE today. The Michigan College Access Network is a proud sponsor of CMVE.

Philip Larson is Program Director of Veteran and Military Services at the University of Michigan and serves as the Associate Director, of the Office of New Student Programs of CMVE.

Unlike counterparts in other states, CMVE is member supported and member lead.  We are independent from the State of Michigan although we work closely with the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency (MVAA).  This independence allows us to be flexible addressing questions and helping our member institutions serve their students.  Our other valuable partners include Michigan Community College Association (MCCA), Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU), and the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN).  This partnering with relevant resources inside the state, along with leveraging the talent found in our own universities and colleges, is what has enabled CMVE to thrive.  Examples of our collaboration include collaboration on webinar presentations, national conference presentations, the Multistate Collaborative on Military Credit and collaborating with Quicken loans to host the first state-wide conference with Michigan Student Veterans of America chapters.

From 2015 to 2018, CMVE has been a recipient of a generous Kresge Foundation grant, which fully funded our operational, collaboration and event budgets.  This year, we will start to rely upon our membership with annual dues starting July 1 and conference fees to offset costs.  While we cannot offer all of the benefits that came with generous grant funding, we are committed to offering events, best practices and knowledge sharing that our membership has come to rely on.  We will continue to host an annual conference, something not found anywhere else in our region.

Our mission going forward is to continue to support our four-year universities and colleges, our community colleges and two-year schools and to collaborate with non-profit institutions within our great State.  We are planning a few webinars and two statewide conferences for 2019, where we will share ideas, new resources and best practices for our members.  We want to ensure that military-connected students who are residents of Michigan or who are coming from out-of-state receive the best education possible and that their military service is recognized and rewarded.

CMVE is looking forward to this year of change.  We will count on our membership for support, for their time and for their knowledge in helping to serve veterans, National Guard and reservists, active duty military and all military families as they transition into higher education.

Author: Philip Larson, Chairperson, Board of Directors, CMVE
Posted: Jan. 29, 2019

Abandoning the term “At-Risk” for “At-Promise”: Turning the Meaning into Action.

Beverly Brown holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Oakland University, a Master’s in Administration from Central Michigan University, and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Western Michigan University.  A native of Detroit, she now lives in Flint and currently works in Lansing as the Early Middle College Manager for the Michigan Department of Education.

I recently did a Google search for the terms “at risk” combined with “at promise.”  In less than a second, the search engine identified 172,000,000 results. One article written in 2006 (Whiting, Vanderbilt University) asserted that the term “at-promise” conveyed a scholarly identity early on in a student’s educational journey. Another article published in The Washington Post (Mathews, 2009) suggested that the term “at promise” was merely “feel good language” that had no real meaning. In 2012, Ferris State University (Fulmer & Wildfong) offered a deeper understanding of the term. They suggested that the phrase focused on one’s natural gifts and potential for good.

While scholars continue to write about the pros and cons of the term “at-promise,” I want to point to a school here in Michigan that has not only given meaning to the term, but they also put it into action every day. I have closely observed the founder, leaders, and teachers at Mott Middle College in Flint for the past five years. Since 1991, they have intentionally welcomed students who are labeled what dominate society refers to as “at-risk.”  From the very beginning, they adopted and embraced the following motto: A fresh start toward a successful future.  In so doing, they applied a strategic formula, including robust wrap-around services, to transform students into young scholars.  These young people, many of whom are economically disadvantaged and African American, walk away knowing that they are “at-promise.”

The founder and former principal of Mott Middle College, Dr. Chery Wagonlander, created a purposeful culture of academic confidence among students. The first step, however, was to create a scholarly culture among teachers. In other words, scholars cultivating scholars became the theory that she put into action. What Dr. Wagonlander did more than two decades ago, was to enact what Carol S. Dweck wrote about in her 2006 book, Mindset. Both women challenged the traditional narrative of “at-risk” by declaring that all human beings can develop purposeful, positive academic, technical and social outcomes—no matter what background, age or race.

This “at-promise” framework has yielded an average GPA of 3.0 for its 13th year and dual enrollment graduates, many of whom earn more than one Associate Degree upon exiting Mott Middle College. The Early Middle College movement in Michigan is predicated on this “at-promise” philosophy. It is a particularly relevant framework for those students who are regarded as economically disadvantaged, underserved, underperforming and underrepresented. First generation college students also benefit greatly from the “at-promise” mantra at Early Middle Colleges across the state.

To learn more about becoming a state-approved Early Middle College, register your team of teachers, counselors, administrators, pupil accounting clerks and postsecondary partners for the Feb. 22, 2019 Getting Started Workshop at Mott Community College in Flint at the following link before February 8: Early Middle College Getting Started Workshop.

Author: Beverly Brown Ph.D., Early Middle College Manager, Michigan Department of Education.
Posted: January 22, 2019

 

Michigan College Access Network | 200 N Washington Square, Suite 210, Lansing, MI 48933 (map) | (517) 316-1713 Contact Us | Site Map | Terms and Privacy