Pathways Redesign Team Presents Report to Board of Trustees

Santa Monica College (SMC) staff members and volunteers assist students during this year's VIP Welcome Day on Friday, August 23, 2019 in the SMC quad in Santa Monica, Calif. During the October 1 Board of Trustees meeting, members of the Guided Pathways redesign team presented the Board with an update of the implementation of the Pathways framework. Among their success were the new Areas of Interest.  "These Areas of Interest were unveiled with colorful banners…and featured prominently at this year's opening day and the day after, the VIP Welcome Day, which also included for the very first time open houses for Areas of Interest," said Irena Zugic, Project Manager for Pathways during the presentation to the Board of Trustees. (Clyde Bates Jr. / The Corsair)

Santa Monica College (SMC) staff members and volunteers assist students during this year's VIP Welcome Day on Friday, August 23, 2019 in the SMC quad in Santa Monica, Calif. During the October 1 Board of Trustees meeting, members of the Guided Pathways redesign team presented the Board with an update of the implementation of the Pathways framework. Among their success were the new Areas of Interest.

"These Areas of Interest were unveiled with colorful banners…and featured prominently at this year's opening day and the day after, the VIP Welcome Day, which also included for the very first time open houses for Areas of Interest," said Irena Zugic, Project Manager for Pathways during the presentation to the Board of Trustees. (Clyde Bates Jr. / The Corsair)

During this month's Board of Trustees meeting, several members of Santa Monica College's (SMC) Guided Pathways redesign team presented a report outlining the progress made toward implementing the new Pathways Framework to the Board.

The meeting, which took place on Tuesday, October 1, featured Black Collegians Program Leader, Sherri Bradford, faculty co-leads Guido del Piccolo and Maria Muñoz, and Pathways project manager Irena Zugic.

According to the written report provided to the Board, Pathways is "an inclusive approach to reimagine, comprehensively redesign, and equitize the SMC student experience." The main goals of the redesign are: to reduce or eliminate equity gaps, reduce the time that it takes for students to complete their educational goals, and increase the rates of completion overall.

A Case Statement for Pathways, which was published in March of 2018, explains that although SMC boasts numerous academic achievements, most students do not achieve their self-defined goals. Less than 20 percent of SMC students earn a degree, certificate, or transfer to a four-year institution within three years of first attending college. Furthermore, the Case Statement draws attention to the fact that the rate of black and Latinx students that achieve said success is less than half of the rate of white students.

SMC has many programs it has been using to close equity gaps. Pathways is aiming to be one of the most comprehensive.

"The goal of achieving equity has always been the driving force behind the redesign," Muñoz stressed. 

Bradford explained to the Board, "We discussed using inquiry-based research to inform equity-based decision making as a means to develop solutions that will best benefit, particularly, our most marginalized students."

New students will be assigned a "Student Care Team" consisting of an academic counselor, a career counselor, a faculty advisor, a financial aid specialist, and a peer navigator. Beginning in the Fall 2020 semester, all black and Latinx first-time college students will have access to a Student Care Team.  

Pathways is designed to help all students achieve their goals, regardless of their level of preparation for college.

"In essence," the Case Statement for Pathways reads, "we must serve the students as they arrive at our door and facilitate their success in a much more intentional and systematic manner. Most of our first-time-in-college students come to us underprepared for the social, academic, and personal requirements for success in college."

Although Pathways representatives acknowledged there are some major setbacks in implementing Pathways – most notably the lack of comprehensive, student-facing technology needed for students to achieve their goals — they were still able to discuss some of their achievements.

One of the major changes that Pathways will implement are Program Maps. According to the report, all instructional programs, including degrees, certificates, and preparation for transfer, will have "an adaptable program map with on and off ramps."

Del Piccolo stated that the so-called mapping days were some of the team's biggest achievements. "Here," del Piccolo said, "we brought together teams of instructional faculty in a program, a counselor, a curriculum committee representative, and a student. These teams develop the most efficient and effective course sequence based on the students' end-goal." Thus far, there have been five different mapping days, which have resulted in 90 programs being mapped.

According to the report, first-time college students will identify an Area of Interest at the time of their application and will "select an Academic and Career Path by the end of their first academic year."

"We have seven Areas of Interest, which contain related academic and career paths," Zugic explained. These areas are: Arts, Media, and Entertainment; Business; Culture, History, and Languages; Education; Health and Wellness; People and Society; and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

SMC is also offering workshops called "College to Career: Uncover Your Strategy for Choosing a Major and Career Pathway." 

"Each week, there's at least one of these workshops offered on a variety of days and times throughout the semester," Bradford explained. The 75-minute workshops are meant to help guide students in making decisions on which major to choose.

"In order to reach our students before they even get here, there's an offering of a Counseling 12 course, the Career Counseling class, for our high school students at SaMo High School. This one is a particularly popular course, and it was completely full this semester, with the hope of expanding this offering in the future," Bradford said.

"There is much work, as you know, still to be done. Times have changed, and so must we," Muñoz said.

Del Piccolo added, "Times have changed, but by and large, we engage in teaching, learning, counseling, providing services, and trying to meet student needs much the same way we have in the past 30 plus years. The time to fundamentally change business as usual is overdue. To meet the equity goals that we have adopted, we must comprehensively redesign Santa Monica College."