Course Redesign Institute-2018 Part II, CRI Week

What an amazing week of collaboration and practical application.  Although small in size, our group was great in dedication.  Our nine attendees were faithfully present and engaged all week, often staying later than the institute was scheduled for in order to further collaborate, share ideas, and discuss what they learned each day.

CRI Banner

CRI week was kicked off with Dr. Tanis Starck, Director, Office of Intercultural Relations San Diego State University.  Dr. Starck jump started discussions on diversity, cultural proficiency, and equity.  She brings with her an inspiring background, having been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, she and her family relocated to San Diego with nothing.  Beginning as a an Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Centers for Student Involvement at San Diego State University, Dr. Starck discovered a need among students to be more culturally competent and aware.  Developing more structured programming for the students led to her promotion to a new department, the Office of Intercultural Relations.

The week also included guest speaker and presenter Dr. Gina Garcia, Assistant professor in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  Explore some of her publications to see her commitment to diversity and equity within higher education.  Her research interests emphasize the organizational culture and identity of Hispanic Serving Institutions and the retention, success, and identity development of Latina/o college students.  Her presentation for CRI delved into what it really means to be an HSI campus.

The week concluded with Daniel Mendoza, Adjunct Counselor at San Diego City and Cuyamaca Colleges.  Through his testimonial he was able to share about his experience in the community college system and how culture played a role in his education.  He addresses head on the struggles for the Mexican American population to pursue higher education in America, particularly as first generation students.  Using his personal and professional experience, Dany spoke about the benefits of a network and a mentor in order to gain a sense of belonging and receive the guidance and support that was needed.  Dany explains that he found these things through the Puente Project, which played a significant role in his achievements.  This really drove home the importance of our efforts to develop programs and redesign our courses to further engage students and support their success.  See the full 2018 CRI Agenda.


ELAC – What’s That?

As part of the overall objectives from the very beginning, Proyecto Éxito has dedicated time and resources for course redesign across multiple disciplines in order to support student success.  English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL) is one area this is most evident in.  In the last several months the ESOL program has undergone a massive overhaul that has incorporated development and application workshops across our district.  Although not as immediately as other disciplines, the passing of AB705 will further impact the results of this course redesign.

In Fall 2018, Mesa, City, and Miramar’s ESOL Programs will be replaced with a new program called ELAC (English Language Acquisition). Under our current ESOL program, reading and writing courses are split into separate courses independent of each other. However, research has supported the idea that combining reading and writing courses offer students a much deeper understanding of these skills; therefore, a focus of the new ELAC curriculum features integrated reading and writing courses that offer opportunities for students to incorporate grammar, reading, and writing components into their English learning. Additionally, there will be optional challenge courses that allow dedicated students opportunities to move through the curriculum on an accelerated pathway that enables them to move to transfer-level English classes in a shorter time frame.ELAC training-1

Spearheaded by our HSI/Title V Grant ESOL Course Re-designer, Professor Tracey Walker, during the spring semester several professional learning workshops were held as a result of the collaborative efforts between Proyecto Éxito and the English Departments district wide.  This process began last year with someELAC training-2 outcomes and assessment questions that really brought forward the need for additional attention to current ESOL courses.  In addition to these workshops, the AFT Guild hosted the first annual “The Summer Institute” in partnership with San Diego State University, from May 29 through June 1st, 2018.  What started out as plans for 2 days of interactive workshops and presentations, eligible forELAC training-3 1 unit of credit, evolved into 4 days of collaboration and practical application, worth up to 2 units of credit, and a student perspective component where participants heard directly from students.  We believe this resulted in a richer and more fulfilling experience for all those involved.

Meanwhile, in our continual efforts to be transparent, inform our students, and celebrate their success, our other HSI/Title V Grant ESOL Course Re-designer, Jaime Lemke, has been leading the efforts in the production of our ESOL Newsletter, that is being published each semester.  Check out the latest edition for Summer 2018.  We are pleased that it highlights the work of our students, evidence of progress and success in our efforts.

HSI/Title V Grant (Proyecto Éxito) Summer 2018 – What’s to Come:

With multiple programs in the works and making great progress toward our grant objectives, it is important to everyone on the Proyecto Éxito team that we get the word out.  We want to let everyone on campus know what we are doing, what’s to come, and the progress we have made.  We wanted to take a moment here to highlight our plans and progress for the summer 2018.

Summer Classroom Tutoring

Our Classroom Tutoring Program continues to run strong with dedicated tutors who are committed to our students’ success.  As we move toward institutionalization, for this program, we are confident that we are anchored in multiple math and science courses.  This summer we will be offering classroom tutoring in seven classes, (MATH 96, 116, and 141; BIOL 107; and CHEM 152).

We are using this time also, to prepare for the fall semester.  We received 40 applications for new classroom tutors to begin in the fall.  We have 13 new hires who are currently in the process of completing the onboarding paperwork.  These incoming classroom tutors will participate in the mandatory two-day training scheduled for August 13th and 14th.  Coming up in Year 5 of our grant we will be focusing on increasing our presence within the Social and Behavioral Sciences.  Keep an eye out for updates on our planning efforts.

Summer CRUISE 2018 (Adult Students and Family Member/Parent Academy) 

Checking in with our CRUISE and Peer Navigator Programs allows us to visualize how they continue to grow and exceed our expectations.  While we started to develop the space designated for AVANZA during the last year, we experienced a delay in receiving an approval from the Division of the State Architect for the remodeling of the area.  We are anticipating that we will be able to unveil the new and improved AVANZA in conjunction with the start of the fall semester.  However, a little construction has not slowed us down.

Under the direction of our Student Success Specialist, Agustin Rivera, and our Senior Student Service Assistant, Alexi Balaguer, we’ve hired 9 new Peer Navigators who, along with out returning 3 peer navigators, are currently in the 3-week training process as we prepare for our Summer CRUISE sessions.  This will bring our total peer navigators to 12 for this academic year.  We also want to acknowledge our new Lead Peer Navigator, Quintin Wortham. We are confident that he, like his predecessors, will do a phenomenal job leading and motivating our team to provide the best possible student support to all of our CRUISErs this summer.

Always looking for the best way to serve all of our incoming students, regardless of their circumstances, we’ve made a few changes for this year.  Last summer we hosted 5 weeks of CRUISE, including 2 evening sessions for our Adult Learners, Veterans, .and Continuing Education students.  This year we will be offering 4 weeks of CRUISE from 8-1, (July 10th-12th; 17th-19th; 24th-26th, and July 31st -Aug 2nd) and will be piloting an Adult Students session (Saturday, July 21st) instead of the evening sessions.  In addition, we will be piloting our new Family Member/Parent Academy from 8-11:30 (Saturdays July 14th or 28th).  We are excited to try new things and capture student and family member/parent feedback on our efforts to enrich their community college experience here at Mesa College.

Summer Mathletics 2018 

After a successful year of piloting Mathletics in both the summer 2017 and the winter 2018 sessions and receiving positive feedback from both. (see our fall 2017 outcomes) we are excited to be launching our 2018 Summer Mathletics.  Understanding that we have a variety of students with differing needs, we wanted to make the opportunity available to more students.  We will be hosting two sessions this summer:  Night-Time Mathletics, 6-8 pm, July 30-August 2, located in MS-213 for those who are working or already taking summer classes, and Daytime Mathletics, 10-2 pm, August 6-9, 2018, located in the STEM Center (LRC 115) and MS-213.  For those of you who may be just hearing about this program:

Mathletics is a 4-day volunteer workshop that provides interactive learning opportunities to strengthen and review math skills across all levels of math.  The workshops generally include guest speakers, team building, math stations (providing students to get the most out of the workshop by focusing on what they need individually), and independent practice with ALEKS, our online forum.

We hope these will be the largest Mathletics events yet, as we continually strive to grow the program and extend math support across all math specialties.  As was our goal, we have opened up the workshop for all levels of mathematics this summer as well as to incoming students, not just current students.  It’s not too late to register, the APPLICATION IS NOW OPEN.  We hope to meet you there.


Course Redesign Institute-2018, Part I Planning

Last year we highlighted our Course Redesign Institute (CRI) in our summer events post.  Birthed from the HSI Title V Grant, Proyecto Éxito, CRI is a week-long interactive event for faculty to revise their courses and address the needs of disproportionately impacted students.  CRI guides faculty to think critically about how to address equity gaps in their courses.  Faculty employs more active learning techniques in their classes and creates course materials that are more engaging and relevant to students.  It is one of our practical strategies for improvement at San Diego Mesa College.  Activities to implement these strategies focus on increasing student success by redesigning gateway courses to be more culturally diverse and improving teaching and student success through professional learning and enhancement of the technological environment of learning.  This year’s CRI will be taking place June 18-22, 2018.

As Proyecto Éxito moves into its fifth year we will be increasing our focus on Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS).  With this in mind, we met up with Professor Charlene Holkenbrink-Monk, HSI/Title V Grant Activity Director to see how CRI 2018 was progressing.  This will be the first in a three-part series to capture the collaboration taking place to ensure a successful week of the CRI.

Charlene shared, “This year’s CRI has a definite SBS perspective with concentrations on being culturally responsive and engaging in conversations that are SBS relevant.  With the variety of disciplines attending CRI we can be more culturally and socially responsive across all disciplines.”

Over the past few months Charlene has been reaching out to SBS Faculty in collaboration to assess the needs of the department.  Her common questions have been, “What obstacles do you see as an instructor and for your students?  What can assist you in overcoming these obstacles?”  Charlene described these discussions as, “Moving away from the ‘What can you bring to the table?’ approach and toward a ‘You will always have a seat at the table’ and asking which is more valuable?”

With these things in mind, Charlene suggested the reading of “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (New York:  Seabury Press, 1968) for this year’s CRI.  The key point being that critical reflection and action are needed in order to create change.  This text has been included as a supplemental reading.  Additionally, on day 3 of CRI the presentations will include: “What it means to be ‘Hispanic Serving,’ an examination of the relevance of student success, and how it relates to course redesign.”

Although only two SBS Faculty registered for CRI, it looks like it will be another remarkable week of collaboration and redesign.  Stay tuned for Part II, CRI Week.

Mathletics Workshops

As Proyecto Éxito continues to progress toward our objectives of increasing the percentage of students earning a C or better in basic skills math courses, and increasing the percentage of students successfully completing a college-level math course, we continue to look at the development of Mathletics to support these objectives.  Our pilot workshops have explored alternative ways to meet our students needs with the implementation of AB705 that will eliminate remedial math courses.  We have had substantial positive feedback, some of which resulted in our creation of consistent follow-up Mathletics workshops to be held throughout the spring semester.

We wanted to check in with these workshops to see how they have gone throughout the semester and talk to students.  We were pleasantly surprised to learn that all of the workshops have been pretty well attended, indicating their usefulness for students.  So when we popped in to chat, students were eager to share what the workshops have offered them.

“These workshops are awesome.  I really like to come before a test in my class, it always prepares me.” ~ Zack

“The tutors are really good.  They teach different techniques and strategies.  I learn more here than in my class.  We are all here for the same reason.  Sometimes it seems like our professors expect us to already know the material.” ~ Jenny

There was a particular group of students who were in attendance who were all from the same class.  They shared how they learned about the workshops and began to attend and then invited their classmates to attend as well.  We were dumbfounded to discover these students were attending the workshop during their class time.  They expressed that they were not getting the help they needed in their class, but were learning much more about the concepts and material from the workshops together.  One student explained, “If I knew this was going to be a self-taught course, I would have just signed up for it online and not wasted my time in the class for two hours.”  This same student expressed a fear of failing the course, and their classmates concurred.  Hearing this truth from our students is so crucial to our course redesign planning.  As we consider the importance of equity and being “all in for students” this challenges us to take a good hard look at our teaching practices and ask ourselves is our method still a “best practice.”  As an institution of higher education we must be as versatile as we ask our students to be, willing to reach them on their level and meet them where they are at.  This phenomenal group of students had these to share:

“Juan and Kelly (Math Professor and co-designer of Mathletics) don’t assume that you already have the knowledge.  They break it down to the basics and show step by step how to solve the problems.  They don’t skip steps assuming students know how they got from the first part to the second.” ~ Anonymous

“They are so friendly here.  They watch our approach to a problem and meet us where our understanding lies.  If that doesn’t work, then they offer a different approach as an alternative without telling the students they are wrong.” ~ Anonymous

Amazed with the tenacity and perseverance of these terrific students, we followed up with Professor Juan Bernal, HSI/Title V Grant Math Course Re-designer, to see if he had more to offer.  While definitely not encouraging students to miss class, he agreed that there is much for us to learn and explore in listening to our students’ concerns and experiences.  He shared:

“It is great that they come to the workshops asking for extra help but Kelly and I have advised them not to miss class. We want the workshops to be supplemental resources and not a replacement of class. At the same time, we don’t feel comfortable turning students away when they need help. This leaves us stuck in a grey area. Kelly and I will continue doing our jobs and helping students out and we have told the students not to miss class because of the workshop. This just brings attention to the fact that as instructors, we need better ways to be efficient in presenting material during class and figure out why students refuse to go to class.” ~ Professor Bernal

When we take the time to talk to and really listen to our students, it is invaluable what we learn.  It also assures them that we are paying attention to their needs and they can count on us to put their educational experience first.

Peer Navigator Wins Scholarship to AHSIE

AHSIE Natchel-3A couple of weeks ago we shared how we were able to send a wonderful team of our HSI members to the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators (AHSIE) Best Practices Conference in Chicago.  We also talked about the importance of incorporating “best practices” in order to achieve our grant outcomes.  As part of our objective to increase the number of participants in the Peer Navigator program who indicate they feel a strong connection to the campus and their peers, we decided to include our Lead Peer Navigator as a member of our team attending the AHSIE Conference.  This is our second year including the Lead Peer Navigator and we wanted to follow up with a student’s perspective.  Even though we are heading into crunch time with finals so close to the end of the semester, we caught up with our Lead Peer Navigator, Natchel, and she was happy to share.

Proyecto Éxito:  What made you apply for a scholarship to attend the AHSIE Conference in Chicago?

AHSIE Agustin-NatchelNatchel:  “As part of my Lead Peer Navigator assignment, I was to attend the AHSIE Conference.  I did know much about the conference. Little did I know that they offered a scholarship. I learned about this opportunity through my boss, Agustin Rivera.  I was going to be in D.C. speaking on behalf of DACA students all over the nation when the scholarship application was due.  I was already overwhelmed with this trip, but Agustin told me that I would be a great candidate for the AHSIE Seed to Tree Scholarship.  While in D.C. I was staying in a church and there was no Wi-Fi.  I did not think I would be able to complete my application.  I was sharing my concern with a representative from ACLU, and she invited me to use the Wi-Fi at her hotel to complete my application.”

Proyecto Éxito:  Wow!  Just in time.  Then you receive the scholarship.  Share what that was like.

Natchel:  “Well, I really did not think that I would get it.  I did not hear back from them for a really long time.  Then, after a couple of months I received an email from them with a letter of congratulations attached to it.  As only one of six people selected to receive this Scholarship, it was such a blessing.  I was crying after I received the letter, it was just what I needed to keep pushing and moving forward.”

Proyecto Éxito:  Tell us what Chicago was like?AHSIE-NBL 1

Natchel:  “Chicago was amazing.  I was lucky enough to be traveling with Agustin and we took the train from the airport to the city.  It was an hour train ride, but looking at the houses and seeing all of the diversity there was just amazing.  As part of the scholarship I was given the opportunity to share my story.  It was so wonderful to hear the stories of other awesome students.  I made so many connections while there.  The experience made me question my major and really think about education and what it means to me.  I learned what being a Hispanic Serving Institution really means.”

Proyecto Éxito:  Terrific!  What was the highlight of the conference for you?

Natchel:  “The highlight of the event was seeing how many people look up to the work that San Diego Mesa College is doing to serve Hispanic students.”

We are so grateful that Natchel had some time to meet with us.  It is our hope that reading her perspective and hearing her story will remind all of us just how important our work here is.  Natchel, we are so proud to have you on our team.

Peer Navigators go to D.C.

N-J DC 3

Back in September of 2017, Donald Trump, President of the United States, ordered the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  His order announced that the administration would “initiate a wind down process,” thereby creating “a time period for Congress to act – should it so choose.”  This presidential order created a time of confusion, fear, and uncertainty at campuses across the nation with DACA students.  Many of our students and families were faced with the difficult choice to hide or stand up and speak out.  Two of our Peer Navigator’s chose the latter and immediately began to organize support for students and families in the community.

It all began with their student organization “Rising Immigrant Scholar’s through Education” (RISE).  As the president and co-president (respectively), Juan and Natchel had been networking with local non-profits including the ACLU and Alliance San Diego, when they were referred to “United With Dream” the only nationwide organization led by undocumented youth.  What they believed was another networking opportunity turned into an invitation for both of them to fly out to Washington, D.C. and share their stories in representation of undocumented youth before the United States Congress.  These two PN’s were the only two students selected from the southern California, San Diego area.

Just six months into building relationships with these organizations, Juan and Natchel find themselves in our nation’s capital.  Their first experience with travel and even flying, both of these amazing Mesa students stepped up to walk their talk and be tremendous examples for their peers and community.  Both of them shared how even in the midst of their excitement to go somewhere outside of San Diego, they understood that they were not going for a vacation but to work and be the voice for so many who could not go.  They took some time out of their busy schedules to share their experience.

Their first day in D.C. they attended a training on how to tell their stories in just one minute.  It was important for them to be able to get to the heart of their experience before the congressman and women or senators they were addressing stopped listening.  They were reminded that they were there to use their stories, their voices, to fight for the Dream Act, not just for Mesa College, not just for California, but for the entire U.S.  It was explained that they would be involved in multiple “actions” which entailed going into the offices of our representatives, sharing their stories, and soliciting support for the Dream Act.  Juan and Natchel admitted to us that even though they had been following this movement on social media, and had seen videos of activists taking over the offices of senators and congress, they never imagined themselves in that role.  Until that moment they had just considered themselves student advocates, not activists.  Both recounted how that shift changed their lives dramatically.  They suddenly saw this as a national issue, not simply a Mesa one.

Although they believed that they would be speaking in front of groups before the vote took place, things did not quite play out that way.  They participated in daily actions from 8 in the morning until 9 at night.  Even though it was exhausting, the exhilaration kept them going.  Unfortunately, at the end of the week, when it came time for a vote, the Dream Act was not even on the agenda.  They returned to San Diego not knowing the results of their efforts.

The vote was rescheduled for mid-January.  Although Natchel was unable to return at that time, Juan did, along with another member from their RISE organization.  Juan shared that it was completely different the second time.  Thrown off by the lack of a vote the first time around, there was much less structure and no specific agenda.  However, this proved a much deeper experience of sharing stories within the communities and not just in offices.  At one point the group of students began supporting a Jewish community who were supporting the Dream Act.  These elder Jewish Community members began doing voluntary arrests to support the undocumented youth, and they would sing songs that they learned from their families who had sung the songs during the Holocaust.  Juan struggled to convey the depth of emotion these songs produced in the community, as this group put themselves, their families, their lives at risk, in support of undocumented youth.

This time they actually were able to attend the vote.  The first scheduled vote became deadlocked, they attempted a second secret vote, but further postponed it when the activist groups learned of it and showed up.  When the vote finally came about, and a budget was voted in without the inclusion of the Dream Act, there were no words to describe the disappointing devastation felt among the community.  However, they did not allow this to discourage them, and they came home with a renewed purpose to continue similar “actions” within their community right here in San Diego.  They have continued to work tirelessly to elicit support, share information, and educate people on the importance of the issues raised by the elimination of DACA.

Among our objectives within the Title V Grant is to increase the percentage of participants within our Peer Navigator program who indicate they fell a strong connection to the campus and their peers.  The advocacy of these two peer navigators in particular exhibit how that connection, built here on campus among their peers, has transcended to their communities and beyond.  We are truly proud of their accomplishments and determination.