Intensified focus on student success, engagement starts the year at NRCC
|Student success – it’s the key tenet of every academic institution and it also happens to be one of five major goals outlined in the Virginia Community College System’s (VCCS) “Achieve 2015” strategic plan. Student engagement, or making sure students are actively involved in the learning process, is also a key supporting element.
New River Community College will lead off its 2012-2013 academic year with increased emphasis on student success and engagement – including introducing two initiatives to help students excel in the classroom and beyond.
The first initiative is the career advisors program, with three advisors hired in July through a Department of Labor grant.
Career advisors Kim Matthews, Rod Reedy and Dr. John Wenrich will continue to bolster NRCC’s dedication to student success by working with students beyond academics. They’ll help students determine what their interests and abilities are and examine potential career paths. Career advisors will also be available to help connect students to cooperative education and internship opportunities, both within the college and in the local community.
Dr. Mark Rowh, vice president for workforce development and external relations and Dr. Don Stowers, director of volunteer services, were involved in working on the effort that helped bring the career advisors to NRCC. Stowers says that the important work of the advisors will feed back into the overall mission of student success and that “students are ultimately more successful when someone cares about them individually.”
Career advisors will also be available to work with students individually and in small groups to provide guidance related to job prep and placement skills, enhancing employability skills, connecting with relevant employers, developing resumes, interview skills, and other steps in the job placement process.
The advisors will function as another arm of NRCC’s umbrella program “Partners for Success.” Partners for Success currently encompasses the college’s academic assistance and tutoring programs, retention services, and volunteer services (a mentoring program). The Partners for Success program also has a dedicated meeting space known as the Connection Center, where mentors, tutors, and students can meet to study or get assistance. According to the center’s records 10,000 students, faculty and volunteers made use of it last year.
Another major initiative at NRCC this fall is the piloting of the college’s Advanced Learners Program (ALP). The program is based on a vision of the college’s president Dr. Jack Lewis to help students who desire to structure their academic work differently. Though still in its early stages, participating faculty will take standard academic classes and design parallel coursework for high-achieving students to experience in a non-traditional, technology-infused and self-directed learning environment.
A pilot course in race and ethnicity taught by Dr. Heidi Morehead will begin this fall, and several faculty members have shown interest in developing more ALP courses to launch in future semesters.
Advanced Learner’s Program director Dr. Paige Cash sees numerous benefits for students in the launch and growth of the program. “The students are going to learn how to be curious, engage themselves in the course topics, learn to love research and learn to ask questions, rather than just seek the answers to questions,” says Cash. “I think those are things that we need to have to build a more well-rounded workforce. These students are going to learn to engage at the highest levels.”
Both the introduction of the career advisors and the new ALP courses at NRCC help showcase the college’s emphasis on student success and engagement as the new school year begins, but as Stowers puts it: “Everyone at NRCC is interested in student success. And that’s not just something we say – it’s part of our culture.”