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California DREAMing

California DREAMing

Hello, from (occasionally) sunny Anaheim! A few of us from MDC have spent the week with more than 1,600 hundred community college professionals, partner organizations, funders, and students at DREAM 2013, Achieving the Dream’s Annual Meeting on Student Success. We’re having a fantastic time reconnecting with old colleagues, learning from the amazing work of ATD institutions, and getting some serious inspiration from the tenacious and insightful students that are here.

As much as we wanted to play hooky and wander across the street to Disneyland, MDCers have been kept busy sharing important lessons from a few our initiatives. Here are a few things we’ve been up to at DREAM 2013:

During a Wednesday afternoon spotlight session, MDC Program Manager and scaling guru Abby Parcell moderated a panel of Developmental Education Initiative presidents. “Presidential Reflections: What DEI Taught us About Scaling,” featured Laura Meeks of Eastern Gateway Community College, Anita Gliniecki of Housatonic Community College, and Randy Parker of Guilford Technical Community College. The three presidents discussed what they learned about institutional change while scaling up in three very different college and state contexts, but a few themes rang true for all of them:

  • When initiatives are faculty led, they work better and last longer. Initiatives shouldn’t be seen as outside of the norm, they should be routine.
  • People can be afraid of data, so make those courageous conversations feel safe. It isn’t about the blame game, it's about improvement.
  • Be patient, because nothing happens overnight. You have to stick to it! The presidents said they maintained the focus at their institutions by putting their money where their mouth was and sustaining funding, asking their board to hold them accountable to student success outcomes, and providing recognition for work that makes a difference.

For more insight from the DEI presidents, check out our new publication What We Know: Reflections from Developmental Education Initiative Presidents.

Dan Broun, MDC program director, joined three colleges in a Thursday morning session on “Financial Empowerment for Student Success: Lessons from the ATD-MDC-Bank of America Partnership.” Eric Romero and Armando Villalpando of Los Angeles Harbor College (LAHC) talked about the development of their financial empowerment program, which centers on students who were foster youth and veterans. They emphasized that many students, especially those who have few resources, will resist taking the time to learn about financial literacy. If you make sure basic needs are addressed first (i.e., food on the table, roof overhead, utility bills paid, etc.), then students will be open to developing new knowledge and skills. At LAHC, Eric and Armando refer students to community services during intake, and then they move on to financial coaching. Kimberly Koledoye of Houston Community College (HCC) gave an overview of how HCC has embedded their financial literacy and capabilities curriculum into the mandatory student skills course. She shared some fantastic results from a survey taken after students completed the curriculum: 96 percent of students felt better able to make financial decisions, 93 percent said they understood the financial aid process better, and many reported taking a new financial action, such as opening a savings account, creating a budget, or talking to their family about financial issues. Sonya Caesar of Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) told us about how CCBC embedded financial literacy into first-year orientation, infused it across departments, and began a financial coaching program. She emphasized the importance of being sensitive to students’ mentality about money, which is often informed by their past, and shifting that mentality to focus on aligning their decisions in the present with the future they want.

Also on Thursday morning, MDC Senior Program Director Bonnie Gordon led representatives from our Partners for Postsecondary Success sites in a conversation about “Everyone at the Table: Engaging the Community in Your College.” Mariana Tumlinson from the United Way of Southern Cameron County, Russell Lowery-Hart from Amarillo College, and Carol Cutler-White from Wake Technical Community College spoke about bringing together multiple institutions to raise the number of low-income young adults in their communities who earn postsecondary credentials that lead to living-wage work.