Panelists: Proper prep can end ‘S.A. swirl’

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Educator want students to find and stick to a degree plan for quick transfers.

By Kyle R. Cotton 

Students must be comfortable at the university they transfer to and able to communicate when they run into an issue about degree plans, a panel of San Antonio university leaders said Feb. 8 during the Alamo Colleges 2016 strategic stakeholders retreat.

The panel consisted of Dr. Richard Romo, University of Texas at San Antonio president; Dr. David Jurenovich, vice president for enrollment management at the University of the Incarnate Word; and Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of Texas A&M-San Antonio.

Romo said the biggest key to success for a sense of perceived institutional fit is being proactive when engaging with students early on and making them feel welcomed.

“Welcome the students and engage with them early so students know that this is going to be their home,” Romo said. “None of us want to be ignored, none of us want to be slighted.”

He continued, “Once they are in the right place, that’s the beginning where they can feel comfortable seeking all the help possible.”

The panelists talked of their experiences with students with excess credit hours and agreed with Romo’s sentiment, noting the “San Antonio swirl’” which describes students bouncing all over the city trying to find the right fit.

Matson said the best thing for Alamo Colleges was to prepare students by teaching the language of higher education, suggesting that the colleges need to “reach back” earlier, engaging with students to make sure they understand what they need to do and where they are going.

Matson said the idea of AlamoAdvise and AlamoInstitutes is critical and suggested offering more dual-enrollment opportunities to reach students even in middle school.

In the Q&A portion, a faculty member talked about the difficulties transferring to four-year institutions because of a lack of common course numbering in the state, forcing students to retake classes they already completed.

On the potential of getting a common course number system, the panel said it would be very difficult with the current Legislature.

“We have too many distractions and not enough time,” Romo said of state policy.

Matson echoed the sentiment, but said she did feel it was possible, having seen it done when she was in California.

“It’s hard to get everyone to agree. It took five years to get faculty to agree on a common curriculum,” Matson said.

“We all think it’s a good idea in theory.”


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