Institutes to prevent students entering as undeclared

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Chairs Council questions core course structure.

By Cassandra M. Rodriguez

The implementation of the Alamo Institutes was discussed at the Alamo Colleges Chairs Council meeting Monday at Northeast Lakeview College. The Chair’s Council is composed of three department chairs from each of the district’s five colleges.

“It sounds like a decision that has already been made and that we are going to do these institutes,” Dr. Ellen Marshall, early childhood studies chair, said.

All degrees and certificates will be divided into six institutes, and part of the purpose is to prevent students from entering the college with undeclared majors. Many students are taking more classes than necessary, Marshall said, and the classes don’t count toward the degree they finally choose.

Northwest Vista College already has a policy where students have to declare a major. Some students declare liberal arts as their major while still unsure of what they actually want to major in.

“The focus is to make things easier for students so they don’t take multiple courses that they don’t need for their particular pathway,” Marshall said.

The institutes will have students consider the job opportunities that exist for the degree they chose with software showing the jobs and salaries available.

“But to me, and I think a lot of folks, what is the point of doing this? If we don’t reorganize, basically, all this is, is a plan on a piece of paper,” Patrick Lee, mathematics chair at Palo Alto College, said.

The institutes are intended to prevent students from spending more money and taking extra classes by helping them focus early on a particular degree.

“How do we try to get people focused where they need to be but at the same time encourage people to explore a variety of options?” Charles Hinkley, humanities chair at Northwest Vista College, asked. Students should have the opportunity to see the variety of interesting things they can study, Hinkley added.

“If we are going to have this kind of focus, let’s have as part of our advising sessions on what kind of majors are out there.

The Alamo Institutes Committee is supposed to develop an advising structure formatted for each institute to guide students. Advisers will be assigned to each institute and will only advise for that institute.

Students still take their core requirements, but the Chairs Council wanted to know if core courses, such as English, would be formatted specifically for each institute.

They also wanted to know the direction the implementation of the institutes will take the colleges.

“It sounds like the bottom line here is it’s a question about the impact of this shift on the structure of the colleges,” Hinkley said.


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