Six institutes will group programs and degrees in areas of interest.
By Bleah B. Patterson
The days of liberal arts majors and aimlessly taking courses with no set destination may soon be behind the Alamo Colleges.
As the new academic year starts, the Alamo Community College District has plans to implement six Alamo Institutes before January, requiring students to declare a field of study at the beginning of enrollment, changing the way students enter into a degree plan. And the journey through these institutes will be called Pathways.
Administrators and faculty have noticed a pattern of well-intentioned students arriving at one of the Alamo Colleges to work toward a bachelor’s degree and leaving with nothing.
District administrators have been developing a plan in hopes of creating a career direction for students the first day they arrive on campus, through their courses into a career and through earning a bachelor’s degree after transferring to a university.
Ruth Dalrymple, vice chancellor for academic success, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the Alamo Institutes would combine all of the existing degree and certificate plans into six concise career and technical plans: Creative and Communication Arts, Business and Entrepreneurship, Health and Biosciences, Advance Manufacturing and Logistics, Public Service, and Science and Technology.
Dalrymple said students choosing to be a doctor, for example, could enter into the health and biosciences field, having the opportunity to gain certificates while earning their associate degree with courses that would transfer to the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Should that student later decide not to be a doctor but wanted to explore options within the Health and Biosciences institute the student could without losing credit hours.
This would save time and solve one of the most common problems among students, Dalrymple said.
However, moving between institutes would result in credits earned in one field of study not being applicable to a degree in another field of study.
Dalrymple added that students would automatically be paired with an adviser upon entering an institute, one to follow them through their time at the community college level. After their first year, or 30 hours, a student will be paired with a faculty mentor to lead them through career hunting or preparing for life in a comparable department at a second university, she said.
“The goal is to roll this out as soon as possible. Hopefully, we can start implementing parts of it during this fall semester,” she said.
At Monday afternoon’s college convocation, new san Antonio college president, Dr. Robert Vela said student success has been and will continue to be the intent behind every ACCD decision made by the board, Chancellor Bruce Leslie, presidents and faculty.
Vela’s words echoed keynote speaker Davis Jenkins, senior researcher at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College who addressed the district convocation that morning.
“The sad things is when students drop out, what we’re hearing is, ‘I’m not college material’,” Jenkins said. It’s the faculty, staff and administration’s responsibility to support students who may not know what path they want to take, he said.
“We’re talking to students, learning about their experiences and trying to listen more closely than ever,” Dalrymple said. “We’re finding some of their experiences may not be in their best interests.”
Dalrymple said without a map, or a “pathway,” students often take classes they don’t need, whether on the assumption they would need them for a course for their associate degree that isn’t necessary or for their bachelor’s degree at a university.
“The Pathways would allow a seamless transfer between any of the Alamo Colleges and our local public universities,” such as University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-San Antonio and Texas State University in San Marcos, she said.
Dalrymple plans to make a presentation to the board of trustees with updates on the planning process publicly during the fall semester.
“The ultimate goal here is to make you, the student, more marketable,” she said.