May 2013 Letter to Faculty & Staff from Richard Zollinger

May 2013

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As we close out this academic year, I am reminded that, as a Learning College, we at CPCC have committed to placing learning first, to creating a climate that supports learning, engages learners, and leads to student success. All of us share responsibility for student success by increasing the number of our students who transfer or complete a certificate, diploma, or degree with marketplace value while maintaining access and quality.

You continually hear about an alphabet soup of student success initiatives: Achieving the Dream (AtD), Completion by Design (CbD), Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), and Work Place Competencies (Core4). Perhaps you wonder how these initiatives fit together and, most importantly, how they impact you, your classroom, and your students.

Three years ago the College joined Achieving the Dream (AtD) and entered into a national conversation around improving student success. At CPCC, AtD became a catalyst for making data-informed decisions. It continues to serve as a reminder of the importance of analyzing data to improve student outcomes, using data to initiate efforts that help to close achievement gaps, and improving overall student success.

We began the AtD conversation by asking why and what. Why aren’t our students more successful and what can we do about it? In identifying gap areas, we chose to focus on improving success rates of students in online courses, improving success rates of developmental math students, and improving success rates of minority male students. We are making progress with these initiatives, but there is still work to be done.

Completion by Design (CbD) builds upon our culture of inquiry and evidence to identify points of loss and momentum along a student’s pathway, addressing the full continuum of our students’ experiences from start to finish. Using this analysis to restructure our students’ experience, we are focusing on three primary areas. The first is a realignment of Associate of Arts and Associate of Science Degrees. We are increasing entry into and progression through these programs by providing efficient, prescriptive, structured pathways to stackable credentials. The second is proactive advising. We are going to require students to engage in behaviors that are in their best interest such as preparing an educational plan, exploring career options, and attending orientation and mandatory advising sessions. The third area is a Continuous Bridge Program which will help prepare noncollege-ready students with opportunities to progress to college-ready including structured experiences to support career exploration and program selection.

In the process of reviewing AtD data and pivotal points of the completion pathway for CbD, the College noted another gap area: academic performance and retention in first-time, full-time students. The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which will be implemented in fall 2014, will help address those issues by notifying students of their progress at critical points during their first semester, increasing student awareness of College resources, and intervening with first-time, full-time students who are performing unsatisfactorily in two or more courses. The QEP focuses on first-time, full-time students but will encourage all students to assess their course progress as they navigate their completion pathway.

Underlying all of the success initiatives are the Core4, learning outcomes identified by employers as critical competencies for community college graduates and competencies that are often lacking. We need to prepare our students for life after CPCC. In order for our graduates to survive in the workplace, they need these foundational skills if they hope to thrive. Technical skills are extremely important, but it is the integration of these technical and foundational skills that really prepare our graduates for success.

So, back to the original question of how these initiatives impact you, your classroom, and your students? These student success initiatives do the following:

  • Help our students reach their academic goals
  • Invite discussions about student success
  • Improve the pathways students take to completion
  • Increase our use of data-driven decisions
  • Connect what we do in the classroom to what is needed in the workplace
  • Focus the College on a student success agenda through engaging the entire campus community in positive outcomes which lead to our students being more successful

My sincere thanks to the many individuals who are working to make these initiatives successful! Thanks to all of you who have made this year a success for CPCC students!

Have a great summer!



Vice President for Learning & Workforce Development
Central Piedmont Community College