(Photo above: Representatives from Arapahoe Community College accept the Chancellor’s Excellence Award for Student Affairs Professionals with CCCS Chancellor Joe Garcia.)
Hundreds of Colorado Community College System (CCCS) faculty, instructors, and staff gathered for the Education Excellence Conference at the Arvada Center for the Performing Arts last week to talk about inclusive teaching and student support practices.
The first event of its kind in more than two years, the conference included dozens of sessions led by CCCS employees, an interactive performance from the Pillsbury House Theatre, and a keynote from Dr. Shakti Butler, Ph.D., who also led a workshop on strategic questioning for social change.
The goal of the conference is to share and scale tactics that are closing equity gaps, said Dr. Ryan Ross, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, equity, and inclusion.
“It’s not enough just to have conversations and to read the strategic plans that roll out,” he said. “What action steps are we taking to ensure that everyone thrives?”
What action steps are we taking to ensure that everyone thrives?
Kerri Mitchell and Eric Salahub, faculty members with Front Range Community College, were among 70 CCCS staff members who presented on campus equity
projects. Their session on active learning explored ways to make lessons more engaging with debates, brainstorms, and other collaborative assignments.
Active learning increases student success metrics, especially among underrepresented minoritized students, Salahub said. That may be because students can draw on lived experiences and cultural backgrounds in active learning settings.
For some, the shift “can be uncomfortable and hard, but we learn in those spaces where we’re just pushing just outside of our comfort zone,” said Mitchell, who advises faculty as an instructional coach. “It’s about creating the classroom environment where taking a risk is okay.”
In another session, Dr. Ayelet Zur-Nayberg, the Director of Adult Student Success at CCCS, talked about strategies to better serve adult learners. She’s leading a project funded by the Lumina Foundation that aims to boost credential attainment among students ages 25-64, who make up about a third of all CCCS students.
As part of her research, Dr. Zur-Nayberg polled more than 1,000 adult learners—including some who stopped out—and identified 11 barriers to completion. Among many strategies, offering more night and weekend classes and awarding credit for work experience would make students’ journeys shorter and cheaper, she said.
“As community colleges, we have to ask ourselves: Are we really living up to our mission? Are we serving our communities? This is a huge potential huge market that we are not tapping into enough.”
Chancellor Joe Garcia was also on hand to recognize employees who are fostering inclusive campuses. The Arapahoe Community College (ACC) financial aid department won the Chancellor’s Excellence Award for their work to analyze and close disparities aid policies, and ACC writing professor Cynthia Villegas earned the faculty honor.
As you know, our mission is centered on equity. We define ourselves by who we admit, not who we reject. Faculty and staff are the heart of what we do at CCCS, and I am honored you have shared your talent and expertise with us.
Read more on the CCCS blog.