When it comes to student success, two words sum up Pulaski Technical College's attitude:
And that's exactly what the college will be doing as it works to help more students succeed.
Pulaski Tech is one of 26 colleges nationwide -- and one of only four in Arkansas - recently selected to be a part of Achieving the Dream, a national initiative aimed at helping college's help more students succeed. A total of 84 colleges nationwide have participated in the initiative since 2004.
To show their commitment to the multiyear effort, college leaders on Thursday hosted an "Engagement Party" complete with pastel balloons and tabletops adorned with rose petals and faux diamond rings.
The colleges Dream Team, which includes about 35 administrators, faculty and staff, attended the luncheon in Pulaski Tech's Campus Center Grand Hall to celebrate the initiative's kick-off and begin the work of turning dreams into reality.
What is the dream?
"Put simply, it's helping people finish what they start," said Ann Fellinger, chair of College Studies and co-director of Achieving the Dream at Pulaski Tech.
The initiative focuses particularly on groups of students, including low-income students and students of color, who have traditionally faced barriers to success.
Among the goals are to help students:
- Complete developmental courses and progress to college-credit courses
- Enroll in and complete gatekeeper courses
- Complete courses with a grade of C or better
- Re-enroll from one semester to the next
- Earn certificates and degrees.
Ultimately, the initiative strives to help more students achieve their individual goals, which may include getting a better job, earning a college certificate or degree, or pursuing a bachelor's degree.
The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation is providing local funding.
"This first year is especially important for us," said Dr. Dan F. Bakke, college president. "Funding is not a given. We must prove how we can make this work."
The Dream Team will focus primarily on data collection and analysis during the first year to identify areas of improvement.
"We have big dreams, and being a data-driven college will help us achieve those dreams," said Carol Langston, vice president for college advancement. "In five years, we'll see a huge difference, and we'll be able to show results."
In addition to Co-directors Fellinger and Amy Baldwin, who also serves as the college's professional development coordinator, Langston also recognized the members of the Steering Committee: Cindy Harkey, vice president for student services; Purnell Henderson, vice president for instruction; Rhonda Carroll, director of learning support services; Kellye Mashburn, director of institutional research; Peggy Peterson, Title III director; and Melissa Myers, grant writer.
On Thursday, Dream Team members formed two work teams. The Core Team will look at values, assumptions and systems that nurture and impede student success. The team will consider ways to improve student outcomes and lead the way in setting goals and strategies. Augusta Farver, dean of business, and Cathy Underwood, chair of the Faculty Senate, will serve as team co-captains.
The Data Team will look at data to determine where the college excels and target areas in need of improvement. Data Team co-captains are Kellye Mashburn and Melissa Myers.
Already the Dream Team is laying the foundation for a campus-wide support for the effort.
The initiative will be introduced to full-time faculty and staff at the college's annual Convocation and Professional Development Day on Aug. 13.
All attendees will also be treated to green tie-dyed tee-shirts, sporting Achieving the Dream's "Community Colleges Count" logo on the front and Pulaski Tech's "Dream BIG" in oversized lettering on the back.
During the course of the work, PTC will receive ongoing support from education experts specifically trained to help Achieving the Dream participating schools.
John Cooper, an education consultant and faculty mentor with Walden University's Community College Leadership Program, will serve as a data facilitator. Cooper will assist the Data Team in using data to analyze student needs, monitor progress and evaluate results.
Maria Sheehan, a longtime college educator who has held top leadership posts at South Orange County Community College District and at Modesto Junior College, will serve as a coach. Cooper and Sheehan's first visit to Pulaski Tech is scheduled for Sept. 5-6.