The ATD Leadership team originally consisted of the six administrators and faculty who saw the need for Achieving the Dream at our institution and worked to make DACC an Achieving the Dream school. In 2012, the Leadership team expanded to include five more administrators and faculty for a current total of eleven members. This team meets to discuss how our interventions are progressing and what can be done to improve any part of an intervention that may not be working. The Leadership team also serves as a liaison between the college and national Achieving the Dream representatives.
Initially, the Core and Data team was the main task force behind DACC’s Achieving the Dream initiative. When DACC first became a part of the Achieving the Dream, the Core and Data team was created to gather the quantitative and qualitative data needed to determine the best interventions to increase student retention and completion rates. In 2013, the Leadership team decided to assume the responsibilities of the Core part of the team and refocus the Data Team on obtaining and communicating data findings. Members from each sub-team as well as additional faculty and staff members server on this team to provide insight into sub-team interventions and additional campus-wide student success strategies.
The Equity and Inclusion focus area centering on African-American students was created after data showed that African American males ages 19-24 had the lowest retention and completion rates of the student cohorts studied and student surveys and focus groups pointed to a high number of obstacles and low support systems for members of this group. In an effort to assist African American males with these problems, the Equity and Inclusion members created A-MALE (African Males Addressing Life Effectively), a support group that works to diminish obstacles and build a network for these students throughout their time here at DACC. In conjunction with the A-MALE group for African American males, the Equity and Inclusion members also created a leadership class called WISE (Women Inspiring Success Effectively) for African American females that works to provide the same information and support as A-MALE in a more structured setting.
The Equity and Inclusion sub-team has also focused on students living in poverty by implementing the college-student Bridges Out of Poverty program called Investigations into Economic Class. This 16-week course works to increase awareness of and resources for students living with daily instability. Students learn how to create a future story and use critical thinking and knowledge of college and community resources to overcome barriers and reach their educational goals. We piloted one section of Investigations during the Fall 2014 semester and one during the Spring 2015 semester. The Fall 2014 cohort was small, only 6 students, but the course had an 83% course completion rate and 100% of the students who passed the course continued from the fall to spring semester. The facilitators also received such positive student feedback that the Equity and Inclusion sub-team proposed scaling this intervention to three sections in the Fall 2015 semester. Because the learning objectives so closely align with the college's Success in College course, the team received Academic Affairs approval to offer these three Investigations sections to students in place of the Success in College requirement for all degree-seeking students. These sections will also meet an additional hour each week to facilitate further discussion among the students.
The First Year Experience (FYE) focus area, mostly made up of student services staff, tackles the all-encompassing idea of a student’s first year experience here at Danville Area Community College. Research has found that a student’s first year can determine how successful that student will be for the rest of his or her college career, and, because of this, members of FYE are working on making this transitional time as smooth and as positive as possible. After mapping out the ideal first year experience in an effort to see where information and process gaps are currently occurring, the team focused on creating a mandatory orientation for all incoming students, making changes to our current student success course Success in College, and implementing an early warning system to better help students overcome obstacles before they become too overwhelming. A smaller task force from the sub-team has also worked on creating a mandatory advisement process as part of our quality project for the Higher Learning Commission. This process will be implemented starting in the Fall 2015 semester.
The Teaching and Learning focus area is comprised of administrators and faculty on campus who are committed to finding ways to engage students within the classroom environment. A major area of focus for these members is the topic of cooperative learning, which is a method of teaching that incorporates more student interdependence as well as personal accountability into the course curriculum. The Teaching and Learning focus area has also created a Teaching Excellence Academy which will offer the faculty a venue to share their successful cooperative learning strategies and new teaching techniques with one another in an effort to expose different academic areas on campus to a variety of best practices.
After focusing on the first year experience for several years and establishing a plan for this time frame, the Leadership team decided to create the Progression and Completion sub-team at the urging of the college's ATD coaches. This team is comprised of eleven members from across campus that works to bring about broad systemic change to policies and procedures concerning student progression through academic programs and completion of degrees and certificates. During its first year, the team determined the need to implement an automatic degree audit process to help students remain aware of their progress and help advisors and the Records office determine who may be close to completing a degree or certificate. A smaller task force created an automatic degree audit system for the 2014, 2015, and 2016 catalogs and will continue updating curriculum requirements and adding new programs with each additional catalog release.