Alamo Colleges’ faculty and staff work to transform district

By Christian Vera
Pulse Staff Reporter

Molly Cox of SA2020 explains the impact that education has on a community.
Photo by Christian Vera.

Faculty and staff from The Alamo Colleges District came prepared to be the voice of change by creating a transformative community for current and future students at this year’s strategic planning meeting.

A wide range of stakeholders from all five campuses participated in the meeting held at The Historic Pearl Brewery on March 28, 2019. They gathered to discuss higher education trends, challenges and opportunities in order to make recommendations for the Alamo Colleges District leaders to consider and implement to shape the future of the institution.

Dr. Mike Flores, chancellor of the Alamo Colleges, wants the district to be the best in the nation in student excellence and performance excellence. He also wants to empower the district’s communities, improving their lives, outlooks and opportunities.

Starting in October 2018 with Conversations for Change, 12 conversations were held over four months. The district asked questions, such as ‘What’s working well on campus that we need to protect and preserve?, What processes are not working that we need to stop?, And what services on campus do we need to improve?’ Thirteen hundred faculty, staff, students and community partners participated in narrowing down 162 topics to discuss further. Two-hundred participants at the strategic meeting weighed in on the topics that would be elevated into action.

Participants engaged in tabletop conversations with peers to discuss proposed topics from the campuses. Three categories guided the conversation: performance excellence, principle-centered leadership and student success. Seventeen of these topics, like student engagement in and out of the classroom, system innovation, and internal and external communications were elevated for further discussion.

Palo Alto College work-study Amber Esparza, a Mass Communication major, talked about the struggles she’s faced in her personal life and how Palo Alto assists students with challenges they faces out of the classroom.

“In my household, I am a big provider for my family. I buy groceries on a weekly basis, I pay the light, internet, as well as the phone bill… I’ve visited the food pantry a few times,” said Esparza.

The opportunity for Esparza to obtain extra funds through the work-study program has helped in multiple ways.

“Well, I don’t have a vehicle, so it easy for me to stay on campus so I could go to work right after class… I find it much easier to stay focused on school because I’m in a learning environment,” she said.

Molly Cox, CEO of San Antonio 2020, a non-profit organization with a mission to drive progress through a shared vision, presented this year’s impact report, highlighting education and its interrelation with 61 indicators in 11 cause areas to measure progress toward the community’s vision.

“When doing a snapshot poll asking the question, ‘What is the most important cause area?,’ education rises to the top, always… everything can be brought back to or is in response to education,” said Cox.

The Alamo Colleges are working to be a driving force for their students, breaking down any barriers that might impact a student’s success on their journey to further their lives. Campuses, such as Palo Alto, have made many strides to provide for their students by providing extra resources, like laptop checkout, food assistance, bus passes and work-study positions.

Lisa Black, director of Student Success said, “I think a big thing that the board has done is make this bold statement saying that were going to get rid of challenges students face due to poverty. I think staking that claim makes everything else bubble up and further policy ideas. For a student that owes $150 that lives with these challenges, it may as well be a million, because it’s all relative…if that student has what they need to be present in a classroom and feel safe in their environment, they can graduate. They don’t want our help forever.”

Black said, “Policy is a huge part of how they’re actualizing. That it’s not just words. I’ve never been more excited about being part of the Alamo Colleges because we’re joining a national conversation and taking action, and I love that.”    

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