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November and December 2015 Message

It's hard to believe that we're only a couple of weeks away from the end of the fall semester. I hope the last few months have been productive and rewarding, although I imagine you too are looking forward to some down-time during the winter break.

Before we break for the winter, I want to share with you a few thoughts about our shared work and the future direction of the college.

George Harrison wrote, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." As ARC moves forward, planning will be crucial. The Los Rios District is gearing up for its strategic planning efforts which begin in Spring 2016 and ARC's own process will follow shortly after that the next fall.

Over the last year, I've had the opportunity to learn a great deal about our college. Through listening to you and observing your efforts to support our students, my understanding into what makes ARC so special continues to grow, from the collegiality that characterizes our dialogue and relationships to the innovative approaches and commitment to ensuring our students learn and achieve their educational goals. This dedication is evident in the classroom and counseling office, as well as in the myriad initiatives, programs, services and other interventions designed to support students. We know from our research that these efforts are having a positive impact on student achievement and persistence. You are all doing great work!

As you know, however, these same programs only touch a relatively small number of our total student population, and further, are not always strong enough by themselves to ensure a student's long-term success. Despite the positive impact of these efforts, our institutional measures of achievement, persistence and success have remained relatively static over time, as have the gaps in such outcomes for our most disadvantaged students.

It's clear that many more students are in need of your most powerful work, and in a way that more directly translates into their long-term success. As I mentioned at fall convocation, just adding more programs is not the answer. If we do that, we run the real risk of exhausting ourselves and the institution.  

But there are things we can do to better integrate and align our efforts into pathways that guide many more students toward the completion of their educational goals. We have already started talking about such pathways in the Planning Coordination Council and other venues through the introduction of an organizing framework, Pathways In, Through and Beyond ARC.

One of the first steps in this deeper institutional work involves developing a clear sense of where we as a college see ourselves in eight to ten years from now. During this upcoming spring, therefore, a Collegewide taskforce will be formed to develop this vision (aka, College Master Plan). In tandem with the updated district strategic plan, such a vision will provide critical direction and a foundation for ARC's strategic planning efforts that begin in fall 2016.   

As part of this process, we will reach out to partners and other resources that can enhance our efforts. For example, we are considering participating in Achieving the Dream (ATD), a national peer-based program designed to assist colleges in their efforts to significantly improve educational outcomes, especially for students of color and other historically underrepresented student groups. The college master plan team, among others, has been invited to the annual ATD conference in February to further assess this opportunity.

I recognize that this work will not be easy - change is rarely a turn in the road toward which we intentionally steer. However, I see no other way to ensure more of our students achieve long-term success without our redesigning key aspects of their experience. I am convinced that ARC possesses the people, passion, and commitment necessary to succeed fully in this endeavor. I look forward to sharing more with you at convocation in January.