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October / November 2016 Message

Greetings Colleagues-

I have two somewhat related pieces of good news. First, ARC recently received two federal grants totaling nearly $4M to strengthen and expand our approach to counseling and advising. Second, asyou may have already heard, we just did away with the burdensome restrictions on long-distance phone calls.

You may be asking, "How are these two things related?" I'll try to provide an answer by first giving you the quick backstory on our approach to long distance, being that it illustrates what we need to do moving forward to improve the outcomes for large numbers of our students.

For decades, restrictions were placed on long-distance calls in order to contain costs. A department would have to follow a somewhat onerous justification process to remove the blocks from their phones. However, major changes in how we communicate have occurred over th elast ten to fifteen years. Cell phones now serve as students' primary phone, and increasingly, their phone numbers have a non-local area code.

Over the years, these changes led to a major problem in being able to communicate and engage with our students. With the adoption of our newphone system about three years ago, long-distance costs became nominal tononexistent. Unfortunately, we did not recognize the need to remove the long-distance restrictions until just recently. In other words, despite fundamental changes in our external and internal landscape, we didn't reexamine our underlying approach (e.g., systems, processes, assumptions, etc.) to our work, and in doing so, reinforced rather than removed a major barrier to engaging and communicating with our students. Looking around the college, there are other places where the same thing is happening. In the area of Student Services, for example, the state-mandated requirements of the Student Success & Support Program (SSSP) have dramatically altered the counseling and advising landscape. Our counseling faculty and staff are passionate, dedicated and work tirelessly on behalf of our students. However, they are hamstrung in providing all of the students identified in our SSSP plan with the critical support (e.g., counseling, educational planning, early intervention, etc.) necessary to ensure their success due to limitations in our existing design. Our longstanding approach to providing these services was never intended to accommodate the large numbers of students who we are now required to serve as part of SSSP. Investing more resources within this outdated design is resulting in diminishing returns as well as straining both our systems and people. It is clear that we need to redesign our approach here in order to better serve all of our students and meet our state-mandated requirements.

Having recognized early-on that the magnitude of the SSSP program would require us to redesign our approach to counseling and advising, the college sought out and was recently awarded two federal grants totaling almost four million dollars. These grants provide the necessary resources for our counseling faculty, staff, and administrators to collaboratively develop a new approach; one that maintains the best aspects of our current design; that meets the unique needs of each student through early and proactive counseling, guidance and intervention; and that focuses significant attention and resources on our underprepared and disproportionately impacted students. The emerging themes from the first Strategic Planning/Achieving the Dream (ATD) Collegewide Summit, including Building Strong Relationships and Taking a Personalized Approach to Meeting Each Student's Needs, closely align with and affirm the need for moving in this direction. One of our first steps forward in this effort will be to form a redesign team. To that end, the district will soon post a new administrative position in Student Services (grant funded). This position will oversee our recently awarded federal grants, and in collaboration others, provide leadership to this effort. I want to commend our counseling faculty and staff for courageously moving in this direction. Change such as this is never easy, but under the circumstances it is necessary. And, I am confident that we will succeed in this and in other equally challenging endeavors due to your passion, talent and indefatigable spirit. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or wish to have some further discussion. All my best.

Thomas