Recent Blog Posts

Ready, Set, Go! What is Your Capacity to Scale?

On October 22nd we will be hosting a webinar that will share information about sustaining and scaling initiatives using the framework developed through the Transformative Change Initiative. The goal is to help show the connection between this work and continuous improvement efforts like Pathways to Results and provide people with a readiness tool to help them focus their efforts to build capacity. The webinar is free and open to anyone interested.

Event details:
October 22, 2015
3:00 – 3:30pm
To register, click here.

As educators strive to engage and support their students they are improving the programs, policies, and practices and employing new strategies that define the educational system. When an innovation shows promise in fostering success for students, there is a desire to sustain and scale the initiative, growing its impact. However, because of the complexity involved in scaling, coupled with limited resources and time, many successful innovations are short lived with limited long term impact. The Transformative Change Initiative is dedicated to assisting community colleges to scale-up innovations that improve student outcomes and program, organization, and system performance. This webinar is designed to help you take the first step towards building the capacity needed to scale an educational innovation and build transformative change. During this webinar you’ll get a preview of the new Ready to Scale Tool, a self-assessment tool that will help you to explore the current capacity available to support scaling the innovation.  This self-assessment is the first step towards building the capacity necessary to move from local innovation to transformative change.


Ashley Wilkins serves as a member of the PTR team at OCCRL. Before OCCRL, Ashley worked for a nonprofit supporting underserved students to access and transition into higher education. She also worked with the Gateway to College National Network supporting the implementation, evaluation, and scaling of student success programs in the community college context at sites across the country.

Second Speaker on Approaches to Evaluation that Foster Transformative Change

Transformative Change Initiative Evaluation Collaborative MeAEA-bubbleseting: Approaches to Evaluation that Foster Transformative Change

Illini Center, 200 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois
Orange and Blue Room, 8:30am to 11:30am

The Transformative Change Initiative would like to invite any interested in exploring approaches to evaluation that foster transformative change to join us on November 11, 2015 in Chicago for an interactive meeting.  We are excited to announce that Leanne Kallemeyn, Associate Professor in Research Methodologies, School of Education at Loyola University Chicago will be joining Dr. Natasha Jankowski, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigni will lead this important discussion.

JankowskiDr. Natasha Jankowski is Associate Director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and Research Assistant Professor with the Department of Education, Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is co-author of the book Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education. Dr. Jankowski’s research explores assessment and evaluation, organizational evidence use, and evidence-based storytelling.


Dr. Leanne Kallemeyn is an Associate Professor in LeanneKallemeynResearch Methodologies for the School of Education at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches graduate courses in program evaluation, qualitative inquiry, and mixed methods research.  Leanne has worked with various interdisciplinary teams to evaluate programs in underserved communities, including teacher professional development programs and early childhood interventions. One of her current projects is evaluating the implementation of Arrupe College, an innovative private, junior, liberal arts college that Loyola University Chicago launched with a class of 151 students in fall 2015.

Our guest speakers who will share their expertise on the use of evaluation in fostering educational innovations through their evaluation practices. Join us in exploring how mixed-methods evaluation, organizational evidence use, and evidence-based storytelling can be used to foster transformative change for underserved student population.

This meeting is open to anyone who is interested in sharing and learning about evaluation associated with transformative change in the community college. There is no registration fee to attend this meeting. Breakfast will be provided. Reservation is required to attend and will be honored on a first come first serve basis. Reserve your seat for this meeting here.

Read more.

020 tmc v1Heather L. Fox is a project coordinator for OCCRL. Heather is passionate about supporting community college efforts to provide students with equitable and high quality career pathways.

Please contact Heather with any inquires about this event.

Pathways to Results at the Forum for Excellence

On September 22nd and 23rd our Pathways to Results staff attended and presented at the Forum for Excellence conference held in Bloomington, IL sponsored by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and hosted by the Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support (ICSPS). The Forum for Excellence is an annual professional development conference for Career and Technical Education (CTE) to discuss and share best practices across the state. This year, the conference included adult basic educators as the ICCB continues to cultivate and strengthen relationships. PTR fits into this work as it is designed to help community college practitioners, historically in CTE career pathways, to improve equitable outcomes for all student groups through a systematic process. Three sessions on PTR were held during the two day conference. The first day a PTR pre-conference was held for teams interested in participating in PTR during this fiscal year. That afternoon another session, moderated by the ICCB, offered select PTR teams the opportunity to share their experiences with implementing PTR. On day two, we held a session discussing some of the changes and new products being offered with PTR. Below are a select few highlights from the conference.

Pathways to Results Kickoff and New Opportunities Pre-Conference

The purpose of the PTR Pre-Conference was to provide information to those interested in PTRparticipating in PTR during the current fiscal year. Teams were given information regarding year one and year two grant eligibility, goals, and expectations. After a general overview was given there were two breakout sessions, one for year one grants and another for year two grants.

Year One Session: During the year one breakout session conference attendees were provided with OCCRL’s latest edition of Principles to Guide Career Pathways and Programs of Study Implementation and Improvement. The Guiding Principles served as a jump-off point for several attendees in identifying pathways or program of study that would like to potentially improve at their institution. Judy Dietrich, from Illinois Central College also shared her experience in engaging potential partners and stakeholders to the pathway improvement process for those who were concerned about maintaining partner engagement and commitment. Our goal for this session was to provide attendees with knowledge of the process and help them to better identify an area of focus as they consider applying for a year one PTR grant.

Year Two Session: In the year two session attendees were provided a framework for year two projects. Beyond discussing the theoretical underpinnings of the year two process, a great deal of this session focused on teams sharing their progress on their projects and receiving feedback from other conference attendees feedback. This session was insightful in that it was a small example of our goal to establish network communities by which teams can work within and outside of their teams/colleges to ensure that they are developing and implementing the best possible solutions in order to improve student outcomes. It was a great start to the types of conversations and feedback we envision teams to have moving forward.

Using Pathways to Results Beyond Programs of Study Development: A Panel on Innovation and Diverse Results

In this session attendees were able to hear firsthand what PTR implementation entails from teams that were awarded PTR grants last fiscal year. The three teams shared their respective projects, but also discussed roadblocks that they encountered and how they overcame or are working to overcoming those barriers. Panelists shared their thoughts on how and why they engage their stakeholders, how their data led them to issues within their pathways, and how they worked to align their solutions with identified equity gaps. What seems to be consistent across the three is the systematic adoption of PTR at these institutions and within the study pathway, as teams indicated that they have continued their work from the previous year.

Pathways to Results: New Opportunities, New Tools for Improving Student Pathways

In this session OCCRL graduate research assistant Edmund Graham spoke about the transition that PTR has taken over time as a result from field experiences. As a result, Jackie Rodriguez, graduate research assistant, introduced new practical tools for individuals and teams to better understand and solve student outcomes gaps within their PTR project by engaging students in the process. Shelley Barkley from Sauk Valley Community College complemented this by sharing her experiences. Shelley not only demonstrated the way in which focus groups or having “student representatives present at PTR meetings when looking at data” exposed alternative solutions to outcome gaps, but also how PTR’s focus on equity helped shift her focus from a student deficit perspective to an institutional responsibility in defining a problem. After all, “students are the ones receiving the change so we need to invite them into the conversation.”

The Forum for Excellence was a great kick off to PTR and an opportunity to further connect with and learn from those on the ground doing the work and we’re excited for the year ahead!

Jacqueline Rodriguez is a graduate research assistant for the Pathways to Results project at OCCRL. Ms. Rodriguez is a PhD student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include investigating the educational and economic mobility prospects for Black and Latino youth.



Edmund Graham is a graduate research assistant working on the Pathways to Results project at OCCRL. Mr. Graham is an EdD student in higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to working with OCCRL, Mr. Graham served as a student affairs administrator. His research interests include college student development, retention, and persistence.

Meeting Dr. Tinto

Who is your academic hero? The person most often cited in your research? The person whose theories you subscribe to in your work with and for students? For me, that is Dr. Vincent Tinto and in preparation to co-author an upcoming OCCRL brief on first-year experience in the community college, I had the opportunity to meet him in person at the Midwest First-Year Conference hosted at Waubonsee Community College on Friday, September 25.

Dr. Tinto’s keynote presentation entitled “Student Success does not Arise by Chance” gets to the core of first-year student support. Highlighting MR and VTresearch- based practices, Dr. Tinto outlines four components that create institutional environments that foster student success. These include 1) clear expectations, 2) academic and social support, 3) assessment and feedback and 4) high quality engagement. As institutions seek to create this environment, Dr. Tinto encouraged audience members to remember that “students don’t seek to be retained, they seek to persist.”

Dr. Tinto also advised institutions not to give up prematurely on student success initiatives as it often takes three to five years to show results, especially if students are self-selecting to participate. Particularly exciting for community college advocates, Dr. Tinto included numerous video clips of community college student interviews from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement providing personal stories of how their institutions have supported them.

In addition to Dr. Tinto’s keynote, Rico Reed from the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition addressed the audience on current campus trends and available resources to support professionals. Outside of sessions related to various aspects of first-year experience programs; hot topics included assessment, faculty development, institutional buy-in and support for first-year initiatives, engaging students and supporting students with unique characteristics and challenges.

In closing, Dr. Tinto’s words offer food for thought as we look toward the future of higher education, “The point of retention is not completion, it’s learning. What is completion without learning?”

ProfileMarci Rockey is a Graduate Research Assistant at OCCRL and Higher Education doctoral student at UIUC. She has previously served as a student services administrator in Illinois community colleges. Her research interests include community college student transition and retention and rural student access and success in higher education.

Promoting the Humanities in Community Colleges

Recently, I participated in the Community College Humanities Association and the National Endowment of Humanities co-sponsored three-week summer institute that examined The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade through an alternative lens. This Institute coined, Slavery in the American Republic: From Constitution to Civil War provided compelling historical correlations to American slavery and four iconic presidents. The Institute uncovered esoteric information concerning Presidents Washington, Madison, Jefferson and Monroe and their individual approaches to maintaining the slave master and slave relationship. Leading authors William J. Cooper, James Oakes, Peter Kolchin and Paul Finkelman offered an interdisciplinary study of cross-currents of literary, philosophical, religious, and social thinking that drove the institution of slavery. Guided tours of each president’s home supported the themes of the institute. To reinforce intellectual endeavors participants enjoyed exceptional access to the rare collections department at The Library of Congress.

humanitiesAs a former community college administrator and faculty member, I understand the importance of career-technical education (CTE), yet there are many rich opportunities to expand as well as enrich student learning that incorporates the humanities. Increasing numbers of students are earning a degree in a humanities discipline at community colleges. According to Humanities Indicators of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, between 1987 to 2013, the number of associate’s degrees in disciplines classified as being in the humanities rose an average of 4.3% annually increasing from 113,587 to 338,688. Hence, two-year degrees awarded in humanities disciplines have more than doubled, outpacing those conferred at the bachelor’s level.

There are many benefits to a liberal studies education. While the vast attention has been paid to employment outlooks and the demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates, there are many myths to be debunked (see 11 Reasons To Ignore The Haters And Major In The Humanities) relative to the career trajectories and mobility of humanities degree recipients.

In sum, the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and understand historical antecedents that were critical in shaping contemporary contexts is value-added in the workplace. The humanities fosters independent thinking, cogent writing and the ability to frame an argument each of which has direct application in today’s labor market. Interested in learning more about cultivating the humanities in community college contexts? For those interested in engaging with a community of practitioner-scholars that advance the humanities across the curriculum, check out the upcoming Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) National Conference in Phoenix, AZ – November 5-7.

A lifelong re20150903_103904sident of Chicago, Fredrick Douglass Dixon is a historical scholar, educator, and community advocate. He is currently a doctoral candidate at The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign’s College of Education. Fredrick is the Co-Chair of the Chicago Council on Black Studies. His research on Histriosis, a paradigm that advances post-traumatic slave disorder (PTSD) has been received well for its unique perspective as well as historical accuracy.He has spoken on this topic at several colleges and universities.  Fredrick endeavors to elevate higher levels of academic excellence within community colleges and in particular for Black collegians.