Today on Teaching & Learning Champions, we’re joined by Shasta Buchanan, Associate Vice President of College and High School Relations. We’re talking about the impact of Guided Pathways on high school students as they engage with ACC through dual credit, PTEK, or standard matriculation into the College.

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Episode Transcript

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[Matthew Evins]: Welcome to another episode of Teacher and Learning Champions. I’m Matt Evins, Director of Instructional Technology and Digital Resources in the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division, at ACC. Today, I’m joined by Shasta Buchanan, Associate Vice President of College and High School Relations, as we talk about the instructional impact of Guided Pathways on high school students. Shasta, thank you for joining me today.

[Shasta Buchanan]: Thank you for having me.

[Matthew Evins]: So, let’s get right into it. Can you tell us a little bit about, for those who aren’t familiar, what the College and High School Relations Department does?

[Shasta Buchanan]: So, we work with our high school students in our service areas. So, we have about 26 school districts of students that are accessing college, while they’re in high school. So, students that are taking college credit. They’re doing credit, so they’re earning both high school credit to complete the high school diploma and college credit at the same time. And so, they can do that as, I just want to take a couple of classes, or they can do that through a pathway where the intent is to complete a college credential, which is an early college high school, where those students are earning an Associate’s degree, or they could do that through the career academies, where they’re earning either a level one or a level two workforce certification while they’re in high school as well. And some of those have clinical rotations with those that are guaranteed or an internship. Or they can do it through PTEK, which is the Pathways in Technology Early College High School. And that’s partnered with an industry partner as well. So, we have over 8,500 students in our service area that are engaged in one of those many ways of earning college credit early. So, access in the 21st century looks a little bit different, because students are getting into college earlier.

[Matthew Evins]: Great. Can you tell us about today’s high school students who are either matriculating into ACC after they graduate high school or those who are taking dual credit or part of that workforce credential program? Tell us a little bit about the students.

[Shasta Buchanan]: Yeah, I think what I’ve learned most about our high school students is that they want to be active participants in their learning. You know, there is a difference between the way we learned and the way students want to learn now. They don’t want you to just tell them. They want to be doers of their learning. You know, how do I apply this learning in real time? So, the conversation about internships and apprenticeships, we have some amazing programs for high school students that are in the dual credit program, where they’re in internships or apprenticeships. It’s a part of their program, or clinical rotations. Because they need to be able to take that theory of learning and apply that into a real setting, because that’s truly how they understand. When you think about, we’re working with students that are either first generation or labeled with the many labels we give students, low socio-economic status. We’re teaching them, and they’re earning credit but the next part of really transitioning and transforming a person’s life is allowing them access to networks they would not normally have. So, that’s where the internships and all the experiential learning comes into play, because you’re transforming that life, just from the learning in the classroom to something different. So, that student now coming from high school either in dual credit or coming right after high school, they really want to be more actively engaged. They want that nurturing. They want the experience, and the experience isn’t just what’s in the classroom.

[Matthew Evins]: Do you find with, you said 8,500 students, right now, are there trends that you’re seeing, in terms of the different types of internship opportunities or industries that the students are sort of gravitating towards?

[Shasta Buchanan]: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, Austin has, you know, a regional workforce plan. And so, skilled trades. You know, we have programs in welding, electrician, automotive or auto body, construction, health. Health is the big one. Most students are most interested in it. Right now, while they’re in high school, students can learn a Level One Certificate in Phlebotomy, Pharmacy Technician, or EMT. And the students, like the students that I’ve met with that are in those programs, they’re like I quit my other job, because I know the future potential I have with this program. So, whether they were working at Sonic — and that’s when you know our young people, they are super smart and savvy. When they’re making life choices like that, to know I know my long-term gain in this, so the short-term, you know, gratification I’m getting right now, isn’t as meaningful as what’s going to come to me by being in this program. IT is a big one. Students are super interested in things like cyber security, app development — we have an App Development Level One Certificate and even engineering. So, with, you know, partnerships with schools like Texas A & M and the Chevron Engineering Academy, we have an Engineering Technology Certification Program that can prepare students for, that are most interested in being eligible for those types of programs. So, we really try to be creative and live completely outside the box and work with our partners and work here with our faculty, our Deans and Department Chairs, to really think about how can we really design and develop access. So, access isn’t just getting them into, but it’s getting them through.

[Matthew Evins]: Great. How do you see the concept of Guided Pathways at ACC impacting high school students, both from those — both for those who go through high school and then, come to ACC, but also, those who are taking college courses while still enrolled in high school?

[Shasta Buchanan]: Yeah, I think Guided Pathways, to me in my mind, so in my personal opinion, really is about how do you help students prepare and commit. And that here is your chosen area of study, so how do we prepare you for that? So, Guided Pathways is more than just you and your program. It’s are you prepared to be in that program? So, what are the things that we do ahead of time, before students step foot in a classroom? How do we prepare? And then, how do we contain that engagement with them in that process to make sure that they’re successful. They know they have help and support. Because access for access’ sake is not enough. And just say, we got you here, I hope you figure it out. Guided Pathways is totally different. It’s really about how we’re nurturing and helping students through the process. Because we want students to commit to what they start. We have to be honest and transparent with our students, to say, it’s not easy. You know, you’re going to hit some hiccups along the way. You know, but how do we get them through that? Because we want our students to thrive. So, really, I think, the biggest impact with Guided Pathways for students that are coming post-high school completion or that are already in dual credit and then, come over, is really about how we prepare, engage, and we ensure that the students can commit. But it’s how we’re an active contributor in that continuum, the whole process through.

[Matthew Evins]: Do you find that the idea — I mean the concept of Guided Pathways with the name Guided Pathways is probably not commonly known for students, high school students. But do you find that the support model that is required to be successful with guided pathways is something that the students are already used to? Or is it something that’s completely new to them, when they get to ACC?

[Shasta Buchanan]: I think — and so, you look at that two different ways. You know, you have the dual credit students that are used to a very intrusive way in which we work with them, because we have staff that go out and support them in their onboarding and while they’re — you know, to ensure success while they’re in the program. For students that have not engaged with us while they’re in high school through dual credit, that are truly coming to us directly from high school without additional college credit, I think that they are used to a certain level of support. And I think on the higher ed side, through Guided Pathways, we’re able to provide that, at a whole extremely different kind of level. I think our connections to industry, I think our ability to use technology to support students differently, if you think about the accelerator and that learning environment is very different. So, when they come to ACC, what they’ve experienced in terms of nurturing is like 10 times — I think it’s magnified when they come now here, through Guided Pathways. Because it’s really about — this is what you’re good at and helping them see that and supporting them through that, making sure they’re taking the right classes. But Guided Pathways is so much more than that. You know, it’s, you know, how do we really help students learn better? I will say, if I can share my personal experience, I started at a four year institution. In the summer, my mother worked at a community college and so, she was like, so you’re going to summer school here. And what made me love economics was my instructor at the community college. He made us write a paper every single week that was connected to the learning and what was happening in the real world. And that’s when I got it. And when you have that level of engagement that our faculty here can provide students, and then, helping them, support them along the way, to get them after they’re in the class, to me, that’s the kind of care and commitment. That’s how students start to commit in a pathway, is because they see that level of care and a deeper level of understanding.

[Matthew Evins]: Great. What are some things that our ACC faculty can do to help ensure a smooth transition for high school students into ACC’s Guided Pathways?

[Shasta Buchanan]: You know, I think it’s truly understanding endorsement areas. So, the school districts now, here in Texas, students are required to identify one of five endorsement areas. And so, anything from STEM, public service, specific engagement, whatever that gamut is. Within those five endorsement areas, schools can identify career clusters. So, that school might say in public and civic engagement, we want teacher education and whatever else goes with that, you know, criminal justice or whatever, law enforcement. And so students — I think if our faculty understand what endorsement areas look like, and then, the career clusters on the K12 side, and then, how do we marry that with our Pathways, our areas of study, I think that really is that smooth and seamless transition for students. If we are asking high school students now in the 21st century to live in two worlds, the duality of dual credit, which is a high school student and a college student, then I think as adults, whether we’re faculty and staff, we have to live in two worlds, too. We have to understand the world in which they’re in right now and how do we connect that to the world that they’re coming to. So, it is a smooth and seamless transition.

[Matthew Evins]: So, for faculty members who maybe are new to ACC or new to teaching in Texas, where do they go to find more information about the endorsement areas?

[Shasta Buchanan]: Yeah, so they can — they can definitely go to the Texas Education website, agency website, so they can learn more about endorsement areas. They can actually go to our website, which is, and we actually are posting an endorsement area through our Pathways and customizing that by school district. Because every school district is a little bit different and nuanced, with how they display how their endorsement areas work with their schools. We’re trying to connect and working with our Deans and Department Chairs and faculty to make sure that it’s right, but we always encourage more information, because I think faculty see things through a different lens. That we wouldn’t know as staff sometimes to look at. So, we really need that help and support. We are all partners in this. And it’s not one person that has the answer, but it’s a community of us that get it right.

[Matthew Evins]: Sure. Great. Do you have any sense as to the future of Guided Pathways as it relates to high school and college relations?

[Shasta Buchanan]: I think the biggest thing I see for the future in Guided Pathways is just what I talked about, about the endorsement areas. But I really think a larger focus on internships, apprenticeships, that experiential learning model, it becomes important. If we’re doing the same thing that we’ve always done in education, we are not evolving. You know, I share a lot with my staff. And when I’m out in the community, I’m a fourth generation college student, and a fourth generation educator. My great grandfather was a teacher. My great grandmother was, and they taught kindergarten through fifth grade in one class. And so, if we’re still — if how we taught then is the same way we’re teaching now, then we’re not evolving. So, I think with Guided Pathways, that we all can’t just say that it is the silver bullet. It’s not. I think it’s a foundation for us to make it evolve. And really, how do we add additional learning? And we’re doing a great job already, but how do we just explode that to so much more? How do we connect for students that are majoring or in programs that are in Liberal Arts? What does experiential learning look like for them? How do we connect and engage differently in the same workforce. It’s a tad bit easier, because students truly have identified a career path. So, how do we do a better job of connecting those pieces and making sure that students, regardless of academic pathway or workforce, that we’ve identified ways in which they can connect to careers and really helping them learn how to transfer their skills into what they want to do and where they can place that in their career. So, I really think it’s about helping students thrive. You know, we’ve done a great job in higher ed about access, and then, we have Guided Pathways and helping them through. It’s that thriving part that we’ve got to make sure that we’re excelling in as well. Once they’re not with us, that we’ve given — we’re resourced them to thrive.

[Matthew Evins]: Well, sort of taking a turn from Guided Pathways, what’s given you River Bad pride this week?

[Shasta Buchanan]: Let’s see. What’s giving me River Bad Pride this week is scholarships. More money, more money, more money. I think, you know, the more we can do and work hard as a community, whether we’re internal, and we’re faculty and staff. But as a community, to really support students going to college, it’s amazing. You know, I don’t — if you never lived or walked in student’s shoes to know just the support that they need. I was at the board meeting last night, where this student in Health Sciences talked about what that scholarship meant to her and why she chose that career, because her sister had cancer, and that she just saw the care and love that the health professionals took of her and her family and her sister. So, but that scholarship is meaningful. Because she can commit, so then, we can resource her to thrive. And so, what’s giving me River Bad pride is scholarships. So more money, more money, more money, people.

[Matthew Evins]: Great. Well, I do have an advertisement, but it’s also my point about River Bad pride this week. And that is the Spring Development Day that happens annually. That date is coming up on January 17th. The theme this year is about recharging and re-inventing your work. Our faculty development is recruiting presenters for over 40 interactive workshops, panels, round tables, hands on technology, focus sessions. I’m excited to see the line up, and encourage you to submit a proposal, if you’ve got an idea on how to enhance the learning and working environment for ACC employees. Proposals are being accepted through November 18th, and you can find details, as well as the ability to submit your proposal at That’s spring d-e-v d-a-y. And that wraps up another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. Don’t forget, you can view blog posts for each episode on the TLED website. I also encourage you to subscribe the ACC district podcast on any of your preferred podcast apps, or listen to individual episodes on the TLED website. Thank you for tuning in, and we’ll chat next time, on TLC @ ACC.

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