Today on Teaching & Learning Champions, we’re joined by Dr. MaryJane McReynolds with the Office of Articulation & University Relations. We’re talking about the impact of Guided Pathways on university relations and transfer opportunities.

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Episode Transcript

Topic: Impact of Guided Pathways on University Relations and Transfer Opportunities

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[Matthew Evins:] Welcome to another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. I’m Matt Evins, Director of Instructional Technology and Digital Resources in the Teaching and Learning Excellence Division of ACC. Today I’m joined by Dr. MaryJane McReynolds from the Office for Articulation and University Relations. As we talk about the impact of guided pathways on University relations transfer opportunities. MaryJane, thank you for joining me today.

[MaryJane McReynolds:] You’re welcome. I’m happy to be here.

[Matthew Evins:] So, for those faculty who are not familiar with you or your office and the services that you provide, tell us a little bit about what the Office of Articulation and University Relations is and, you know, what is the goal or mission of your office?

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Okay. I’d be happy to. The mission of the Office of Articulation and University Relations is creating faculty-centered strategies, I would say, and academic initiatives that are aimed at maximizing, optimizing the transfer opportunities for ACC students. So, that means we create and maintain degree specific articulation agreement that result in as complete as possible course and degree applicability toward a bachelor’s degree. Because our goal is that we want for all of our ACC courses to transfer and for the most part, they do. But the real lynchpin in this is that we want them to count toward bachelor’s degree requirements. So, can I say a little bit more about those agreements?

[Matthew Evins:] Yes, absolutely.

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Okay. So, you know, our agreement is really — before we get to the agreements, what we have to have are really good academic focus or instruction centered partnerships with our universities. This is really the foundation of the work I do. And it’s really at the foundation of all the work we do to create articulation agreements, or transfer agreements. It’s the, I would say, it’s the faculty to faculty engagement and collaboration that results in these really individualized University partnership initiatives that enable us to expand our transfer pathways. So, I think of it as, you know, we have two primary outcomes from our faculty centered work. We have articulation agreements or transfer agreements. And these are really the hallmark and the sort of like the learning outcome of a successful transfer partnership. Because we place the emphasis on our alignments that will improve degree completion, as well as we want it to help our students with affordability. And the articulation agreement institutionalizes the alignments of ACC courses and degrees with those courses and degree that our university partner offers at the bachelor’s degree level. So, an example, just real general, might be that, you know, we want all of our ACC courses that would be required for an Associate of Arts and Psychology to be applied toward the Bachelor of Arts and Psychology. And so, we work with our faculty and with our university partners to say, you know, is that indeed the case. And that’s the main goal when we create our articulation agreement. And this may sound like that’s a slam dunk. It should always be that way and that’s true. But historically, agreements really only focus on course transferability only. And that means that if ACC had a course that a university partner has an equivalent course, it’s absolutely going to transfer and they’re going to be given credit for it. However, I would argue that not all of those courses are then — have always been applied toward the bachelor’s degree requirements. So, then that results in our students taking extra course, taking more time, spending more money. And Guided Pathways has helped us to reframe and refocus, I would say, on applicability. And applicability has to be our focus because we want to help our students complete their degrees. And we don’t want them to get to a university and be told, well, yes, you took that course at ACC but you have to take this course with us because it’s an upper division requirement, for example, and you took a lower division version of that course. So, a student would — you know, the student is not accurately informed. So, all of our new articulation agreements are degree specific with as clear and complete curricular alignment as possible. And we are working to revise and, I’d say, update existing articulation agreements to adhere to this model. And right now, we have just a little over 60 transfer articulation agreements with about 56 university partners and they cover both our traditional academic transfer degree programs, as well as our workforce education degree programs. And the reason that number is not the same is because we have multiple agreements with some universities to provide more pathways for our students. And briefly, I think our second outcome of our faculty focus strategies are the initiatives that we have developed and that we carry out to maintain our positive university relations. We have really — since adopting Guided Pathways, we have really ramped up opportunities to have a consistent dialogue and discussion between ACC faculty and university faculty. And that’s really at the heart of having positive and reciprocal relationships. An example of that would be, we have twice a year ACC faculty convene with their university counterparts to discuss degree alignment and how to maximize applicability. And it’s in a workshop-based format. And we started this in 2017 and we convene in both the fall and spring semesters. And we really limit each workshop to just a few degree programs at each workshop so that each meeting, you know, has some substantive results. And they’ve been very successful, both ACC faculty and our university colleagues have praised that method of dialogue and having it be consistent. And I really appreciate this. They will devote time to that. A second way that we engage with our faculty and our university faculty is we also participate in what’s called an academic forum. And this is really just with our largest transfer university partners. Once a year we will get together and this is a more holistic meeting with both academic and student affairs team members, where we’re not just talking about the academic side, we’re not just talking about the degree plan and alignment. We’re also talking about the important support services and resources that student affairs provides in helping our students with the transfer process. And we learn about different ways we might — could expand opportunities for our students to complete their bachelor’s degree, such as some financial aid or some scholarship that may be we didn’t know about that a university may offer transfer students. So, that’s a really important part of our strategies with our universities. And I’ve talked a lot. Let me stop there.

[Laughs]. Did I


[Matthew Evins:] Oh, absolutely. That’s a lot of great information. You had mentioned when you were talking about — you mentioned briefly about being able to refocus and reframe some of the articulation agreements as a result of the college’s adoption of Guided Pathways. Can you talk a little bit more about what the — what are adoption and implementation of Guided Pathway has done to help with conversations with our university partners or a little bit more about how you’ve been able to refocus and reframe those conversations with our partners to create more beneficial transfer agreements for our students?

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Absolutely, yes. The transfer — the whole transfer opportunities and transfer process has been positively impacted. It’s a bit of a slow process because, as we know, so many of our students are part timers and it’s not like they’re at ACC for exactly two years and then in two more years they finish their bachelor’s degree. But what we’re doing is, we’re creating the clearer and more complete and more accurate transfer pathway for our students. So, if they are part timers, it may take them longer than four years to complete the bachelor’s degree. But they are assured during the time that they are at ACC and then moving on to a university, that these are the exact courses they need to complete and how they’re going to count or be evaluated at the university of their choice once they transfer. And this is — the Guided Pathway’s model has really enabled us to take — to think outside the box. And to think about innovative ways to collaborate with our university partners. And I could talk just briefly about a couple of examples of that. We now have the Texas A and M Engineering Academy where students — our ACC students are here working on courses, taking ACC courses, that are absolutely the courses that Texas A and M requires for engineering. And then they take at least one A and M engineering course per semester, taught by an A and M faculty member. And this innovative model came from Texas A and M to try to increase the number of students that were earning engineering degrees. It’s very competitive. It’s very rigorous. And so, this — having the A and M Engineering Academy at ACC enables our students to stay in Austin, save money during the two years while they are completing the lower division courses before they have to move to College Station to complete the upper division requirements. So, that saves our students time and money. A second innovative alignment and agreement that we have is with Texas Tech University. And it’s called Tech Teach. And it’s for our students who are working to earn their Associate of Arts in teaching with the goal of them earning a bachelor’s degree and getting certified to teach in public schools here in Texas. And we do have a shortage of teachers in so many areas. So, our students complete their associate degree here with us at ACC. And then the next year if they’re accepted into the Texas Tech program, it’s a one-year intensive, full time year where they complete their bachelor’s degree requirements. And they are doing it working in an Austin Independent School District School. So, they are gaining practical classroom experience and knowledge. And Texas Tech has an advisor and coordinator type person who is here in Austin to support those students. And one element of it is that when those students finish, their bachelor’s degree and they earn that teaching certificate, they are guaranteed a job with Austin Independent School District. It might not be in the school where they were doing their practicum work, but it is part of the agreement that AIC will hire these degree completers. So, the degree specific articulation agreement, you know, it’s an insurance policy for our students in a way. They know that their ACC courses and their ACC degree is going to be counted towards the lower division requirement at the university and it’s going to help them earn their bachelors degree requirement at their transfer university.

[Matthew Evins:] Wow, that’s — I have to admit that I was only really thinking about transfer agreements and articulation agreements as it relates to university partners. I never thought about it as being an insurance policy to guarantee students jobs when they entered the workforce. That’s fantastic.

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Isn’t that exciting? That’s a, I think, a really unique aspect of the partnership with Texas Tech. And it’s — it’s really new, early days, yet. I don’t know how many students have completed the program altogether. But it is — we need more of those for our students. And, you know, for our economy. I think it’s great, too.

[Matthew Evins:] In the refocusing and the reframing of what you’re doing with articulation agreements, with our external partners, have you gotten any feedback from our ACC faculty or department chair, and deans about these articulation agreements that you’ve been working on as it relates to the colleges implementation of Guided Pathways?

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Yes. And so you were asking feedback from ACC faculty and department chairs and deans, as well as, universities? Or just ACC?

[Matthew Evins:] Well, yes, let’s just start with ACC first and then we’ll move on to the external partners.

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Okay. Yes, I have. Because I have been more actively collaborating with our deans and department chairs and faculty. And talking about, yes, we know that traditionally, you know, our academic transfer degrees will serve our students well when they transfer to another, you know, traditional academic transfer program. But, you know, we do have to focus on course and degree specific applicability, even in those programs that are — that have historically and traditionally transferred in an efficient manner. Because there could be just, you know, one or two courses that the student has maybe not been fully informed or maybe the university changed their degree plan and we weren’t aware of it to advise the student in the most accurate way. So, I’ve been meeting with our instructional folks on a much more regular basis. And everyone’s been very positive about this and been very eager to work with me, whether it’s, you know, gathering information from the university partner or actively developing an institutional alignment. Because our faculty and our deans and department chair know that our top priority is our students and they want to help our students. So, they have invited me to their meetings. They’ve participated in meetings, that I might have initiated at a university. And our ACC faculty have very eagerly participated in the transfer focus event and workshops that we have offered. And have come, you know, during their non-teaching time to meet with the university colleagues and to help build that relationship, build more dimensions to the transfer relationship. And in some cases, say, ACC faculty may have a colleague in a specific department at a university. So, then they’ll introduce me to that person and say, okay, we want to work on this, you know, particular alignment. That was the case probably about a year ago with one of our health sciences programs where our Chair in Emergency Medical Services, you know, knew a colleague down at Texas State. You know, we wanted to see how we could align our program with their program. You know, he invited me. We went to meet with the Texas State folks. And had, you know, lots of follow up conversations that did result in a brand-new articulation agreement for that particular program. So, it’s been very positive.

[Matthew Evins:] That’s great. That’s excellent. Are there any other projects or initiatives or big things that you’re working on in the Office of Articulation and University Relations that you think that faculty and the general ACC community would be interested to know about, as it relates to what you’re doing around Guided Pathways?

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Yes. And that — I’m so glad you asked that. Because we are currently, very recently, involved with participating in a– in actually a national initiative, transfer improvement initiative, that Texas is one of the states that’s participating. And within Texas, ACC was selected to participate with our largest transfer partner, which is Texas State University. This new initiative is called the Texas Transfer Alliance. And we really just began work this past January. And it’s a collaboration between community colleges and universities, really focusing on transfer student outcomes. And Texas State is really a good partner to have for this project. Because, as I said, it is our largest transfer partner. And we have a longstanding and deep, positive relationship with that institution. And so, this new initiative and partnering us with Texas State is enabling us to celebrate and really elevate the visibility of the transfer history, of transfer success, I guess. The history of transfer success. While also it’s helping us to dig deeper, what can we do better? How can we help our students more and help our students meet their goals? So, right now, we’re drilling down and we’re looking at the alignment of the math requirements. Just the math requirements for the top 12 transfer majors at Texas State for our students. So, Texas State told us, you know, ACC students transfer the most in these top 12 majors. They provided us with that data. And we are specifically looking at math because we know that has been a problem area, a confusing area for our students. We know that there have been instances where they transferred to Texas State and they have to take, say, a different math class there but then what they took at ACC, and they thought they had taken a math class at ACC that would satisfy the Texas State degree requirements. But there’s been confusion about that. And there’s been misunderstanding about that. So, we’re focusing on that specifically so we can better understand why is that happening and how can we as institutions working together, solve it? And so, we’ve had a couple of meetings, both face-to-face and online, on the phone. And we had actually planned a face-to-face workshop with ACC and Texas State, deans, and department chairs, and faculty members from these top 12 majors and it was scheduled for April 10. So, our current Covid-19 precautions are not going to allow us to do that. But never fear. We’re planning a virtual workshop so that we can really continue this work because it’s very important.

[Matthew Evins:] Well, that sounds great. Definitely keep us posted on the success that you’re having with this virtual event that you’re planning, as well. I know a lot of departments around the college, as well as, you know, higher ed in general are having to make due with what’s presented in front of them with the whole Covid-19 outbreak. So, we’ll certainly be interested to hear, you know, what successes you have from that virtual event.

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Yes, I’m completely


[Matthew Evins:] Yes. And so, the last question I have is just sort of a grab bag question, I ask all of — everybody who comes on the podcast. Is there anything that’s given you Riverbat pride this week?

[MaryJane McReynolds:] Oh, I love that. Riverbat Pride this week? Because it is — we are just everyday having to readjust to our new normal and working remotely. I’d have to say it’s not anything original. But we are in this together. You know, Covid-19 has just thrown us all off balance and thrown us into totally new ways of doing everything and we will persevere. And I think that in spite of pain and adjustments, we’ll be stronger than ever before because are all in this together.

[Matthew Evins:] Well, that’s great. Thank you, very much, MaryJane for joining me today on our podcast. I definitely appreciate it, especially, even though we only — we couldn’t do this interview face to face because of the precautions that we’re taking. But definitely appreciate the time on the phone with you today. So, thank you, very much.

[MaryJane McReynolds:] You are most welcome and thank you.

[Matthew Evins:] Well, that wraps up another episode of Teaching and Learning Champions. Don’t forget that you can view blog posts for each episode on the TLED website. I also encourage you to subscribe to 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 at ACC.

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