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MC Foundation Invests In Student Success, Equity And Completion

The Montgomery College Foundation is investing in a project that could help students graduate faster from selected disciplines where the need for qualified professionals is high. The Acceleration to Graduation initiative is one of six projects that received a total of $180,884 in grants from the Innovation Fund for 2018-2019, all of which address student success, equity, and completion. The six were chosen from 39 proposals received.

The Montgomery College Foundation established the Innovation Fund, which follows a competitive, private grant process to provide limited funding for Montgomery College faculty, staff, students, and administrators to plan and implement new and creative initiatives that enhance the education of Montgomery College students.  It is similar in its approach to a corporation’s research and development (R&D) funds.  Montgomery College Foundation invites faculty, staff, students, and administrators to submit proposals for the funding of innovative projects at Montgomery College and priority is given to initiatives that focus on innovations that improve student completion.

Left to right: Elena Saenz, Dave Sears and Ja’Bette Lozupone

Created by Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard in 2011, the Innovation Fund is made possible this year through the generosity of her Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award. Dr. Pollard, along with six other American college and university presidents, received the award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York last year, which consists of $500,000 in support for each winner’s academic initiatives. In turn, Dr. Pollard chose to devote $200,000 to these initiatives and the remaining $300,000 to the ACES program. The rest of the donation made to the Innovation Fund Grant will be allocated over the summer.

Congratulations to the following award recipients:

Acceleration to Graduation. Elena Saenz, associate senior vice president of Academic Affairs, and Ja’Bette Lozupone, director of Achieving the Promise Initiatives. Award amount: $100,000.

Academic Affairs (AA) will select up to 1,000 students who have 45-plus credits, and self-identify as having a barrier(s) to graduation. The students will be from selected disciplines where the need for qualified graduates in the marketplace is high, such as computer science and cybersecurity. A team will be convened to develop a personalized graduation plan for each student to accelerate their progress to completion.

“Ja’Bette [Lozupone] and I were thrilled to receive this grant that is a concerted effort to improve the graduation rate of our students,” Saenz said. “The literature tells us that some students who are very close to graduation do not complete because they cannot afford the tuition and or textbooks, while others face food insecurities. This grant addresses those barriers, we want to improve student success and help all students achieve the promise of higher education.”

Ultimate Flexibility and Access with HyFlex Courses. Glenda Hernandez Baca, professor, Education Department, and Herbert E. “Buddy” Muse, program manager, ELITE. Award amount: $33,850.

HyFlex courses are designed to provide students with ultimate flexibility in how they access courses: face-to-face, online synchronous, online asynchronous or in a combination of any of the three preferred at any time throughout the semester. Institutions that have introduced HyFlex courses have found that these courses are effective in yielding higher student success, including better retention and completion rates.

“The literature tells us that some students who are very close to graduation do not complete because they cannot afford the tuition and or textbooks, while others face food insecurities. This grant addresses those barriers, we want to improve student success and help all students achieve the promise of higher education,” Saenz said.

Lessons Learned: Building a Culture of Evidence at Pierce College, and ATD Leader School. John Hamman, dean of mathematics and statistics, and Bess Vincent, assistant administrative dean. Award amount: $18,200.

After joining Achieving the Dream (ATD), Montgomery College adopted a student success vision prioritizing comprehensive scheduling, comprehensive advising, guided pathways, and a Start Smart enrollment process. These endeavors require data-driven decision-making. An MC team will visit Pierce to learn how they have engaged faculty and staff in a culture of evidence intended to re-engineer student experiences to maximize retention and to reduce developmental math and English sequences. 

Exploring Careers Through Service. Lucy Vitaliti, service-learning coordinator, Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, and Nik Sushka, service-learning coordinator, Rockville Campus. Award amount: $16,784.

The Service-Learning Program will host five career-focused service-learning exploration days during winter and spring break. In partnership with the Academic Affairs and Student Affairs departments and diverse, high-demand industries, the program will engage 200 MC students in relevant, hands-on service learning projects in career fields that serve the greater community with career-focused guest speakers, post-project reflection activities, and exploration of internship and job opportunities.

Interdisciplinary Humanities Innovations Labs (IHIL). Leah Sneider, associate professor of English and gender studies. Award amount: $6,050.

The Interdisciplinary Humanities Innovations Labs involves a series of lab sessions focused on interdisciplinary, practical, hands-on/experiential applications of humanities themes or concepts intended to deepen experiences, exchange in interdisciplinary dialogue and learning, and develop interest in humanities courses.

Math Placement Project. Bess Vincent, assistant administrative dean, and John Hamman, dean of mathematics and statistics. Award amount: $6,000.

MC has partnered with 11 Maryland colleges and universities to participate in a William Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation Project funded by the Kresge Foundation to pilot the efficacy and feasibility of replacing the current mathematics placement exam process with one that empowers students to assess and remediate their knowledge using adaptive learning. Innovation funding will expand this pilot to 900 students.

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