Would cultivating ‘career communities’ change how we see ourselves?

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I’ve long joked that we could connect current, past, and prospective students through bowling nights organized by college focus area.

The idea was sparked as I was analogizing Guided Pathways with bumper bowling, which blocks the gutters and provides an almost effortless path to higher scores.

I was reminded of my bowling night idea as I was reading a June 2021 report from the Community College Research Center (CCRC), entitled, “How Ohio Community Colleges Are Using Guided Pathways to Personalize Student Support.”

In the realm of academic reports, this one is pretty short — only 20 pages total — so I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Image from West Chester University’s Career Development Center

For me, the top takeaway was the concept of creating “career communities.” This is the term Washington State Community College uses instead of “meta-majors.” Virginia Western calls them “focus areas.”

What I love about this wording is that I can see relationship-driven support for students at almost every stage: From middle schoolers attending camps themed by “career community,” to my wacky bowling nights designed to connect alumni, employers, and prospective students.

The report focuses on how these Ohio community colleges organize their orientations, onboarding, advising, and first-year experience courses (like our SDV) around meta-majors and “career communities.”

The report also seems to focus more on traditional-age students coming in through the high schools, but this just leads me to ask more questions:

  • If we treated our focus areas more as communities, how would that change our approach?
  • Could it help bust silos and better integrate academic and workforce programs, much like G3 is trying to do with stackable credentials?
  • Would it help involve employers and alumni in a more focused way?
  • Would it better align our outreach and events — and make them more personalized for current and prospective learners who may want to explore career possibilities?
  • Would intentionally fostering smaller, career-focused communities help us create stronger relationships (with students, advisors, peers, mentors, employers), cultivating that culture of care that is so critical to student success?

Just as the authors of “Relationship-Rich Education” talked about creating “constellations” of relationships throughout the college, I can see us developing a constellation of “career communities,” to help students better navigate their pathways — before, during, and after their time at Virginia Western.

The new Opportunity 2027 strategic plan from the VCCS (as well as our Get REAL initiative) have divided up our goals into three distinctive areas, which feel very linear:

  • College Access
  • Academic Success
  • Economic Success

Would organizing efforts around “career communities” help better integrate those three areas and help us understand our role as more holistic and cyclical … to see ourselves as a powerful community connector around meaningful work?

Free professional learning opportunities

This week

The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. Thursday, June 24: How can we revolutionize higher education? How can we improve students’ learning experiences? with Christina Katopodis, Executive Director at Transformative Learning in the Humanities at the City University of New York, and Cathy N. Davidson, professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). More upcoming programs. Video recordings available on YouTube.

Next week

Go2Knowledge: I recently learned all VCCS faculty and staff have free, unlimited access to live webinars and on-demand training provided by Go2Knowledge. There’s a wide variety of topics for all roles at the college. The live webinars are highlighted at the top of the Go2Knowledge dashboard, but you can search through an entire library of recorded, on-demand sessions on topics including teaching and learning, campus safety, institutional effectiveness, and student success. Some upcoming live webinars:

  • Monday, June 28: Barriers to Enrollment: Designing an Online Orientation Focused on Access, Equity & Inclusion, 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, June 29: From Recruitment to Job Placement: A Retention Roadmap in the Age of COVID, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

You can access Go2Knowledge on your MyVWCC dashboard or here: Go2Knowledge.org/vccs

Beyond

The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. A series of online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. July webinars focus on racial justice. Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in the Basic Needs Movement (July 14) and Work Requirements, Deservingness, and the Social Safety Net (July 14). Both at 3 p.m. Register here. Recordings of previous events are available by scrolling down this page.

Bookmark the VCCS professional development website

Thank you for reading. Why does Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle feature free learning opportunities on the Green House Grants Blog? Because we transform ourselves by learning like our students. All of us are teachers and learners, no matter our titles.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!

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