Dr. Kevin Walthers

Dr. Kevin Walthers

Allan Hancock College kicked off its 99th academic year last month. What started as a small program on the Santa Maria High School campus is now a dynamic institution serving more than 20,000 community members every year. As we look ahead to the centennial celebrations that will accompany the college’s 100th anniversary in the fall of 2020, our faculty, staff and students are preparing for a second century as North County’s premier institution of higher education.

For most of its history, Hancock (like most community colleges) focused on providing access to higher education. The idea was that granting access to a wide variety of students would lead to increased positive outcomes. We became very good at helping students find opportunities to grow and learn, but we really didn’t push to have students complete a program. As we prepare to address student needs in today’s environment, we realize that access is not enough – students need a credential when they leave. The credential may be in the form of a certificate, associate degree, or transfer guarantee, but regardless - we are committed to serving our students in a way that helps them complete their program.

To foster a culture of completion, we are rethinking the way we offer courses through a program called Roadmaps to Success. The Roadmaps program is intentionally designed to focus students on the key elements that lead to a credential. Last year we embarked on a faculty-led process to create academic pathways that lead to employment or transfer to a four-year college. Dozens of programs were grouped into 11 different “areas of interest” that are easier for students to understand as they enter the college.

As students enroll, they work with counselors to find programs of interest based on their own goals. Students can pursue programs in a variety of areas including the arts, career technical education, STEM and university transfer. Our Hancock Promise program is a key element of getting students onto the right road. The Bulldog Bound program helps students in grades five through eight get a sense of what is available to them when they graduate from high school. Our unique Career Exploration Day brings high school students to campus to discuss career opportunities with business owners and senior managers throughout our community. This year’s event will be held on Oct. 4, with some 200 businesses and more than 2,000 high school students interacting and discussing what it takes to enter today’s job market.

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Once Roadmaps are established for students, Hancock commits to providing resources and additional tools to keep them “on the road” to success. We help students develop study skills, work with them to earn financial aid, and encourage them to attend full-time so that they can complete their program in a timely manner. Faculty and counselors can use early intervention tools to catch students before they get so far “off-road” that they can’t get back on track. We provide additional support courses to augment learning in key gateway courses such as math and English.

Our early results are positive. Students on our Hancock Promise Roadmap are demonstrating that they are willing to take and complete more units, to keep their GPA up, and make progress toward completion. This year we will complete the development of Roadmaps for every program and ensure that we are able to measure the extent to which our intentional actions result in positive learning outcomes.

The next century of Allan Hancock College will see a continued focus on serving our community. Our transformative Roadmaps initiative is concrete evidence that our faculty, staff, and administrators are invested in taking intentional action to ensure that student success is at the heart of everything we do.

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Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D., is the superintendent/president of Allan Hancock College. For more information on how to participate in Career Exploration Day, visit www.hancockcollege.edu/careerexploration/.