Exploring new ways to help students achieve success, Tarrant County College leaders decided to go wild.
"We were fueled by Chancellor Hadley, who said, ‘Let’s be bold,’" said Joy Gates Black, vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success. "We’ve changed the way we look at things. We want to create a sincere culture shift in the institution."
TCC leaders set three Wildly Important Goals for the 2015-2016 school year with an aim to raise each by 20 percentage points:
"We always say that we have high expectations of our students, but I think we need to have high expectations of ourselves," Gates Black said. "If we do this, we will be successful at a higher rate."
The late Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley had said that as an Achieving the Dream Leader College, TCC must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to improving success and closing achievement gaps.
"The articulation of our Wildly Important Goals is an important tool for us as we continue to set forward-reaching goals to improve student success," she said.
Tarrant County College leaders previously found a change in practice led to a 29 percent increase in students completion rates: advisors and counselors began to coach students, cheering them on to finish by closely examining degree plans and class completions.
"They may not realize how close they are or that they’ve satisfied requirements for a degree," Gates Black said.
With that success, the College’s leaders began to dream wild dreams. What if they could make major changes in a year? What if they could get 20 percent increases in a year? With those daring dreams, they set their WIGs. But instead of using a top-down approach of how each goal would be accomplished, they decided to go a different way. Each department at each campus and each person in each department examines what he or she can do to help students succeed within his or her role.
"The WIGs will impact students most significantly in a positive way. Faculty and staff will be even more laser-focused on how we can help students increase course completion and retention rates," Hadley said. "Students, both in and out of the classroom, will directly benefit from the work being done to advance these goals."
William Coppola, president of the Southeast Campus, said the more engaged students have a better chance of being retained semester to semester. On his campus, groups are examining their practices, understanding that a small part will contribute to a major impact on the overall district goals.
"What is important is that we are not asking teams or individuals to do anything different than what they already are doing to support students, but to just select the one thing in their whirlwind that they feel will make the biggest impact on achieving the campus WIG," Coppola said.
Elva LeBlanc, president of the Northwest Campus, said they are focusing on opportunities while collaborating and supporting people to impact the students.
"I am optimistic that the results and student outcomes will improve, because the experts on our campus are doing what they do best – supporting and fostering student success," LeBlanc said.
At the end of the day, everyone comes out a winner – the students and graduates who obtain excellent jobs or continue their education at a four-year institution, local industries who gain a skilled workforce and the communities that gain a stronger tax base. When the students are successful, we are successful.
President Elva LeBlanc
Officials have found one key that unlocks success: relationships. Students who have mentors or connections with professors or others on campus, succeed.
"It’s really about connecting with students and encouraging them," Gates Black said.
Men of Color has found success through connections. In that organization, mentoring led to a 49 percent increase in retention. Students also achieved an 89 percent success rate versus a 71 percent success rate of those not in the group.
Billy Lyons, who graduated from TCC in 2014, now attends Texas Christian University, where he is pursuing a degree in political science with plans to attend law school. Through Men of Color he gained a mentor’s encouragement and attended programs that helped him to navigate college life and to manage his finances. He found people to push and encourage him toward completing his associate degree.
That support has continued to aid him when grades fell as he weathered the death of two family members in the past year and struggled to find food to eat.
"I really wanted to give up," he said. "I thought maybe God is trying to tell me something or that my dream is not for me."
Instead, he called on lessons learned from Men of Color. He asked his mentor for help and learned where to look for resources. He learned to persevere. The most important lesson he learned, Lyons said, was to ask for help.
"Being a black male, in our culture, the pressure is to bear the load on ourselves. We don’t like to rely on other people," he said.
TCC leaders want to create more success stories like Lyons as they take on their WIGs.
This is going to be an exciting year for us," said Gates Black.
How each campus is supporting TCC’s Wildly Important Goals