Bridging the gap between semesters
One of the biggest struggles any college faces is the ability to retain students from their first semester to their second. Countless hours are spent trying to crack the code of what makes students tick and perform well academically.
Parkland faces these challenges just as any other institution does. Since the college is made up of such a diverse community, certain programs and actions must be implemented to improve student retention.
One program that specifically aids Latino and Latina first year students is the Comadre y Compadre Program. It was implemented in full force the 2014 Fall semester and has significantly increased Latino and Latina student retention.
According to the coordinators of the program, Moises Orozco and Eduardo Coronel, out of 59 students they have successfully helped 51 of those make the transition from first to second semester. This transition has been in no small part due to the guidance of the mentors that are part of program.
“We’re really trying to improve our students’ success whether they’re obtaining a certificate or transferring to another institution. We had around 90 percent of our mentees finish Fall semester and make the transition to Spring,” Orozco claimed.
Another way that Parkland is helping to bridge the gap between semesters is by offering the Psychology 109 course. The course will soon be renamed to First Year Experience, or FYE 101.
One instructor that teaches Psychology 109 is Dan Ryan.
“The course is essentially a college student success course. It’s designed for students to figure out what drives them and how that fits in here at Parkland,” Ryan stated.
The PSY 109, or soon to be FYE 101, course is available to all students. Ryan stated that the attendance has been diverse; there have been non-traditional students, Pathway students, and athletes. There are even sub-sections of the course designed to assist Student Veterans.
According to Ryan, the course has three main areas of focus. The first is to connect students with faculty. The second is to help them build relationships with other students and create a support system. The final is for students to become aware of all the student services Parkland has to offer, such as CAS, Career Services, Trio, the Library, and Counseling and Advising.
Ryan’s other role is Coordinator for First Year Experience. He’s been instrumental in the development of a school-wide mentoring program called the IConnect Mentoring Program.
This new mentoring program is funded by the Ideas Grant, the same grant that has funded the Comadre y Compadre program.
“We’re actually rolling out the program in two phases,” Ryan explained. “The first phase will be pairing new, first semester students with faculty and staff this spring. The second phase will begin in fall and new students will be paired with successful, returning peer mentors. We want to grow smart with the program. There’s a great deal of excitement about it at the college and we’re getting a lot of great support from faculty and staff.”
Business Administration major Gracson Torres has seen firsthand the ways in which Parkland helps students succeed.
Torres explained that being a part of the Parkland Soccer Team motivated her to do well in her courses in order to be eligible to play. She also said that being on the team makes her feel like she is part of something.
“I believe Parkland offers students a lot of success, such as the technology, student help centers, one on one help with professors, and all of the organizations. It’s also a very involved college when it comes to student life, therefore there’s always some activity going on which makes students feel involved,” Torres stated. “But when I broke my leg in October I had to miss two weeks of school which caused my GPA to drop and to withdraw from a course. I felt as if nobody at Parkland helped me prevent those issues from happening. Students go through these issues and can’t control it, so I believe there should be some sort of support system.”
Parkland has many programs in place, along with up and coming ones, to help improve student success from one semester to the next but there is still work to be done. The emphasis on aiding new students is strong but, in addition to helping newcomers, Parkland must also cater to other students as well.
For more information about the IConnect Mentoring Program, contact Dan Ryan at 217-353-2069 or DRyan@parkland.edu.