Faculty eye college’s future at open forum

The importance of classroom innovation, early detection of academic struggles and class scheduling improvements were the focus of a recent South Puget Sound Community College all-campus meeting and open forum.

Various speakers held court during the Nov. 14 event mainly aimed at campus staff and faculty.

Jason Salcedo, a tenured member of the faculty in the English department, discussed a meeting he had with a representative of Microsoft about experiential learning. Salcedo said he was in support of institutional changes as well as pedagogical changes in the classroom as they relate to the advancement of technology.

Salcedo also discussed issues facing the future of not just SPSCC, but community colleges in general.

“There’s a lot of scrutiny from the country as a whole about [community colleges] increasingly because of our prominence, how many students we enroll. Everyone’s saying innovation – a lot harder on the inside (or outside) to actually figure out what that looks like.”

He mentioned that interdepartmental communication and coordination, while often thankless, is an important feature to the college. He stated that he believed interdepartmental involvement grants new and meaningful ways to come together as faculty, even when a large amount of red tape is involved.

“It’s hard to know what experiential learning looks like. Teaching is trial and error.”

Counselor Sally Sharbaugh discussed the counseling office’s early alert system which is designed to allow faculty to alert the counseling office of students struggling to succeed.

Reports come to counselors on a weekly basis and the system opens ten days after the start of a quarter and closes after seven weeks, one week before the last day to withdraw from classes. Once alerted, counselors contact students.

Sharbaugh said the goal of the program was to intervene early with a struggling student, especially when there are multiple issues.

“We don’t want to get in the way of a faculty’s relationship with a student. That’s really, really important to us.”

Counselors have made 113 early alerts with students this quarter. Last year, that number totaled 257.

Sharbaugh gave several examples of the types of help the counseling office offered, including community referrals, on-campus resources, study coaching, and personal decision-making help in relation to classes.

Assistant Director of High School Outreach Anne Molenda shared a detailed look at the new and improved class scheduler.

Molenda said that many students had wanted to be able to view waitlists and search by discipline (especially for transfer students) to make it easier to view what is offered and what is available.

New features include category filters, allowing students to organize the list by discipline, availability, location, and department. It also shows linked courses and courses with additional course fees.

Molenda admitted that due to the nature of the school’s servers, the website’s waitlist only updates once per day at 8 a.m.
She called current registration “the guinea pig stage” and hopes to make future revisions.