Pierce College has faced problems, including planned employees not showing up, lower student enrollment and engagement on campus.
At the Pierce Strategic Master Plan Town Hall on Oct. 1 on Zoom, the theme was racial equity and social justice and internal and external community relations on campus.
Dean of Student Success Kalynda Webber McLean said the state identifies gaps between student performance in specific groups but leaves the burden on the student, rather than the institution. She said Pierce can modernize and use different tools to access the wide variety of students who enroll and expect a quality education.
“So while we can’t in any way have control over student behavior, we do have control over the institution’s behavior,” McLean said.
Passing transfer level math and English in the first year was below average for students who identify as white, Black and Hispanic in the fall 2020 class, according to McLean.
The solution discussed about this opportunity gap at Pierce is to make sure that the objectives and expectations are clear and focused on prioritizing diversifying students.
By providing more outreach for students, improving programs like Umoja on campus, including more black students in the College Promise Program and possibly extending educational support and trying to figure out ways to meet student and employee needs.
Vice President of Administrative Services Rolf Schleicher said having staff and students motivate themselves to stay on campus.
“I think we need to change that so that our students and employees have a really positive attitude towards the campus,” said Schleicher.
Pierce is aiming to improve overall student success and wants campus to include more diversity.
“So when we go out into the community, and we’re trying to recruit students, we want to make sure that students see themselves in us,” Psychology Professor Brian Gendron said.
McLean asked if Pierce is branding itself as an inclusive place, a place where all students can learn and thrive.
The board on campus voted no on having a graphic design firm to help with most of the marketing involved, according to Pierce College’s Public Relations Manager Doreen Clay.
“If we don’t change that model, our brand will never change, our design will never be good, we will never have a cohesive structure,” Clay said. “We have never put a lot of money towards marketing and communications.”
Instruction and Reference Librarian Mario Macías provided context to how students are also affected by the limited resources available and by technological tools that have not been upgraded for students to use.
“I see students when they come in, and they cannot find something here, or they don’t find the textbook that they’re looking for, or there’s not even a computer that’s functional for them to use, or they have an issue with their own computer,” Macías said. “But Pierce does not offer any type of resource for computer repair if students have their own devices.”
Macías said that Open Educational Resources (OER) are not being implemented in most classrooms at Pierce and this should be a big part of student equity.
“I feel like even if you search on the Pearson website for OER or low cost textbooks or zero cost textbooks, you get almost zero resources.” Macías said.
Gendron brought forth plans to incorporate more partnerships and developing relations with the Foundation for Pierce College, the local government and possibly Ford Motor Company providing opportunities to auto students at Pierce.
“We had a lot of discussions about the Ford Motor Company Partnership, which is extremely exciting for Pierce and the auto students,” Gendron said. “That’s only going to open up tremendous doors for students.”
Gendron said students have expressed their dissatisfaction with Pierce and some feel the campus does not provide them with its best.
“The students who are just out of high school, a lot of them, don’t look at Pierce as having the best reputation,” Gendron said. “I don’t like hearing that. Pierce has so many great things to offer.”
According to Gendron, the founder of the Foundation Edward Albrecht has given away $60,000 dollars worth of scholarships, and there have been discussions to broaden the Foundation from 100 percent pure volunteer work to establishing its own branch at Pierce.
“Think of what we could do with a full time staff,” Gendron said. “So getting to something like $5 million in operations would be an amazing game changer for our students.”
When it comes to student retention and the quality of education, services and resources provided, much more has to be done to make sure everyone is accounted for.
“We are a student serving institution, but this is, to some degree, a business,” Gendron said. “We have to make sure that the customers are satisfied.”