Almost 150 educators from more than 20 different departments at both Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) and George Mason University volunteered to spend their day off recently aligning courses and designing curricula to help provide a streamlined transition for NVCC students interested in transferring to Mason for a four-year degree.
The conference was part of an ongoing partnership between the schools known as ADVANCE, which currently includes 19 programs of study, with an aggressive goal of 50 programs of study by the Fall of 2019.
In the “sleeves rolled up” session, faculty worked together discussing the details of their respective courses and creating educational goals and progressions that will mirror the partner school. Conference hosts were Janette Kenner Muir, Associate Provost, Academic Initiatives & Services at Mason and Sheri Robertson Associate Vice President Academic Affairs at NVCC. Muir told attendees that the difficulties inherent in the effort are clearly understood and recognized, “We know that there is no easy or quick fix to align these courses – the devil is in the details. However, the results will be worth it for our students here in Northern Virginia.”
NVCC President Dr. Scott Ralls opened the conference by noting several obstacles facing students in the current transfer process, including a lack of clarity regarding prerequisite courses, confusion due to separate guidance services, and often-tedious paperwork; all resulting in a loss of an average of 15 credits per student. “This meeting is important and historic. Rarely do groups of faculty get together to take on this difficult process – in this room we have educators that care about their students. We’re part of something bigger than ourselves and our institutions,” explained Ralls.
Also in attendance at the conference were representatives from the Aspen Institute interested in college access and transferability. Although the Institute is studying programs in Texas, Minnesota and Virginia, they plan to utilize the ADVANCE program as a model for their work.
Following a panel discussion addressing changes being instituted in the advising process, providing access to Mason student life, and streamlining enrollment and registration services, participants broke into groups based on their areas of study and got to work. Professors attending the conference came from a variety of departments including Health, Information Technology, Math, English, Education, Visual Design and the Sciences. At the conclusion, each group created a “pathway” worksheet, outlining each of their courses and the necessary steps to merge or mirror them.
David Wu, Provost and Executive Vice President at Mason, thanked the attendees noting, “It’s really quite remarkable to see everyone coming together on their day off to take on this task. This concept is the talk of the town here in Northern Virginia, as well as in the state legislature and throughout the Commonwealth. It is an ambitious concept, but it’s not going to happen without your help. We are so appreciative of your efforts here today.”