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Wallace-Dothan Receives Top National Honor for Student Success

5/4/2017

Dothan, Ala. – The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) recently named Wallace Community College – Dothan (WCCD) the number one community college in the nation for Student Success. The award makes WCCD one of five innovative community colleges named Awards of Excellence winners at the AACC national conference, held in New Orleans on April 24. The Student Success award goes to the community college that has led with purpose and intentionality in an effort to foster student success. 

Wallace was recognized for developing and implementing the I-CAN (Improvement, Constant And Never Ending) instructional initiative to help close the socioeconomic gap and increase completion rates. I-CAN focuses on significantly improving student learning through maximum engagement with applicable instruction and supportive relationships. It is a faculty-driven initiative that required a complete redesign of the learning environment, with on-going professional development.

The College backed up its hard work with hard facts. 

The I-CAN initiative resulted in a 67-percent increase in the number of AA/AS conferred for 2014-15 as compared to 2010-11 and a 27-percent increase in retention rates. While all students showed significant increases in success, low-income (Pell Grant eligible) minority students experienced over three times more improvement than their higher income counterparts. The measurable benefits for students were achieved with little or no monetary investment.

The key to this cultural transformation has been the adoption of a leadership mentality throughout the entire organization, especially the faculty. This has reinforced a culture founded on high levels of accountability and caring among all personnel.

"This award recognizes exceptional work among the nation's two-year colleges. The efforts of faculty and staff have been noticed, and our faculty has embraced an extreme level of ownership when it comes to student success," said WCCD president Linda C. Young. “We are an institution focused on achieving success through quality education and excellent customer service for our students."

The concept began in 2007 in the science division when analysis revealed gaps in learning caused by higher than acceptable withdrawal rates and low attendance rates (which was the number one problem noted by instructors). The department decided to do something to change the trend with strategies to improve the learning environment such as detailed objectives, lecture videos (over 7,000 have been recorded so far), frequent assessments, and early interventions. The results were immediate and substantial. The next year revealed a 31-percent increase in the number of students attending class and a 47-percent increase in the number of successful students (C or higher) across all biology courses.

The early success in the science division evolved into I-CAN in 2012, when the College adopted the initiative college-wide. Implementation also occurred in the top ten enrollment and developmental courses, courses that serve many at-risk students.

The I-CAN initiative was also recently shortlisted for an award at the Reimagine Education Conference last year, a global competition designed to identify innovative approaches to higher education. WCCD was the only community college among the international representatives.

“This award is simply icing on the cake for a special group of faculty and staff committed to relentless improvements in instructional and support strategies,” said Tony Holland, WCCD dean of instruction. “Instructional strategies created inspirational faculty/student connections and facilitated learning with a diverse student population, and were a direct result of a growth mindset throughout the organization.” Holland accepted the award on behalf of the College.

To be named as the winner for this award, the College must have a comprehensive completion plan, achieved measurable and significant increases in on-time completion, certification completion, and transfer from 2-year to 4-year institution(s). They must also have developed programs to support student success in developmental education, student support services, K-12 partnership/collaboration. In addition, the winner must have substantially contributed to the integration of completion goals and principles across the institution and have promising practices to advance student success.

It is a tall order, but Wallace Community College-Dothan is up to the challenge of assuring success at every touch point of students' experience.

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