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WCC Dean Talks Student Success


Dothan, Ala. – Increasing student learning is the aim of all community colleges, and success at a community college increases the odds of completing a four-year degree. But the road can be tricky, especially when there is a gap in student achievement based on socioeconomic factors. It is one of the most persistent problems in education today, and one Wallace Community College dean is hitting the road to talk about a solution.


And like-minded institutions are getting the message. 


Tony Holland, dean, instructional affairs, was the keynote speaker recently at York Technical College’s Strategic Enrollment Management Conference. York is located in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Holland discussed WCC’s I-CAN initiative, which stands for Improvement, Constant And Never-ending. I-CAN creates a more active, learning-centered environment in classes, based on maximum student engagement, relevant instruction, and supportive relationships. It is a faculty-driven initiative, which is crucial to the success of the program. Under the I-CAN program, success rates increased 25.4 percent from fall 2011 to fall 2014 in the top ten enrollment courses in general academics (an annual enrollment of over 11,000 students). During this same period the socioeconomic student achievement gap that is so persistent around the country was over three-fourths closed in these top enrollment classes, while it was completely closed in the developmental courses.


Dr. Greg Rutherford, president of York Technical College, was so impressed with the presentation and the results that he sent a letter expressing admiration for the program, and Dean Holland’s delivery. “We have worked on the challenge of student success from nearly every angle for a long time,” he said. “There is only one significant place to go, and that is directly into improving teaching and learning in a direct, professional, and beneficial way.” Because the I-CAN program is driven by faculty, it is embraced by the top down in a consistent, all-inclusive manner. 


Wallace’s program has been so successful that it was a Bellwether Finalist in 2014-2015. The Bellwether Awards, given by the Community College Futures Assembly at the University of Florida, recognizes outstanding and innovative programs that are successfully leading community colleges into the future.



The feedback from York Technical faculty was overwhelmingly positive. Over 98% agreed that the topic and concepts were pertinent to their college. “The keynote speaker was the best speaker yet,” said one faculty member on their survey. “He had clear resolutions to instructional problems and related them to student success in a way that was easy to understand.”


Holland has been spreading the word about the initiative to make it replicable to other colleges faced with similar difficulties. York Tech College is almost a mirror-image of WCC with a fall enrollment of about 5,000 students and a team of over 230 faculty members. “This group of faculty was extremely receptive to a re-design of instructional strategies that allow for maximum student learning and total student development with a diverse group of students,” said Holland. “Statistics from the I-CAN initiative serve as evidence of the improvements that can occur in student learning, attendance, preparation for class, satisfaction, persistence, and completion when there is total participation from faculty dedicated to the mission of the community college.”


The results at Wallace can be translated into dollars and cents. An increase in class attendance, the number of students prepared for class, and retention has resulted in a savings of over $500,000 a year for repeated courses paid by financial assistance. It also translates into increased graduation rates. The number of Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees increased 51.7% in 2013-2015 over 2010-2012.


Dr. Rutherford promised to get back to Mr. Holland in a couple of years to show him their progress. “You have every right to be very proud of your faculty for the difference they have made,” said he said.


York Technical College (www.yorktech.com) is located in Rock Hill, South Carolina. For more information on I-CAN, contact Tony Holland at (334) 556-2214.

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