Sandra Lujan

El Paso Community College

Our Nations Hispanic Population – An Untapped Resource

The El Paso Texas borderland region is in need of our eager-to-learn Hispanic population to contribute their expertise to the benefit of our nation success. As a counselor at El Paso Community College and the Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) Title V Project Director, I searched for a supplement that would greatly enhance academic advising and counseling to address the unique and individual challenges our students face while pursuing their careers. LifeBound coaching has provided our program, Early Alert (EA) First-Year Experience (FYE), with coaching techniques that initiates open communication between Early Alert Academic Advisors, Early Alert Counselors, Peer Academic Coaches, faculty and our First-Time in College (FTIC) students. Academic coaching has proved to be an effective means to self-reflective and self-corrective student success. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

 

Bringing Out the Best in Our Students – Via Academic Coaching

As the EA FYE Department moves toward institutionalization, my main focus is how my EA staff interacts and guides our FTIC students. In that regard, I have noticed that academic coaching is very effective when training and discussing our programs objectives with my staff. To be successful in life, one must be self-motivated, disciplined, and have the ability to demonstrate grit when your anticipated path in life changes. Academic Coaching is a means to generate involvement, input, and a sense of ownership to the responsibilities to our FTIC students. EA FYE strives to not only increase FTIC student retention, good academic standing, and timely graduations but also to bring out what is most beneficial from our students, their individuality and passion for a better society.

 

As the HSI Title V Project Director, how has LifeBound’s core curriculum assisted you and your staff to maintain the integrity and main objective of your department during the COVID-19 pandemic?

 

The main objective of El Paso Community College’s (EPCC) Early Alert (EA) First-Year Experience (FYE) Department is to increase student success and retention of New, First-Time in College (FTIC), and First-Year students by providing intrusive (proactive) advising through the collaborative efforts of faculty, EA Counselors, EA Advisors, and Peer Academic Coaches (PACs). EA FYE remains dedicated to our objective now more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. The EA FYE Department has been resilient to successfully overcome any barriers during these uncertain times. The EA Team has gained a deeper understanding in their purpose and passion to actively support and advise our students by continually setting goals and priorities in order to cultivate professionalism and set a leadership role for our students.

 

When your department was expected to transition to an online platform in response the COVID-19 pandemic, how did you continue to utilize academic coaching to ensure that students stay strong and persist?

 

We have observed significant progress and accomplishments while moving forward in the areas of Implementation, Student Success and Retention, and Cooperative Efforts of Faculty and the EA FYE Team. EA FYE Team continues, and emphasize, the importance of being an active and strategic listener during online and remote conversations.

 

Implementation: EA FYE has achieved several positive developments with regard to implementing Online/Remote Advising. First of all, we developed a system of procedures for online/remote advising, this will hold all participants accountable while maintaining their position. We have improved our process making it streamline and efficient for our New, FTIC, and FirstYear students. Second, we designed and implemented a functioning online/remote platform. Here, as advising caseloads are elevated, advisors and PAC’s work with our students to help develop self-awareness and self-management. Advising is readily available for all New, FTIC, and FirstYear students. This will ensure that our students continue on their academic journey while maintaining social distancing. We are committed to preserving our students' health and well-being. Finally, EA has established our EPCC Early Alert First-Year Experience Virtual Center. This virtual center gives our students a sense of community even during this time of social isolation.

 

Student Success and Retention: These implementations have given the EA FYE Department the advantage to continually support our students’ success and retention. We have also distributed key information online to assist and guide students to the proper FYE resources. Through our EA FYE Virtual Center, students now have access to utilize online tools with the EA Team in order to provide effective student support. While students wait for their assigned EA academic advisor, or they may schedule an appointment, they are encouraged to participate in PAC facilitated FirstYear Experience Seminars where we coach our students to find intrinsic motivation even during these uncertain times.

 

Collaborative Efforts: Lastly, EA FYE has observed an increase in cooperative efforts among faculty, staff, and other student success services. EA is working in association with faculty to assist with student enrollment as well as collaborating with EPCC departments. 

Sandra Lujan