Paradise Valley Community College is leading the charge when it comes to Maricopa County Community College District’s Guided Pathways, the gold standard for community college reform across the country. For three years now, faculty, staff, and peer leaders have worked hand in hand to support all students throughout their PVCC journey.
“Guided Pathways shifts the question facing higher education programs from ‘Are our students college ready?’ to ‘Is our college student ready?’ The answer at PVCC is unquestionably, yes,” said Dr. Jennifer Miller, Dean of Student Affairs, PVCC.
“From the minute a student is admitted, we begin to create a sense of belonging for them,” Miller said. “We give students a direct path to answer questions, obtain resources, and anything else they need. Over two dozen administrators meet regularly to share ideas and feedback on the Guided Pathways program and students’ response. We work together passionately, really caring about our students, and it shows.”
Miller explains that once a student is admitted to PVCC, students take an online assessment to determine their interests, strengths and goals through career exploration, all of which assists them in choosing their right path. MCCCD’s Guided Pathways includes nine Fields of Interest (FOI) – eight of which are available at PVCC. Once they have chosen their FOI, which maps out what classes they should take and when, they are immediately engulfed by support from their FOI Cares Team, including faculty leads, advisors, as well as peer mentors.
Connecting Academics to Work-based Experience
In conjunction with the support provided by PVCC educators, MCCCD offers PipelineAZ.com, an exclusive college major and career-matching platform connecting students to employment specific to their FOI. John McCrudden, PVCC’s Career Services supervisor, has made it his mission to connect PVCC students to work-based experiences (WBE) including professional internships and jobs throughout the Valley.
McCrudden oversees PVCC’s Job Shadow program, which matches students with a mentor versed in their chosen FOI. Mentors include alumni, faculty and staff mentors who meet with their mentee up to three times to share and explore an industry or occupation through the mentor's experiences. The idea is to provide students and alumni with a variety of professional development training, tools, resources, guidance, programs, and opportunities in order to instill the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to advance in their career trajectories.
Employers also play an important role as mentors, visiting the PVCC campus regularly to recruit students for WBE opportunities including internships and service learning, in addition to connecting with PVCC faculty.
“Through this program, students have access to experienced professionals, PVCC alumni and faculty members who speak from experience and can share their honest insight,” McCrudden said. The mentors help students network and provide referrals and recommendations.
Several other programs in the works include:
- Alumni Career Panels
Career Services and FOI Cares Teams teamed up with PVCC’s Alumni Program to hold career panels both in person and virtually that offer students the opportunity to hear about real-world experiences and learn about the amazing jobs and industries our alumni are working in, and how PVCC prepared them to get where they are.
- Marketplace Conversations
Beginning this fall, faculty will have the opportunity to meet with employers to discuss recruiting opportunities, as well as marketplace challenges to staffing, future employer needs, skills in demand now and in the future, plus an array of other topics. McCrudden describes this program as an “organic” opportunity for open discussion between faculty and employers!
- Puma Empowerment Center
PVCC has teamed up with Dress for Success Phoenix for a satellite location on the Union Hills campus. The Puma Empowerment Center offers an array of free resources to serve men and women throughout the community, including professional attire, as well as coaching and workshops on job procurement, resume writing, interviewing, and more.