Transforming Student Success with Achieving the Dream

Howard BellI recently attended the Achieving the Dream Integrated Advising & Support Institute in New Orleans, LA. This hands-on working institute gathered nearly 200 higher education leaders to develop strategies for redesigning student success and leveraging technology to transform the student experience.

I had the opportunity to welcome the group at the opening reception, during which I shared the significance that community colleges have had in my personal education and career journey. But most importantly, I emphasized that I was there listen and learn to gain key insights that would help inform our work in building a more robust and holistic student success solution for you.

After that, it was all about getting to work. It wasn’t about attending sessions and listening attentively – although we did that. It was really about rolling up our sleeves and having tough conversations about what it means to redesign student success. I sat with Starfish clients and non-clients alike, and witnessed a small fraction of the real work that goes into improving student success. There was collaboration and discussion, frustration and amazing breakthroughs.

Sure, some of the planning included Starfish.

But overall, the work being done at the ATD Institute was much broader than choosing a technology. It started by evaluating culture, structure, process and people – and THEN thinking about technology – to create a holistic approach that would ensure students are successful. The teams were able to leverage real data points and examples, along with their existing know-how, and work onsite with their teams. They created vision statements, established baselines, and explored plans for moving forward. In the end, there was no one “right way.” It was all about determining where the teams were, looking for the next point, and moving to that.

Overall, it was a phenomenal, real, impactful three days. My congratulations go out to Karen Stout and the entire ATD team, who created a meaningful experience for people that allowed them to step outside the daily distractions of operating a college and focus on building transformative student success strategies.