James Gray is one of the rare people who can testify about being both a student and an instructor at CCA. In 1994, he graduated from CCA and returned to the college in 2002 as an adjunct instructor.
Since that time, James has become the chair of the Mathematics Department, started the Student Success Awards, received the Dr. Linda and Roger Bowman Award for Instructional Excellence – twice – and made great progress in helping CCA successfully deliver equitable outcomes for students of color.
In July, James will leave CCA for a year to continue that equity work with the Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Southern California before he returns to CCA in the fall of 2018. Before James leaves, we sat down with him to talk about what he will do with CUE, the equity work being done at CCA, and some of the strategies developed to achieve equitable outcomes.
What will you do with the Center for Urban Education this fall?
It’s very similar to the work they did with us in 2013, where they spent a year having us go through their equity scorecard process. When we were doing that, we had an evidence team [from CUE] with team leaders and the team leaders had monthly calls with their project specialists. So that’s going to be my role. I will be working with specific colleges; one college I know I will be working with is San Diego Mesa College. I will be working with their team and helping them through the scorecard process.
What is involved in the scorecard process and equitable outcomes?
Being scored means being able to gain equitable outcomes – we generally start with graduation rates and look at whether the graduation rates are representative of the incoming population. You can look at individual course success rates or departmental success rates for courses. You can look at [the scorecard process] in terms of whether you are focusing on an advising department; you can take a look at patterns in terms of who is taking advantage of advising and what kind of advising they are coming in for.
This was something that was discovered at CCA. Students of color tended to come to advising for reactive reasons – when something happened they would seek out an advisor. This was unlike white students, who would tend to be more proactive. Those are the kinds of things you might find.
What are the goals? What will CCA achieve?
The goal is to identify where there are equity gaps. For example, if you look at the success rates of the lowest level of developmental mathematics, there are equity gaps. You try to develop interventions or try to develop methods or pedagogies to address the overall success rates. When you break it down in different ways, you have the ability to see which groups are doing well and which groups aren’t. By being able to break it down by race and ethnicity, we were able to target students, and our interventions were more targeted that way.
How did you get involved in this program?
Victor Vialpando sent an email [in 2013] and said there was this project that was coming up and he wanted some volunteers for it. Without knowing much about it, I volunteered and, not too long after that, I got an email from our president – at the time, Alton Scales – and he said, “Congratulations, you’ve been named the team leader.”
In June 2013, the Center for Urban Education came out here and showed us our graduation rate data. They had us set some goals to define areas of focus, so we focused on the advising office and mathematics, as well.
We worked for a year with the Center for Urban Education to go through their scorecard process. They have different tools to help you. They have observation tools where, for example, you sit in the advising office and just pay attention to who comes in, how students are treated, what the environment is like; you sit in on some advising sessions and just pay attention.
What are some of the strategies CCA has applied in the classroom to achieve equitable outcomes?
One of the most important observations we made was that some of our instructors already do very well. They do not have gaps in data. Not only that but we also can follow their students when they [progress] and their students tend to be more successful than average. That allowed us to study those particular instructors.
[With those instructors] you notice a certain level of student engagement that you don’t get with everybody. Just as an example, one of our instructors set a certain culture in the class – of taking a class seriously: for instance, when you do your homework, you do it in a very serious way. You always come to class; you always come to class on time. When you come to class, we’re here to work – we’re not here to have fun.
There are many different ways that those kinds of things can happen, but one of the toughest things for us to figure out was that a lot of it has to do with the students and whether they feel capable when they walk into the classroom. So if you think about the lowest level of developmental mathematics, many of those students have failed their math [classes] in the past. They’re used to being treated as if they are incapable, so something as simple as walking into the room as an instructor and messaging to the students that “you are capable” can be a huge factor.
Knowing that some students have a heightened sense of their race or gender, what are we asking instructors to do in the classroom?
The strategies aren’t all that sophisticated; they are actually quite straightforward. It’s just coming from an understanding of how our students think about things or how they might think about things is a better way to say it.
As an example, take a student who has not done well in math; they are probably used to their instructor ignoring them. They are used to their instructor saying that doing half is good; doing half is good enough for you. Or just being unaware of who you are as an individual and who you are as a Hispanic student or black student or a white student or any kind of student. So some of the techniques include being able to hold students to a high level of expectation; being able to notice when students are hiding in class, when they haven’t done their homework. Getting down, talking to them, and communicating to them that “I expect more from you” – something as simple as that. If a student is treated as if they are capable, where they have never been treated that way before, they will walk through a wall for you. They’ll do anything; they will drop their other classes but they won’t drop your class.
So our more sophisticated understanding of it has to do with classroom culture; the kind of language we use; the expectation we have for ourselves; how I define my role as an instructor; how students define my role; all those things. It’s really not all that sophisticated. It’s just that awareness means a lot; just having certain expectations means a lot.
When you return to CCA, what knowledge would you like to bring back?
The progress our college has made has been extraordinary. You can see this now, in that Inclusive Excellence is talked about in many different ways and it’s more than I ever thought that it would be. I’m going off and working with other colleges; I’ll get to see what other colleges are doing. I’ll get to learn from them. Really a lot of the things we’ve done here, we’ve had to invent as we went along. This will give me the opportunity to learn from colleges that have been doing it. I think what I will be able to bring back is certainly a wider perspective on what these issues are and what successful schools have done. My hope is to come back with tools and techniques to really impact what happens in the classroom.
Why do you like teaching at CCA?
I like teaching in general. I like teaching at CCA specifically because of who our students are; so many remind me of who I was back then. Some of them have the most amazing stories, and they overcome so many obstacles that we never know about. They just come onto the campus and are willing to work hard. They care about being here. They like being here. Even if I’m having a rough day as the department chair, if the next day I am going into the classroom, I know I am going to be happy when I walk in.
What has changed at CCA in the time that you’ve been here?
The equity work is the biggest change; it’s required a cultural change for the college, a change in how we hire people. The responsibility that [instructors] take upon themselves. Many changes have happened over the years. The equity change has been the biggest, because it really has changed how we view our students, how we view ourselves, and how we view the work that we do.
The Community College of Aurora Foundation held its first To and Through College luncheon on May 12 at the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora.
The luncheon raised more than $87,000 through sales of seats at the luncheon tables, as well as the paddle raise at the end of the event. Presenting sponsor Citywide Bank also donated $15,000 to help fund the event. The money raised for student scholarships was one of the largest amounts raised by the Foundation at a single event.
The luncheon featured student speeches and performances and award presentations. Everyone attending took part in a mini version of CSI: Aurora, an interdisciplinary crime scene investigation and mock murder trial that CCA students participate in during the spring semester. The luncheon guests were provided evidence and collaborated with others at their tables to review the facts of the case and come up with a verdict in this mock investigation and trial experience.
The Foundation is planning its next luncheon for the spring of 2018 at the Stanley Marketplace. In the interim, the Foundation is planning a third-party donation initiative for the summer and fall. If you’d like more information, contact John Wolfkill at email@example.com or Lynn Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Left): CCA student Jennaveve Combs performs a song at the beginning of the luncheon.
(Right): Victor Vialpando-Nuñez, dean of the School of Professional Studies and Sciences, holds up the luncheon program while Jenn Dale, chair of the Behavioral Sciences Department, smiles during the luncheon.
(Left) Doug Rossi, adjunct instructor in the Paralegal Department, served as the judge on the CSI: Aurora event during the luncheon.
(Right) Student Eveli Sarinara details how CCA has helped her during the luncheon.
Take Your Dog to Work Day (Again)
CCA held a second Take Your Dog to Work Day on May 9 for instructors, faculty, and staff who were unable to bring their dogs into the office in March.
(Left) Joshua Pacheco, academic program support specialist in the School of Professional Studies and Sciences, shows off his dog, Artica.
(Middle) Yuliya Fedasenka-Cloud, faculty in the World Languages Department, and her dog, Sven.
(Right) Adrienne Kruger, academic program support specialist, was dogsitting Art faculty Kate O’Donnell’s dog, Ness.
CCA’s Wellness Committee and DeLaney Community Farm have teamed up to create a community garden. The garden gives CCA staff the opportunity to plant and work alongside fellow CCA staff members. Interested in working in the garden? Contact Deb Hoefler at email@example.com.
Colorado Film School Spring Showcase
CCA’s Colorado Film School hosted its spring film showcase on May 9 at the Harkins Theatre in Denver. Fourteen student films were shown in a Hollywood-style atmosphere, where attendees voted for the People’s Choice Award. More than 800 people attended the event, sponsored by the Colorado Toyota Dealers Association, which also works with students to produce the organization’s commercials.
Caption: CFS student Shannon Malloy (holding the microphone) interviews, from left, Alec Lang, Meredith McDonald, and Zane Stein.
CCA is partnering with the Foundation for Student Success to serve as a mentee institution, working with Los Medanos College in California, to help close the equity gap for black, Latinx, and Native American students.
The Foundation for Student Success identifies mentor institutions that are committed to and have demonstrated effective strategies in shifting campus culture, practices, and policies to close equity gaps. The FSS then pairs mentor institutions with mentee institutions that are similar in size, population, and mission - such as CCA - that are also working to identify goals and strategies that would decrease equity gaps and shift to a campus culture that positively contributes to the success of all students.
The FSS paired CCA with Los Medanos College (LMC) in Pittsburg, California, for this two-year project. CCA’s team will be led by Quill Phillips, special assistant to the president for Inclusive Excellence, and will also include Dr. Tricia Johnson, vice president of Academic Affairs, and Jenn Dale, chair of Behavioral Sciences, along with the new vice president of Student Affairs.
The CCA committee visited LMC on April 27-28 to learn more about the college and to learn about strides already made by that institution in the area of student retention, closing equity gaps, and professional development.
The majority of the visit was spent learning about LMC’s journey toward identifying what equity means for their campus and how to effectively implement it across CCA. LMC started its “equity journey” in the mid-1990s and became a Hispanic Serving Institution in 2005, which was the impetus for the college to begin thinking about how to better serve their students and disaggregate their data.
Upon completion of the visit with LMC, CCA’s team identified five goals to accomplish during the two-year project.
1. Develop an action plan to institutionalize and operationalize the Inclusive Excellence strategic plan, including a theory of change.
2. Document policies and procedures related to implementation of institutional equity.
3. Document reduction in equity gaps (students of color, first-generation immigrants, and non-native English speakers).
4. Document the increases in student retention and success rates.
5. Reinforce training and development of institutional equity work for sustainability.
CCA’s team will attend multiple meetings with LMC to determine how to achieve these goals.
James Gray, chair of the Mathematics Department, and Art Thomas, adjunct instructor at CCA’s Colorado Film School, received the Dr. Linda and Roger Bowman Award for Instructional Excellence at the Community College of Aurora Foundation's To and Through College luncheon on May 12.
The recipients are nominated by students based on four criteria: campus-wide impact, student learning/instructional activities, student success, and uniqueness. Gray and Thomas were chosen from a pool of nominees submitted by students and were recognized at the luncheon. The award was founded by former CCA president Dr. Linda Bowman.
One student commented on Gray’s nomination form that:
“I have seen James go over and above what I’ve seen other teachers do to help students succeed. He is more than willing to meet with people outside of class in order to see them succeed no matter the student’s background. He is respectful of everyone and genuinely cares about all students and their success.”
A comment made by a student in their nomination for Thomas was:
“Art makes sure to treat every student like an individual, giving each his undivided attention. I am not the type of student to reach out to teachers and ask for help or to get to know them, but Art, unlike most professors, reached out to me and made sure I was understanding and keeping up with the curriculum. He is a special kind of instructor, one who cares deeply about his students and their success.”
Caption: From left to right, Art Thomas, Dr. Linda Bowman, Roger Bowman, and James Gray.
Send Former CCA President Dr. Larry D. Carter a Birthday Card!
Rhonda Argabright, daughter of former CCA President Dr. Larry D. Carter, is asking CCA staff and faculty who know her father to send him a birthday card to celebrate his 80th birthday on June 26.
If you would like to send him a card, contact CCA Communications Director Mary Meeks at firstname.lastname@example.org for his address.
Anna Jansen’s Daughter Gets Her Wings
Alexandra Jansen Vick, daughter of Academic Advisor Anna Jansen, recently earned her certification to become a flight attendant. Congratulations!
Caption: Alexandra Jansen Vick holds her certificate while posing with a colleague.
Villegas selected for the CCCS Leadership Program
Cynthia Villegas, English faculty, and Hyekyung Lee, assistant director in Institutional Research, have been selected for the Colorado Community College System Leadership Program. The 2017 CCCS Leadership Workshop is designed for employees across the system who are new to CCCS and/or those who are early in their career and have an interest in leadership within the system. Through the three-day workshop attendees will join colleagues with varied backgrounds from across the state to learn more about the CCCS structure and employees’ roles in ensuring the success of CCCS.
Colorado Film School Sweeps Nominations for Short Form Fiction Emmys
Three films submitted by Colorado Film School students were nominated by the Heartland Emmys for Student Achievement in the Short Form Fiction Category. The films are: “Rations,” from Alexander Rhodes-Wilmere, director/producer, and Nikie Perlmutter, writer/producer; “Penny,” from Ashley Enright, director, and Geoffrey Chadwick, serving as the faculty advisor; and “Honey Bee,” from Micah Groenevelt, director, Alex Schofield, producer, with Tony Pfau serving as the faculty advisor.
The winners will be announced during the Heartland Emmys ceremony on July 15.
McMichael and Vialpando-Nuñez to Present at Guided Pathways to Success
Heather McMichael, chair of the Business Department, and Victor Vialpando-Nuñez have been invited to present at the Guided Pathways to Success, which will convene in the fall of 2017. The Colorado Department of Higher Education, Division of Student Success and Academic Affairs, is planning to build upon its first statewide convening on Guided Pathways to Student Success, initially held in November 2015. The second convening will focus on the critical roles that community college and university academic advisors play in promoting student success and degree completion.
Tanya Cook to Host Panel at Denver Comic Con
Tanya Cook, faculty in the Behavioral Sciences Department, will host a panel at the Denver Comic Con on June 30. She is leading a panel on fandom and charity work called “Always Keep (Nerd) Fighting: Fandoms as Social Movements.” During the panel, Tanya and others will discuss charity and social-movement work as they relate to fandom and discuss research done in the field. Her panel will be held at 3:30 p.m. in the Central City Room DCCP3 at the Colorado Convention Center. Tickets are $38.50 to attend the Comic Con on Friday.
Colorado Film School Documentary Airs on Rocky Mountain PBS
“Cultivating Creativity,” a documentary commemorating the National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Jane Chu’s visit to Denver last year, aired on Rocky Mountain PBS on June 2. The documentary was filmed by Colorado Film School (CFS) students, directed by Jim Tharp, CFS assistant director; co-directed by Aaron Koehler, equipment manager; and edited by Matt Baxter, instructor at CFS.
Changes in Computer and Digital Technologies
JoAnn Burkhart will return to her full-time faculty role in the Computer and Digital Technologies Department in July, while Eric Vahling will assume the chair role starting July 1. JoAnn has served as chair of the Computer and Digital Technologies Department since April 2014.
Eric has been with CCA since summer 2015 and is the lead instructor for networking and computer information science courses.
CCA Participates in the Higher Learning Commission Assessment Academy
CCA has been accepted to participate in the Higher Learning Commission's Assessment Academy. Participating in the Academy offers HLC member institutions a four-year sequence of events and interactions that focus on student learning. All academy activities are designed to accelerate and advance efforts to assess and improve student learning and are designed to help build institution-wide commitment to and engagement in assessing and improving student learning. Dr. Tricia Johnson, vice president of Academic Affairs, will serve as the lead for the Academy Team, which will also include representatives from Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and Institutional Research.
Jenn Dale, chair for the Department of Behavioral Sciences, defended her dissertation at Capella University on June 1. Her dissertation, Positive Sexual Dialogue and Related Factors Distinguishing Risky Sexual Behavior in Adults, was for a doctor of philosophy in General Psychology. “Jenn’s been working on this for a long time (on top of her great work in the college and her busy life at home), so congratulations for her persistence and perseverance are in order!” – Ted Snow, dean, School of Liberal Arts.
Steven Zeeh, director of the office of Disability and Equity, successfully defended his dissertation on April 20. His study, titled: Ever Decreasing Budgets: How Mid-Level Student Affairs Directors Manage Perceived Resource Cuts, examined student affairs directors’ budgets during periods of decreasing resources. His successful defense was the culminating project for a Doctor of Philosophy in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Leadership Program.
Bobby Pace, Students Interviewed by Bangladesh Television Station
Dr. Bobby Pace and four students were interviewed on May 1 by a correspondent from Bangladesh’s Jamuna Television about the ThankYouAmerica! campaign. Bobby and his students were asked about how communities can combat violent extremism through social media, information, and more.
CCA staff held a retirement party on May 31 for Mike Davis, director of the Facilities Department. Mike worked at CCA for 17 years and spent the last two years as director.
Caption: Mike Davis, director of the Facilities Department, poses with Denise Oakeley, coordinator of Academic Affairs support services, during his retirement party.
CCA staff said goodbye to Elena Sandoval-Lucero, vice president of Student Affairs, during the All-College meeting on June 8 in the Rotunda at the CentreTech campus. Elena is leaving CCA to serve as the vice president for the Boulder County campus of Front Range Community College.
Elena started at CCA in January 2011 and previously served as dean of Student Success before moving into her role as vice president of Student Affairs.
(Left): Jorge Velasquez, assistant director of Student Life, hugs Elena Sandoval-Lucero during the All-College meeting.
(Right): Elena Sandoval-Lucero laughs during the All-College meeting.
Elementary school children visited the Community College of Aurora’s CentreTech campus on May 18 for a fun one-day festival about water. Students learned about water through hands-on activities and exhibits that were located throughout the campus.
John Bottelberghe, director of Facilities
Robert Callaway, assistant director of Human Resources
Jugbeh Doe-Smith, accounting technician
Rachael Doyle, payroll and benefits coordinator, Human Resources
Michael Johnson, Financial Aid advisor, debt and default management
Yeika Oladipo, custodian I
Joshua Pacheco, academic program support specialist, School of Professional Studies and Sciences
Andrea Rascon, academic coach, TRIO Student Support Services
Kazia Washington, career advisor/employer outreach, Career Services
What are your vacation plans this summer? Where are you going and why?
Chris Tombari, associate dean, School of Liberal Arts: “Julie and I say this every summer and, like every summer we vow that THIS will be the year. We’re going to take the kids to Mesa Verde to see the Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites.”
Chryztii Harrod, admissions assistant/work-study student: “I took my family vacation in the brief time between spring and summer semesters. My boyfriend joined most of my family on a 30-hour road trip to Virginia. While we were there, my mom was able to see my older sister's house for the first time. We hung out with my siblings and my 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew, and all four of my sisters were reunited! We also toured Colonial Williamsburg and looked for some of the famous mermaids of Norfolk.”
Twich Collins, technical advisor to the Student Government Association: “I will be heading out to the magical land of Las Vegas on the 15th of June. “Why,” you ask? Well, that is because I will be playing chauffer for a couple of buddies who are attending a very nerdy convention for the card game “Magic: the Gathering.” While they battle royale, I will be exploring the glitz and glamour of Sin City. Oh yeah, and Jabbawockeez!”