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Pilot Program Expands, Adds Two New Pathways to Student Success

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A pilot program that allows undergraduates to put a specific focus on their lower-division general education coursework proved so successful last year that the program is being expanded to include more students and more “pathways.”

Nearly 500 students took advantage of “Pathways to Success,” signing up to take specific courses under four areas: global studies, sustainability; food, health and well-being; and power and politics.

This fall, the program will be expanded to about 2,000 students and include two additional pathways: ethics and leadership, and science, technology and society, said Allison Wrynn, director of undergraduate studies and general education.

“Pathways encourages students to look at their general education courses as applicable to their whole educational career,” explained Kathryn Angus, lecturer in reading and one of the faculty coordinators in the program.

Volker Janssen, associate professor of history and a faculty coordinator, noted that students are getting increasingly limited exposure to issues other than what they seek out. “Pathways picks up at their point of interest and takes them places they would otherwise not get to explore. That is something that is missing in their world.”

It also helps students see the connections between subjects like English, critical thinking and ethics, and their interests and career goals, the educators added.

“I enjoyed going through the Pathway program because it made GE classes more interesting and also made them seem more worthwhile,” said Ashley McCay, a sophomore studying both psychology and radio-TV-film. “By being part of the program, I was able to not only get my general education classes done, but also add a certification for food, health, and well-being to my resume and to my future degree of psychology.”

Participating students take three to five lower-division GE courses associated with the pathway they select. As part of the classes, students engage in high-impact practices, such as research, community service or internships.

Changing this year is the way students are engaged in the classes, said Wrynn. “Last year, we had courses in which there were Pathway and non-Pathway students. This year, everyone enrolled in a Pathway course will take part in the research, community service and other activities.”

One of the successes of last year’s pilot was the level of engagement and collaboration between faculty members involved in the program, said Wrynn.

“Faculty members were inspired by taking part in the experience,” agreed Angus. “The synergy is a real plus, especially with part-time faculty members. … It makes them feel that they are a part, connected.”

Students also expressed the sense of coherence they felt in a survey conducted after the first year, noted Wrynn.

“Programs like Pathways (Cal State Chico also has such a program) are seen as potentially very valuable in engaging and retaining students. They are part of an overall discussion on general education and its importance in a liberal education,” said Wrynn.