Nearly 40 Ivy Tech Community College Columbus and IUPUC faculty and administrators along with community leaders attended the fall kick-off event for the Gateway Community of Practice at the Columbus Learning Center. The event featured Dr. Steven Combs, Chancellor, Ivy Tech Community College Columbus and Dr. Reinhold Hill, IUPUC Vice Chancellor and Dean. The IUPUC Office of Development and External Affairs and the Ivy Tech Community College Foundation co-sponsored the networking breakfast.

The Gateway Community is a collaborative initiative aimed to enhance retention and student success in gateway courses on both campuses. Gateway courses are typically general education, first-year, high-enrollment courses that are prerequisites for degrees and programs of study. Success in gateway courses is critical for student retention and degree completion, which leads to improved career and employment opportunities in the region. The Gateway Community of Practice is partially funded by the Community Education Coalition and the EcO Attainment Network and coordinated by the IUPUC Center for Teaching and Learning.

Faculty involved in the Gateway Community of Practice implement best-practice instructional strategies in their gateway courses, then gather and analyze data to assess the impact of the strategies on student engagement and retention. Results are documented and shared across the Gateway Community to expand the utilization of successful strategies in other gateway courses. Faculty who participate in professional development opportunities may be designated as a Gateway Fellow.

Another dimension of the initiative promotes the use of Supplemental Instruction (SI) to enhance student engagement. SI provides peer support inside and outside the classroom using trained Student Leaders. SI offers extra resources to students in a non-intimidating, but informed manner. Nearly 30 faculty and student leaders participated in summer workshops and are currently tracking data to assess the impact of SI interventions on student grades, retention, and engagement.

The combined strategies of the instructor-driven and student-delivered approaches will improve retention and increase degree completion at both IUPUC and Ivy Tech Community College Columbus.

Kathy Huffman is the EcO Attainment Network Manager for the Community Education Coalition of Columbus, Indiana. The Community Education Coalition of Columbus, Indiana, is a nationally recognized partnership of education, business, and community leaders focused on aligning and integrating the Columbus and region’s community learning system with economic growth and high quality of life. Since 2007, the EcO Network (Economic Opportunities through Education) has been bringing together hundreds of stakeholders from a ten-county region of Southeast Indiana. The EcO partnership seeks to create economic opportunities aligned to the region’s economic strengths through educational attainment. Huffman said, “The collaboration between these two postsecondary institutions is truly amazing.  Through the Gateway Community of Practice, they are sharing more than a campus, they are sharing best practices and expertise to improve student success. Student success is critical to our region because we have a challenge.  In southeastern Indiana, the education level of the population doesn’t align with projected workforce demands.  This is a problem, it effects communities, employers, and especially families.  Success in gateway courses is the first step for students on the path to degree completion, which in turn leads to expanded career opportunities.”

Dr. Reinhold Hill is the vice chancellor and dean at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC). IUPUC offers access to degrees from both Indiana University and Purdue University; undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business, communication studies, education, English, general studies, nursing and psychology; and the courses for degrees in mechanical engineering, sociology, and biology. “The importance of gateway courses is difficult to overstate because they often provide the foundation for success in future courses in disciplines and majors,” shared Hill.

Dr. Steven Combs is the Chancellor of the Ivy Tech Community College Columbus campus. Ivy Tech is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly-accredited statewide community college system.  Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offers affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its communities as well as courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.

According to Combs, “Ivy Tech Community College has a laser-sharp focus to increase college attainment within the EcO Network region. The Gateway Community of Practice project sharpens that focus even further and identifies the first barriers toward student completion — gateway courses. Through this initiative, a strong faculty collaboration between Ivy Tech Community College and IUPUC ensures that we identify gateway course barriers. After identification of barriers, the teams again work collaboratively to formulate strategies to ensure student success. Finally, a sharing of best practices across all disciplines will increase student retention and completion. It is the type of community collaboration that can affect change and develop our workforce.”

Both IUPUC and Ivy Tech Community College Columbus actively participate in the EcO Attainment Network. The network brings educators, employers, and community partners together to build a coordinated, aligned learning system designed to connect residents to economic opportunities through educational attainment. Within southeastern Indiana, the Department of Workforce Development projects that by 2025, 60 percent of jobs will require some type of postsecondary credential thus making education critical to the regional economy. While the focus of the Gateway Community of Practice is on helping students succeed in entry-level courses, it serves as a building block in the larger scope of work supporting learners as they progress along their educational pathway toward degree completion.

For more information on the Gateway Community of Practice, contact Marsha VanNahmen at the IUPUC Center for Teaching and Learning (mvannahm@iupuc.edu; 812-375-7576).