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News: PCC In The News: Build A Network on Campus as a Community College Student (Featured In: US News & World Report)

Dr. Cynthia Olivo

Reprinted From US News & World Report, June 26, 2014; By:  Delece Smith-Barrow

For many community college students, finding a sense of community on campus can be challenging.

They fall into a routine that Dave Leenhouts, vice president of student services at Wharton County Junior College in Texas, calls "PCP": parking lot, class and then back to the parking lot where they drive off.

"Community college students are historically commuters," he says. Many of these schools do not have residence halls, which help students engage with their campus, professors and peers outside of class hours, Leenhouts says. Community college students often don't spend extra hours at school.

"We know that's not the best way to learn," he says. Interacting with peers beyond class hours, Leenhouts says, is much better for getting information learned in class to sink in. 

[Make the most out of a community college experience.]


Students who establish a campus support network can increase their chance of progressing in school, experts say, and excelling in school can be especially challenging for these students.

They are more likely than their four-year college peers to drop out, according to a 2013 report from Our Piece of the Pie, an organization that helps disadvantaged youth with education and employment-related goals. Students that opt not to drop out often struggle to get a degree. Four percent of students complete an associate degree at a two-year college within two years, according to a 2013 report from Complete College America, a nonprofit that aims to help people receive higher education.  

A strong network, though, can help students beat these odds. 

A professor within the network, for example, may help the student land a job or move forward with higher education pursuits, says Cynthia Olivo, associate vice president of student affairs as Pasadena City College in California.

"That’s a teacher a student could ask for a letter of recommendation for a scholarship, for admission to a university, for a job," Olivo says.

Building a relationship with other students can be just as vital. Those who transfer to a four-year school sometimes come back and share advice with students they know who are still in community college about what life is like. They can discuss the culture of the new student body and where to find resources, Leenhouts says.

Below community college experts encourage students to use a few strategies to build their network.  

[Make the leap from community college to four-year university.]

1. Talk to professors inside and outside of class: Engaging with professors in different settings can help students learn which professors might later become good mentors, says Olivo of Pasadena City College. In addition to guiding students through classroom lessons, professors can give career guidance and offer insight on what students can expect if they transfer to a four-year school, experts say.Showing up to class is one of the first things students can do to find a teacher who can help with their goals, says

Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. "Get to class early," he says. "Sit up front if you possibly can."

Outside of class, students can visit professors during office hours or attend supplemental instruction sessions that teachers sometimes offer, experts say. 

The latter option can have an added benefit, Leenhouts says. If students are interested in a topic that the professor teaches during a supplemental learning session, they may run into other students at the session who share their interests.

2. Connect with students in your courses: At Pasadena City College, most students work and many have family obligations that pull them away from campus, says Olivo. She encourages students to find other students to study with to build a network at school. 

[Understand who benefits from community college.]

"Students should create study groups. That's extremely beneficial," she says. These groups, she says, can help students stay on task with their academics. Students can turn to their group to help fill in the gaps if they've missed information that was taught in class, Olivo says.


Link to Article:

Release Date: 06/27/2014
Contact: Gilbert Rivera , Publications Supervisor
Phone: (626) 585-7250

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