Faculty and staff working on the Circle of Support program at Temple College introduced its efforts to their peers at All College Day, a couple of weeks ago when everyone returned to campus after the summer break.
Brent Colwell, fine arts division director, is taking time off from teaching duties to work on implementing a program that looks at what its most vulnerable students need to succeed, talked about developing value statements that could define Circle of Support and could be used to illustrate TC’s efforts.
Colwell asked the different departments at the college to come up with some value statement words, which he tallied to determine the most popular, which included — community, empower, growth, learn, relationships, respect, responsibility, integrity and more.
Colwell gave an update at the Circle of Support committee meeting on Tuesday.
Jennifer Graham, TC Foundation executive director, said she has heard a number of suggestions of different training the college needs in order to move forward.
“I’ve heard a lot about civility training,” Graham said. “Many people feel this is needed before and meaningful changes can be made.”
Those who receive civility training learn how to identify, prevent and respond to workplace incivility situations. These may be seemingly insignificant comments, behaviors and workplace practices that may be construed as insensitive, discourteous or inappropriate by certain groups.
People who have been through the training have said it was helpful when people had to talk through disagreements, she said.
There are legitimate disagreements, people are going to have differences of opinions and being able to talk about those issues without being biting and harsh, Graham said.
“Getting heard is important,” she said.
Graham said poverty training is a way to familiarize faculty and staff on a group of individuals who struggle to make ends meet.
“Some don’t understand why we are going to all this effort to provide students with things they should already have,” she said.
On the academic side, there are people who see their job as instructor, not to determine what socioeconomic issues that are affecting their students’ ability to learn.
Graham said she wants people to embrace the changes that are on the horizon instead of being defensive or resistant.
Lots of individuals have ideas on what is needed to go forward. Graham said she wants the group to come up with an idea and ask for it.
“I want to hear from you what you think we need to keep the momentum behind the project going,” she said. “I’d like it to be something that would fortify our people.”
This effort is like a marriage, said Brian St. Amour, director of distance education and associate vice president for academic outreach. “We have to all be onboard with this and make sure it’s working for the student’s benefit,” he said.
St. Amour said not everyone is going to care about Circle of Support, but there needs to be an effort to invite others in to have a shared vision.
TC has a fall festival for the community and the Spring Fling is more focused on students.
Brooke Robinson, a nursing instructor, pointed out that TC is a commuter college and many of the students have families and responsibilities that preclude them from getting involved in activities outside of class.
The nursing students are the main supporters of the food pantry and have been for a number of years.
Colwell said there’s a good percentage of faculty and staff who believe the project is about meeting the social needs of the students and that’s part of it.
However, the goal is to grow student success, which will increase retention and result in additional funding from the state.
Last year, 125 TC students didn’t return to school after the fall semester, which cost the college about $1.1 million, Colwell said.
There’s been a change in the type of student that comes to community college and its all ties into the future of the school.
“We’re not solving poverty, we’re not solving social issues, but we’re reducing the hurdles that students have to get through to be successful,” he said.
TC President Christy Ponce attended the meeting and questioned how quickly they could get civility training on the calendar.