White Mountains Community College (WMCC) has been recognized as one of the nation's top community colleges by the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement (NCII) to participate in the Rural Guided Pathways Project. Guided pathways are a proven framework for planning and implementing changes to improve student outcomes. As the only New England college selected, WMCC will collaborate with 15 other rural community colleges across the country and North Country community partners to enhance student experiences and outcomes.
Guided pathways focus on the student experience, address longstanding educational inequities, and ensure students have a clear path to end goals with support along the way to be fully prepared for post-college success. Through the Rural Guided Pathways project, WMCC will be working to improve persistence, retention, and graduation rates among students while creating post-secondary and career pathways for students beginning in middle school.
“We want our students to earn credentials, prepare for careers, and be positioned to thrive in the community,” said Chuck Lloyd, president of WMCC. “To accomplish this, we have embraced pathways work over the past seven years and have implemented strategies that have resulted in significant progress in graduating more students. Participating in the Rural Guided Pathways Project has reaffirmed the work that we are doing to be student-focused while supporting our mission to be accessible and an anchor resource for the communities that we serve. We will continue this momentum and further engage community partners to ensure pathways exist for students prior to starting college. We are excited to lead the way in the state and share this important work across the Community College System of New Hampshire.”
The Rural Guided Pathways Project expands the pathways work that WMCC started in 2015. During this time, the college has shifted academic departments to meta majors, called Academic Focus Areas, created program maps with key indicators of success including passing gateway courses, and has implemented a new onboarding and advising model – all proven best practices to support student success and completion.
As the first of its kind, the Rural Guided Pathways Project is focused on the needs of rural institutions and embedding community partners into pathways implementation. The need for such collaboration is amplified in rural settings, where students’ education, residents’ economic mobility, and the regional economy are so closely intertwined.
North Conway’s Memorial Hospital, boot manufacturer Genfoot of Littleton, the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Gorham Middle High School are among the community partners working with WMCC
“We are so happy to be working with White Mountains Community College on the Rural Guided Pathways Project,” said Mark Bonta, plant manager at Genfoot. “We applaud WMCC’s commitment to pathways work and for being recognized as one of 16 community colleges to participate. Assisting with this important work to support students will result in success and long-term wellbeing in our community.”
The 16 participating colleges were selected for the program based on criteria that demonstrated they were well positioned, internally and externally, to implement guided pathways at scale. The Rural Guided Pathways Project curriculum includes college and community partner participation at six Institutes over three years and access to a pathways coach and subject matter experts. The next Institute will take place in Wyoming in October.
Photo courtesy of WMCC/Mega Bug Photography.