Bloomberg Awarded CUNY Chancellor’s Medal for Community College Reforms - The Jewish Voice
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Bloomberg Awarded CUNY Chancellor’s Medal for Community College Reforms

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Mayor Bloomberg accepts the Chancellor’s Medal from CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.‘New Community College’ Uses Range of Innovations to Help Students Succeed

In recognition of his support of community college innovation and reform, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was awarded the prestigious Chancellor’s Medal from The City University of New York during a convocation ceremony to mark the opening of the New Community College at CUNY – New York City’s first new community college in more than 40 years.

In presenting the award, Chancellor Matthew Goldstein noted that Mayor Bloomberg supported the idea of The New Community College at CUNY from its inception and has remained a committed partner in the development of the innovative new college. “There is no more urgent task in higher education than to find ways to help more community college students succeed. This medal is given in recognition of your singular efforts to ensure an accessible, high-quality education to all New Yorkers, and your longtime support of the community college mission,” the Chancellor said. “It’s a symbol of CUNY’s deep appreciation for your partnership.”

The medal, the University’s highest executive honor, recognizes extraordinary contributions to CUNY, commitment to education and outstanding public service. Past recipients include Jonas Salk, Robert F. Wagner Jr., and Coretta Scott King. Accepting the honor, Mayor Bloomberg said, “Helping to make this New Community College a reality fulfills a pledge I made three years ago. And in launching it today, we’re creating a potentially game-changing model for community college education in New York and throughout the nation.”

New York City’s first new community college in more than four decades, the New Community College was inspired by Chancellor Goldstein’s desire to drastically improve graduation rates for students with a diverse range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Dr. Scott E. Evenbeck, a prominent expert on education assessment and higher education initiatives to boost student success, is the Founding President of the New Community College.

“Our students, coming from all the boroughs of New York City and beyond, will have the city as their laboratory just as the college itself will be a place where faculty, staff and students will put in place a new model for a community college,” President Evenbeck stated. “Our location, in the heart of midtown, symbolizes so much about the new college — centered in the city and centered on the city, in so many ways the world’s capital city.”

For this ambitious effort, CUNY has designed a totally new educational structure and a new curriculum that it hopes will have a significantly positive impact on the likelihood of students earning an associate degree and transferring to a four-year college. Experts throughout the United States are watching the New Community College closely, hopeful that it will live up to its ideals and serve as a national model.

Everything about the new college will be different than its predecessors – its calendar, the required hours, the style of student interaction with staff members, the content and structure of its classes. As opposed to providing remedial courses, the New Community College will only offer classes that earn credits, in order to ensure that students stay on track to graduate. Remedial work will be integrated into each course, along with more advanced studies.

Instead of the standard arrangement of a formalized classroom setting, the classes will focus on collaborative and interdisciplinary work. One course, entitled ‘’City Seminar,’’ will utilize urban studies to explore government, culture, history and health. ‘’Ethnographies of Work’’ will study sociology and business by examining a variety of careers, and it will connect students with potential future employers.
The New Community College’s mandate requires its students to attend a bridge program over a three-week period in August before they can begin taking any classes. The primary purpose of this is to acclimate students to the rhythm of school life, afford them a sampling of the course material, and familiarize them with mathematics essentials that they have not used for a long time. Additionally, the bridge program is meant to give the enrollees an advantageous early experience in life as college students. ‘Many students don’t have the attitude necessary or the kind of habits needed to do good work,’’ Chancellor Goldstein noted. ‘’We need to teach those things.’’

During the freshman year, all of the New Community College’s students will take the same classes, though they will be separated into two levels of math. While the typical university allows its students in need of remedial assistance to decide on their own whether to obtain such help from skills labs, peer study groups, tutors or advisers, the new college will require students to avail themselves of all these resources. ‘’This is absolutely crucial because so many students appear at the door of community colleges completely clueless about what is required of them, or available to them,’’ said Kay McClenney, director of the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas, Austin. ‘’They don’t know they need to do work outside of class. They don’t take advantage of tutoring and mentoring services. They don’t know about peer study groups or interacting with faculty.’’

Students at the New Community College will be required to spend one-and-a-half hours a week in ‘’group work space,’’ working together with their classmates and building on what they have learned in class, with assistance from “peer mentors,” more experienced students from other colleges in the CUNY system. A great portion of that time will consist of writing and language skills, which is often a particular weakness at this level. Students will also engage in compulsory weekly 90-minute group sessions with advisers, who go by the official title of ‘’student success advocates,’’ wherein they will focus on such issues as study habits and stressful personal situations outside school.

‘’We’ve found that students usually try to confront problems alone, and they often make damaging long-term decisions, like dropping out, in response to temporary problems,’’ said Donna Linderman, director of a CUNY program that has tested a number of the innovations of the new college. ‘’It makes an enormous difference to have them sit down regularly with an adviser who says, ‘O.K., how many hours are you working? How long is your commute? Let’s make this work and keep you in school.’ ‘’

While elements of the New Community College have been tried out elsewhere, experts claim that – to the best of their knowledge – CUNY’s effort is the first time they have all been integrated into a single college. ‘’The important thing about the New Community College is not any one thing they’re doing, but that they’re doing all of them together,’’ said Thomas Bailey, director of the Community College Research Center at Teachers College at Columbia University, and one of the experts who consulted with CUNY in developing the college.

‘’All the research shows that if you do them alone, for a modest amount of time, they have a modest positive effect, but it doesn’t last,’’ he said. ‘’This will be a chance to see what happens if you do them together, consistently, over a longer period of time.’’
‘’We are going to make mistakes and make changes and find room for improvement,’’ said Evenbeck, who served as the dean of University College at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis before becoming president of the new college. ‘’If we’re doing the same thing five years from now that we’re doing this fall,’’ he said, ‘’we will absolutely have missed the boat.’’

Other speakers at the convocation ceremony honoring Mayor Bloomberg, which was moderated by President Evenbeck, included Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents; Philip Berry, vice chairperson of CUNY’s Board of Trustees; Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library; Anh Nguyen of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided critical funding for planning the college; and Eddy Dure, a student at Baruch College, representing The New Community College peer mentors who provide support for the entering students.

Located off Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, The New Community College requires full-time attendance during the first year; experience at CUNY shows this approach promotes higher graduation rates than part-time attendance does. All students begin with a Summer Bridge Program and move into a highly structured first-year program revolving around a required interdisciplinary seminar about how New York City functions.

Other first-year courses include statistics and composition. The college also connects field experiences with classroom learning. Prospective students are required to attend information sessions, followed by one-on-one interviews with counselors, before they even apply for admission.

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