Bettering the pathways to success at MSJC

By Alyse Kiara Deatherage 

A meeting consisting of some of the many participants in MSJC’s SUCCESS! Pathways journey. Photo provided by Rhonda Nishimoto
(Photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)

Officials at Mt. San Jacinto College is excited to prepare for the Pathways program that will begin in Fall 2020. However, many students are unaware of what the Pathways Program is and what it will mean for their experience at MSJC.  

“Guided Pathways is an institution-wide student success model that seeks to recreate by improving a student’s educational experience,” said Pathways coordinator Dr. Rhonda Nishimoto. “In other words, MSJC is evaluating, changing, and restructuring every aspect of the college to improve student success, increase degree completions, reduce the time to complete a degree, provide a clear, relevant path from program to a career, support student’s quality of life needs, provide embedded and varied academic supports, and remove barriers to both instructional and student services.” 

Two and a half years ago, MSJC began to integrate Pathways and achieve the previously listed goals. Dr. Nishimoto explained that everyone, even students, known as Student Advisers, did their part in researching how MSJC helps its students achieve their goals. After much research and great work by the many teams and people involved, they decided that MSJC could do better to provide clear paths to success for their students. 

Summit poster work. Photo provided by Rhonda Nishimoto
(Photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)

Nathaniel Rodriguez is an SI Leader and was selected to be a Student Adviser for Pathways. He said that he appreciates that students are being incorporated in the process, so that the teams can hear what students themselves would most prefer.  

“I’m looking forward to seeing this program live up to its name,” said Rodriguez. “Creating the pathway for students so that they can achieve their dreams and become the people they aspire to be.” 

Though Rodriguez’s fear would be that Pathways could possibly make things more confusing for students, he expressed that he believes the students can look forward to clearer paths for their degrees, goals, and dreams.  

“[The students] can expect a more clear view of what their career choices are,” said Rodriguez. “I can’t say they can expect it to be easier but at least they will be able to see that it is possible.”  

Student Advisors include student workers such as SI Leaders, Tutors, FYE mentors, and more. They are led by coordinators Janice Levasseur and Brittany Mondragon, who emphasize that their roles are essential to the process of developing Pathways because they are students themselves and they work in such close capacity with students on a peer-level.  

“With a collective vision for students, great ideas, and plans, we were ready to put the Pathways model in motion,” said Dr. Nishimoto.

An inquiry group meeting featuring Ted Blake. Photo provided by Rhonda Nishimoto
(Photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)

The college eagerly planned for the Fall 2020 semester and the integration of Pathways with it, but it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their plans and forced Dr. Nishimoto and her teams to re-evaluate the integration.  

“Although COVID-19 has set us back a bit, we are still moving forward as our priorities remain the same: students succeeding at MSJC and preparing students for their futures,” said Dr. Nishimoto. “In this time of transition, Pathways work is ongoing. When [students] return in the Fall, Pathways will be visible on the website, in the college catalog, and within departments.” 

Dr. Nishimoto explained how each student experiences pathways differently, depending on if they are a new or existing student.  

“Incoming students will receive support to explore careers; choose a program of study leading to an occupation; and explore program maps containing sequences of courses leading to degree completion and transfer,” said Dr. Nishimoto.  

Each program will come with a track for students to explore that will be the quickest and most efficient route for them, to avoid taking classes that may not benefit students in their future/ Tracks are also designed to help them find a degree that fits them best, and a plan for it that considers their personal and work schedules and needs, no matter what those may be.  

“The program maps were developed by faculty and advisors to create the most direct route to complete a degree, certificate and/or transfer to four-year institutions,” said Dr. Nishimoto. “New students will load their program maps into a virtual student service portal, which allows them to drag and drop the courses into their schedules, track course completion, and plan for the remaining semesters.” 

Pathways also helps alleviate some stress for the students, because each path will have an assigned guidance counselor who is best suited to the students on that path and the classes they will take along the way. Students already enrolled at MSJC will have the benefit of already having a planned major and can then view careers that are associated with their major and pathways for them.  

“Existing students will explore the careers associated with their chosen majors on the new Pathways web pages and match employment opportunities to their chosen fields,” said Dr. Nishimoto.   

Though Dr. Nishimoto expressed that this pandemic did set them back, she is excited for the opportunities that this program will bring students in the semesters to come.  

“As soon as this crisis is behind us, you can expect a rollout of SUCCESS! Pathways,” said Dr. Nishimoto.

MSJC has been working for four years and they are excited to keep the process going as they begin fully implementing Pathways in the Fall 2020 semester. Dr. Nishimoto, the student advisers, and many others involved expressed excitement for what’s to come as they continue to move forward.  

“MSJC will be entering the fourth year of a five-year journey with SUCCESS! Pathways. We continue to move forward to support the student journey at MSJC with innovation and excitement,” said Dr. Nishimoto.  

Faculty presenting their “programs to careers” posters. Photo provided by Rhonda Nishimoto
(Photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)