Serving the southwest suburbs of Chicago, Moraine Valley Community College is the fourth largest 2-year college in Illinois. The college offers over 130 academic programs along with dozens of non-credit personal development classes and industry trainings. Moraine Valley is a member of the League for Innovation in the Community College, one of only 12 Vanguard Learning Colleges, a designated Hispanic Serving Institution, and was recognized as among The Aspen Institute’s 2021 Aspen Prize Top 150 Community Colleges. The college was one of the first institutions to sign on to the ILEA initiative in 2018. Ahead of this year’s ILEA Virtual Fall Summit, Moraine Valley’s team for student engagement and advising discuss their approach to helping ensure student readiness and student success. 

A core belief of the ILEA community is that colleges and universities should move beyond a focus on college readiness among students and instead strive to increase their student readiness as institutions of higher education. What does this mean to you and your work?

The greatest strength of Moraine Valley is the way our institution values communication and continuous improvement. Illinois Equity in Attainment (ILEA) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) discussions have increased awareness about policies and practices that needed change in order to better serve our students where they are. Many of these discussions included our students so we did not lose sight of their critical contributions to this work. Moraine Valley embraced large-scale strategies in our Equity Plan as a way to keep our efforts focused on student-ready practices, and we recognize that this level of college readiness requires constant reflection and improvement.

What role do academic advisors counselors serve in ensuring student success at your institution?

Moraine Valley Academic Advisors and Counselors are faculty positions leading some of our frontline services and support for students. The Academic Advising Center operates from a centralized advising model, and the Counseling & Career Development Center provides holistic academic, career, and personal counseling.

Academic Advisors play integral roles in supporting student success by assisting students with taking the correct courses for their educational plans. A major strength of our advising model is that all Advisors are trained to provide prescriptive advising to new students, and both college and transfer advising to continuing students. Advisors frequently collaborate with other departments to refer students to resources across campus so they can make the most of their Moraine Valley academic experiences. Advisors also encourage extracurricular activities and cocurricular opportunities to enhance the overall student experience.

Counselors have multifaceted roles supporting broad student well-being. Proactive academic intervention is heavily utilized by Counselors to assist early and often. In addition, Counselors support undecided students in clarifying their major and career, which benefits both academic and personal domains. An incredible strength of our model is that licensed mental health professionals provide personal counseling that extends beyond academic and career supports. Counselors also lead student-centered programming ranging from sexual assault to suicide prevention to educate students while making safe spaces on-campus.

How has your institution had to adapt to support students with the academic advising process and well-being support services during the pandemic?

Advisors previously served students primarily in-person and were forced to quickly transform all services for multiple modalities. Remote advising, a self-service advising request form, and remote New Student Orientation became new options. We were concerned we might lose student contact, but we actually found that most students preferred these new modalities. The expanded modalities of service allowed Advisors to support more students who could not meet in-person before. During the 2020-2021 year, Advising had nearly 57,000 student contacts (over 97% were remote/virtual contacts).

Counselors also quickly transitioned to remote services, and invested in broadening their reach to assist students with additional community supports. Counselors connected students to temporary housing, pre-packed bags of food, and led virtual sessions for undecided students, suicide prevention, mindfulness and meditation, and organization/time management. A new self-service online resource was developed, and many faculty embedded this resource into their class sites. The Counselors supported a temporary Moraine Valley Foundation emergency book grant program to assist students financially-impacted by the pandemic.

What are the ways you are providing professional learning support to your team to integrate an equity and inclusion lens? How are you keeping your team energized and focused on student success during the pandemic?

Here are a few examples of DEI professional development:

  • Sharing about the heritage of our faculty to expand cultural knowledge across departments
  • Watching The Daily Show with Trevor Noah video about mental health in the Black community
  • Counselor, Dr. Souzan Naser, provided professional development related to serving Arab American students. Campus mental health professionals can learn more here and here
  • Counselors participated in a professional development workshop related to adverse childhood experiences and serving diverse students
  • All departments are engaging in equity-based continuous improvement plans this year
  • Several faculty and staff are participating in the college’s Equity Academy (funded in part by the ILEA Catalyst Grant)

Here are a few examples of how we kept faculty and staff energized and focused on student success:

  • Lots of communication and 1-on-1 meetings listening to employees
  • Seeking feedback on COVID-19 protocols for the departments to ensure both safety and comfort
  • Broad training on technology so everyone was prepared to serve students
  • Recognition activities including little trophies, submitting awards nominations, celebrating professional achievements, and continuing to recognize birthdays and milestones
  • Hiring critical position vacancies that directly support students

What do you want every student to know about your institution?

Moraine Valley is dedicated to…

  • Student-centered approaches by strong advocates
  • Encouraging innovation around equity and inclusion
  • Working hard to create a sense of belonging for every student
  • Being intentional about enrolling women, low-income individuals, and minoritized students in our STEM programs
  • Genuinely caring about our students. Departments made thousands upon thousands of outreach calls to help connect students to resources, find out what supports they needed, and even helped prevent our students from being dropped for non-payment
  • Promoting student success by providing exception support services in multiple modalities, coordinating individual and group activities, and increasing access and opportunity for minoritized students
  • Proactively reaching out to students who may need academic supports
  • A phenomenal student experience, and that is why 97% of our graduates would recommend Moraine Valley to a friend or family member

  Meet Moraine Valley Community College‘s team for student engagement and advising

Scott N. Friedman, Ph.D. is Dean of Student Engagement and led the college’s ILEA Core Team the past three years. He holds a doctorate in Disability Studies and master’s degrees in Adult & Higher Education and Special Education.

Anna Rogers, Ed.D. is a Counselor and Coordinator of the Counseling & Career Development Center. She has been involved in developing equity initiatives to help create more equitable spaces within the college’s STEM programs. She holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and a master’s in Counseling.

Sumeet Singh is an Academic Advisor and Department Chair of Counseling & Advising. He holds a master’s in Education, Teaching & Learning. He recently received the ILACADA 2021-2022 Outstanding Academic Advising Administrator award.

Debby Blatzer is Assistant Dean of Academic Advising & New Student Orientation. She holds a master’s in Communications and Training. Debby was recently awarded an Outstanding Advising Administrator certificate of merit through the NACADA Global Awards.