Pathways for the undecided

Photo: Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts

Building clear pathways for students has been a focus of many community colleges for the past few years. The American Association of Community Colleges’ Pathways Project and Pathways 2.0 involve more than 40 colleges. State systems, such as in California, are creating pathways programs, as well, and individual colleges across the country are working on their own programs.

Middlesex Community College (MCC) in Bedford, Massachusetts, has created Pathways Maps to help first-year students explore academic and career options.

“We have a very diverse student body, including many students who are the first in their family to go to college and who may not be familiar with the college process,” said Bryan Wint, MCC’s director of academic advising and academic pathways.

“These students have different needs than a traditional student at a four-year university,” Wint said. “We may take some things for granted and think college is easy to navigate, but it really isn’t.”

Pathways Maps divide MCC’s 70-plus major programs of study into seven general pathways: arts and humanities, business, education, health, public service, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and social science. By selecting one of the seven Pathway Maps, students can complete core courses required by all the programs in that pathway, while still deciding on a specific major.

And once they’ve chosen a major? MCC’s Academic Maps will help keep them on track. The maps have simple-to-follow graphics that help students plan out the four semesters of full-time coursework required to earn an associate degree.

“The pitfalls we want to help students avoid are wasting time and money,” Wint said. “We don’t want them to take courses that do not fall into their academic plan. If they are spending additional time and money, it will impact their future life and career goals – and we have a responsibility to help them achieve those goals.”

MCC’s Pathways Maps and Academic Maps have been in development – in collaboration with faculty and staff – for a couple of years, and were unveiled for the 2015-16 school year.

This article comes from the AACC 21st-Century Center.

About the Author

Jennifer Myers
is a freelance writer in Massachusetts.