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Surry Community Spotlighted for Student Success Initiatives at Conference

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Two Surry Community College administrators recently presented the college’s best practices at the 2023 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Annual Meeting held December 2-5 at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla.

Alan Unsworth, Dean of Instructional Support, and Dr. Ashley Morrison, Vice President of Instruction, delivered a presentation titled “Student Success Using Coaching, Connection, and Care.”

“Alan and Ashley did an outstanding job at the SACSCOC meeting,” said SCC President Dr. David Shockley, who attended the meeting. “The presentation was well received by our peers in higher education who desire to learn more about Surry Community College’s student success initiatives, which have dramatically improved our course completion rates. I have never been prouder of Surry Community College!”

The presentation was attended by over 100 meeting participants and provided an overview to the many initiatives that SCC has undertaken in the past two and a half years to improve student success and overall student well-being.

The presentation highlighted the college's gateway math and English initiative, which has resulted in roughly a 23-percent increase in student success in these courses. In their presentation, Unsworth and Morrison described how SCC created and sustained success in gateway courses, particularly when delivered online, a format that can be a major challenge and a barrier to student retention and degree completion. Three major pillars of how this success was achieved were discussed: coaching, connection, and care.

The session highlighted how to build success using a variety of academic supports, such as flexible online coaching and asynchronous tutoring assistance. Discussion also centered around strategies to improve internal communication and partnerships between faculty and support staff. The session addressed ways to build meaningful relationships with students through a care-based model that prioritizes mental, emotional, and behavioral needs. In conclusion, SCC established a sustainable, student-focused model that increased success and eliminated barriers in gateway English and math courses.

“This presentation was an opportunity to showcase the impressive work accomplished by SCC faculty and staff to a national audience. The presentation was made possible because of the amazing and dedicated efforts of SCC faculty and staff. Conference attendees were impressed by the variety of simultaneous projects and initiatives at SCC, and the success rates of our students speak for themselves,” Unsworth said. “Our initiatives have proven effective, and the formula we have developed works. Success is nurtured and created when students have continuous access to academic support, coupled with staff who understand mental and emotional health concerns and are aware of resources to help. When combining strong student support with a collaborative and transparent communication environment, all the pieces are in place for students to find success at Surry Community College.”

The response from attendees was highly favorable, with many asking for more details and recommendations on how to implement similar initiatives on their campuses.

“It was an honor to share our story of improving student success with our peer institutions across the Southeast. The audience was thoroughly engaged, and many stayed after to ask questions. Their responses to our presentation highlighted the uniqueness of Surry Community College’s change efforts and the dedication of our faculty, staff, and students,” Morrison said.

Unsworth is a former president of the North Carolina Community College Library Association and a Director of the North Carolina Library Association. Unsworth is also the founder and chair of the Dogwood Digital Library consortium and serves as the North Carolina Community College System representative to the NC LIVE statewide digital resources consortium. He has an B.S. in Sociology from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in Information and Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Morrison oversees all curriculum instruction and workforce technology community education. She has been at Surry Community College for 17 years where she has served as Lead Instructor, Division Chair, Dean, and Vice President. Morrison has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from North Carolina State University, a M.S. in Plant Pathology from North Carolina State University, and an E.d.D. from Appalachian State University in Higher Education Leadership. Her doctorate dissertation is titled, “Opening doors to disruption: A poststructural deconstruction of community college discourse.” Morrison’s master’s thesis titled “Pierce’s disease of grapevines: Identifying the primary vectors in the southeast” is published in Phytopathology.

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