The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 59 · 6 months ago

Supporting Individual Success Through Community


Student retention and graduation rates are common concerns in higher education. How do we improve the experiences of students, therefore increasing their future successes in life? 

In this episode, Dr. Larry Johnson, College President at Guttman Community College CUNY, walks us through the unique model of Guttman Community College and how building a learning community brings successful outcomes to students. 

We discuss:

  • How to achieve higher graduation rates
  • How community builds a stronger learning environment
  • How to pivot when students are struggling 

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.  

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You are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, dontor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Red Marketer podcast. I'm choice singer along with Bart Taylor, where each week we interview higher Ed marketers that we admire for the benefit and the betterment of the entire high red community. Today we are going to highlight Gutman Community College in New York City by talking to their president, Dr Larry Johnson, and one of the things that attracted us to this school is they achieve a thirty to forty percent graduation rate within a community college setting, and the way they do it is very unique and very dynamic. Yeah, it's great and just for context, if not everybody understands it, community colleges historically are kind of in the teens, if not in the single digits, on graduation rates. It's not uncommon and you think about traditional four years anywhere between, you know, fifty to seventy percent, maybe a little bit higher on some schools, but it's a pretty outstanding thing, especially for a community college, to achieve for thirty to forty percent. And I think a lot of what he talks about is is different ways that they do that and and I think the way that they eve and talk about themselves in the marketing that they do is a part of that, and so pay attention to that. It's a really good conversation, even though we're talking about community colleges. I think once you listen to this, there are a lot of things that you can take away and implement at any school. That's right. That's right. Here's our conversation with Dr Larry Johnson. It's my pleasure to welcome Dr Larry Johnson, President of Gutman Community College, to the hired Marketer podcast. Dr Johnson, I'm so...

...excited to let everyone know about the dynamic nature and business model of Gutman Community College. Before we do that, if you can give us a little bit about your background and who you are. Absolutely, Troy. Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here with you and barked again. I'm Dr Larry Johnson, after pleasure of certain as a second president of the stealing Charles Government Community College. I began my career almost twenty years ago as a faculty member teaching English and Literature, but a background and medieval to aaroke studies graduated from Florida in University and Tallahassee Florida with an English literature degree and from Florida State University. Would a medival to a row studies degree in the focus on those time peers. And then Clark Land and university, what a doctor degree that really focuses on Africana women literature, and that is began my career in higher education, truly understanding the role of higher education and impact in their lives of so many young people in special our young men of color. Thank you very much, and we're here to talk about the success of Goutman and would love to talk to you about how the school achieves the thirty to forty percent graduation rate that it does. Before we get into the meat of it, though, can you give us a background and how Godman was created? What was the idea behind the school? Absolutely, that is such a great question. So the vision of government community college was really formed around two thousand and eight when, at their time, Community Chancellor Matthew ghosting charged a team of understanding really what was happening in higher landscape around graduation and completion. So the formation of government during this time the inshipts, he was to dramatically increase graduation race. And at the time graduations rates were a little under thirty percent in the state of New York and probably in other areas a little on the twenty percent. So as we begin to really think about it, they began to think about at that time how do we solve the problem of increasing graduation rates...

...for that student that is the first time in college student, and that became really the impetus in the focus on how do you get those students into the college and a model that is where there in roll full time and ready them for transition to a four year college and university, and that became one of the high impact practices from looking at all of the other community colleges locally and abroad to really see what are the practices that are needed in order to help the college to be success. US for in that became what we call our first year experience. As I'll talk about a little later. That's great. And if I understand correctly that you've got a unique relationship with City University, tell us a little bit about that and how that kind of helped establish this absolute so you's so demand. Community college is one of the newest community colleges in the City University of New York. Are also quney. So we are in that system of twenty five institutions. There are maybe seven community colleges. We make the seve in community colleges and a number of professional schools and a number of senior and comprehensive colleges. So we fit within this ecosystem to serve the community prepare students to complete their associate's degree so that they can transition to four year colleges and universities or directly into the workforce. But we do that a little bit more unique than what you may have traditionally heard of as community college. And what is the demographic of the students that you serve at got many, absolutely a great question for our our students are fifty five percent of our students identify Latin xt we are federally designated as a Hispanic serving institution, but also a minority serving institution. So fifty five percent Latin xt but we have a large percentage of our students who identify as African American or African and we have a number of students who are also Asian American as well. So about ninety percent of our students are from diverse backgrounds, which help us to also have that designation as a a nor deserving institution. Larry, something that...

...intrigued Barton I is the one three thousand to forty percent graduation rate that you're achieving within the community college community, and I'm sure other community college leaders will lean in and wonder how you are achieving that. And you've shared with us a little bit of what is a cohort model. So would like to unpack how this works. What is the model and how it may differ from a traditional community college experience? Awesome. That is a great question, Troy. So the Gutman model begins with a student going through what we call an informational so when students express interest in Goutment Community College, they are invited to come to a group informational session where they learn about what it means to be a Gutman Grizzly, which is the Grizzly is our mascot. But what is unique about the experiences that the first year experience for our students is where they enter into the college as a cohort and as you look at best practices, we know the students who remain in a coal horde there's a likelihood that they would be successful. They're moving along together. They have that opportunity to engage. So the very first year the students do not have the option of choosing their courses. The college chooses the courses for the students. They remain together in a house structure. In this House structure, just about twenty five the thirty students in a house structure. Those students are also provided a Swedish support services. Were Faculty and staff and also what we call student success advocates meet with each other throughout the week in a learning community for fashion, to really understand what our student struggling with. How did they need to pubet in any type of way to insure that those students are successful. So that has really become the model of success that has helped students in two to three years, graduate and the college you reach still successes of about forty percent of graduation rates. That's great and I found that I used to do some work with Lumina Foundation and I know that they had supported with some grants various organizations, and I'm...

...sure the gates has done as well, but I remember the posse foundation just out of my memory and there was a lot of a lot that similarity. That that just this ide of cohort and modeling and I think that we all know that, you know, we as humans are drawn to community and especially in times when we're a little bit, you know, not sure of what we're getting into. I think this is just such a brilliant way to kind of assure the success of these students, especially students who might be first generation students, maybe they don't have experience, maybe they're, you know, relying a lot more on pel grant type of options and really being able to provide them a community of people that can help them see their successes. And I'm guessing that's kind of part of that. And don't want to call that secret sauce, but that has to be a little bit of what what's really added to your success? Is that true? That is true in one of the I would say secret sauces, if you will, to use your language. There is the elw course. So within the first year experience there's a course that's called the ethnographs of work. Every student is enrolled in that course and that is what provides the students the experiential learning opportunity. Those students are placed in internships where they're beginning to think about their careers and we ensured that every student has an opportunity to really begin to think beyond the government experience. But where is it that they want to go? What is their end result? And that has been a course that is really help students to really carve out and to firm up those ideas around what does career look like for me in the future? And that has been a popular course. That has really been more I would say, one of the foundations of our model. That's great. So that kind of leads us to our next part of the conversation, is just kind of talking about outcomes. I know that with with Gotman, you know thirty to forty percentage and outstanding outcome in and of itself, but we're not talking about just moving students through the gotment experience. Were really committed to seeing their success in life. Tell me about some of those outcome stories and how that fits in with your mission in your vision. Awesome. So...

...government community college has provided and experience that I would almost so say this and more entrepreneurial in terms of helping students to really think about not just the academic curriculum, not just the pathways, but really it's a holistic development of the student. So I met with a student, for example, that is graduated from the college, Finishes Liberal Arts degree, moved on to a four year college university, but he discovered that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and what he credits is that he met with faculty and staff but most importantly, it was the ethnographies of work course where we play students out in the ecosystem in New York City, in Manhattan, in these different experiences and he began to really understand. Yes, certainly the associate's degree in the baccaloriate degree is is something that he would like to attain, but he discovered that there are entrepreneurial skills that led him to open up his own coffee shop that is now growing and he's expanding throughout New York City. So that is the Gutman experience. So the goutment experience ensures that students have an opportunity to go through that exploration phase and that is why, again, we have the ADNOGRAPHIES of work. So when students are placed in those internships, their meeting other executives, they can begin to really see themselves differently and they have a different experience than maybe other community college students would have that are not this model, is not something that is akin to them. Yeah, that sounds that sounds great, because I think that there is this misunderstanding or maybe unjustly, a stereotype of community colleges that it seems to me like government is really trying to break that mold and recognize that, you know, this is a part of a part of the community and a part of the education journey for so many different types of students. Absolutely, and as we think about the experience for the student, we have traditionally serve students who are we and this is very important, seventeen and eighteen year old, the very traditional age students. Remember earlier, I mean that our goal was to gradually and dramatically increase graduation rate for the first...

...time in college students. But as we begin to look to the future, we also know that there are adult students there what we call disconnect. That you too also needs government and this government experience and we'll beginning to think about what do those workforce programs that can support those students? What could those certificate programs be that we can create in partnership with community based organizations that could also support that student population as well. So I just see the beauty and the TAP Istry of now weaving in a traditional age student, as we know of tradition, other traditional community colleges and the older student into synergy that will come out of those type of relationships. I think that's great and I think that goes back a little bit to your example in the story of the the young man who was with the coffee shops and the entrepreneurs. It was because he had a multigenerational experience with faculty and staff that kind of opened his eyes up to some additional things. Imagine what that can be when you have the different cohorts of younger and, you know, adult students doing this together. I really think that could really add to the richness of what you said, the tapestry of the institution. So Bravo. That's very exciting to hear all of that now. Thank you. Thank you, and you know, I credited to our our faculty, our staff, all of the great work that they have led over the last nine years. They are really the real champions in terms of how our students have really been able to get into this ecosystem and do well. I mean, you don't know and you don't oftentimes hear of community college students being full time. So this is something new, is the innovative, but we are also seeing to prove in success record and we want to continue this model and to continue to expand it to support students success. That's great. Dr Johnson, we've, I think, highlighted Gutman, and love what you've shared with us and I love your energy, I love your passion and I'm sure that you are a wonderful servant leader there on campus.

If I may ask, is are there any other points or highlights that you would like to mention on the podcast before we bring the podcast? To a close? Absolutely so. Again, thank you so much, Troy and Bart for the the experience and being here. You know, and you mentioned servant leader, and that is a that is current really who I am, the work that I do every day is really about improving a lives of our students, and I like to call our sometimes a characterize it as it's the least of these. And how can I be very intentional and lead from an equity minded perspective, and that is what I am looking to do at Gutman Community College to ensure that, as we look at all of our processes, which I think is critically important right nowadays, as we've looked at the reckonings of everything that has happened over the last two and a half years, we as leaders have to be very intentional to ensure that no student is left behind. It that we are being able to be very courageous and the initiatives in the different aspectives were of our students show up and allow them to be the authentic sales and day and we meet them where they are to help to take them where we know that they can be. Thank you very much. I'm sure that there will be others inspired by this conversation like Bart and I are for those who would like to reach out and connect with you. What would be the best way for them to do so? Absolutely so. I believe in the digital age, so certainly what that will load to stay into contact with me, can follow me on Instagram, at I would say, is Gutman prayers and that sguttm May in PR Z Gutman praised, and that's Instagram, that's facebook, and on twitter is Gutman's press CC. Thank you, Dr Larry Johnson. We appreciate your time that you've given us and I'm sure that you've inspired others and given others a lot to think about. Bart do you have any last thoughts before we wrap up the episode? Yeah, I'm really...

...grateful for Larry being on the call today and then on the podcast. I think that he brings up some things and I think sometimes, as highed marketers, whether you're in the community college or whether you're in more of a traditional college or university, sometimes we forget about those extra touches that I might take for students to be able to see success. A lot of what Dr Johnson shared today reminds me of some conversations that we had when Nathan Simpson from the Gates Foundation was on the on the podcast a few months ago, and actually nate introduced us to Larry and so I'm grateful for him on that. But the idea that we work so hard, sometimes as highered marketers, to get students into the door and then we kind of feel like, okay, our jobs done. You know, they they're in there, they should succeed now, because that's that's what happens, is student shows up on campus or shows up on class and they should just succeed. But I think what I really like about the gunman model is that we don't take that for granted, and I don't think any school can afford to take that for granted. We have to put programs, communications, even marketing, if you would say it that way, in place to see that student success all all the way through to the next point of where they need to be, whether it's graduation from your institution or kind of those first destinations afterwards, if they're going to be going to, you know, a four year degree after an associatesor your if they're going to be going to a job or military service or graduate school, whatever those next destinations are. We want to help prepare them to get that first choice that they have and to see that succeed. And so I really like the idea and I really would challenge our listeners on your institution and your campus. How can you start putting things in place, whether it's community based, you cohorts, kind of like what Gutman is doing, or if it's just ways that you're communicating with the students making sure that you really pay attention to what their needs are for their success. Thank you, Bart, what a wonderful thought. The close are episode on the hired record, a podcast is...

...sponsored by Kaylor solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by thing patented, a marketing, execution, printing and mailing provider of Higher Ed Solutions. On behalf of Bart Kaylor, my cohost, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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