Cohort 3 Leadership Extension

Scott Mandia of the team from Suffolk County Community College participated in the extension of Cohort 3 that focused in helping Change Agents improve their leadership skills.

Jump Down To: Activity Report

Leadership Accomplishments and Lessons Learned

  • Worked with program faculty to record and analyze five-years of demographic data, and developed plans to improve student success
  • Used the political frame of Bolman and Deal to engage others
  • Applied the mapping change exercise to anticipate resistance

Activity Report

Activity Plan

After a review of the five year demographic data for my MET103 - Global Climate Change course in Spring 2020, I made several changes to my course presentation and assignments. Most notably incorporating more imagery representing underrepresented groups in my virtual lectures and videos as well as incorporating Scientists Spotlights (SS). Pre- and post-survey data showed a significant increase in science interest. The SS responses were overwhelmingly positive. My goal was to convince the astronomy (AST) and geology (ESC) faculty to review their previous five year student demographic data and to consider changes to their courses to improve areas that show a weakness.

There are two FT AST and two FT ESC faculty. Sean Tvelia is one of the ESC faculty and a SAGE mentor so he has been and still is fully engaged and motivated. The other ESC faculty member was also motivated right from the start. The two AST faculty were quite resistant at first because they were worried about the time commitment, esp. moving into the last few weeks of the Spring 2021 semester. To convince them of the importance of this endeavor, I asked Sean Tvelia to assist because he is the Chair of the program. He suggested I change the two workshops I had planned as voluntary into department meetings which are mandatory. He also reminded the faculty that whenever they ask him or me for something we both say yes and get right on it. Quid pro quo. Finally, I dangled a carrot in front of the two AST faculty. At the end of Spring each year, each SCCC discipline must submit a Year End Assessment Report which can require a lot of time. I told the faculty that these workshops and the data collected and analyzed could serve as their Year End Report thus killing two birds with one stone.

We had two one to two hour workshops plus numerous emails, texts, and phone calls in order to complete our mission.


Course descriptors:

AST101 - Astronomy of the Solar System

AST102 - Astronomy of Stars and Galaxies

AST103 - Search for Life in the Universe

AST201 - Observational Astronomy

AST202 - Einstein's Universe--High-Energy Astronomy

AST295 - Special Topics: Astronomy

AST297 - Independent Study: Astronomy


ESC101 - Introduction to Geology

ESC102 - Evolution of Earth and Life

ESC124 - Environmental Geology

ESC125 - Planetary Geology (lecture only)

ESC251 - Geological Field Studies

ESC295 - Special Topics: Geology

ESC297 - Independent Studies: Geology

The bolded courses (at right) had large enough n values for the data to be significant. The 295 courses are widely varied so they were not chosen. Faculty generally agreed that the success rate (C or better) should be 70% or higher and values below 50% represented areas that needed particular attention. Institutional enrollment data shows the following demographic breakdown: LatinX (24%), African American (8%), White (55%), Native American (0%), Asian (4%), Native Hawaiin/Pacific (0%), Two or more races (2%), Unknown (8%). AST and ESC data reveal that our courses are representative of the College population so recruitment has not been an issue.

With few exceptions the ESC courses had success rates that were satisfactory or exceeding expectations. We attribute this to:

  1. SAGE 2YC workshops by Sean Tvelia over the years which have increased Sean's success rates as well as those of the other FT ESC member he most closely works with.
  2. GEOCORE Ambassador in-class and outside of class tutors.
  3. Less rigorous mathematics in these courses.

AST courses, however, showed quite a few areas that need improvement. AST102 across the board showed low values of success which faculty attributed mostly to the much higher level of mathematics required. Africa American students showed the poorest success rates although n values were low for all courses.

Below is what AST faculty will be doing to try to increase student success rates, particularly with African American students:

  • Speak to counselors and ask them to advise students to NOT take AST102 in their first semester.
  • Provide more non-graded math-based problems as HW and also as in-class collaborative group learning settings.
  • Carefully explain the required math for each concept despite knowing that students satisfied the pre-req and should be able to solve these problems.
  • Utilize a "lecture tutorial" model for lectures that incorporate more in-class activities that break up the monotony of lecture.
  • Utilize jigsaw learning.
  • Investigate and incorporate more diverse role model scientists into course content.
  • Have a few "pizza party" gatherings as Physics faculty often do where there are guest speakers and specific curriculum pathways counseling.
  • Request that Science Learning Center student tutors come into the classroom to help.
  • Investigate if students not enrolled in the specific class would be allowed to attend as tutors.
  • During our annual Open House, feature how we value diversity in our courses and show our student success stories.
  • To increase positive cues, display posters of our former successful student conference presentations, internships, prestigious college transfers, jobs, etc.

Overall the feedback was positive and faculty are energized to try some new things. I described the research that shows students "count" the number of similar people in their classes and if that value is below 20% they are already set up for failure because they do not feel comfortable engaging. 40% and higher then the stereotype threat is removed and students do not have that ghost in the room to slay. The issue we have at SCCC is that it will be nearly impossible to get these values due to our overall campus demographics. It doesn't mean we cannot try.

Lessons Learned

Once the AST faculty bought-in, the process went very smoothly. I offered to help with the data analysis because I wanted to show I was willing to roll up my sleeves with them. I gave them two weeks to get the analysis done and they sent it to me in one week!

I asked our Institutional Research people back in February to collect the data. They took quite a long time and then sent the wrong data which caused another two week delay. Next time I will ask for the data turnaround to be quicker in case there is an issue that needs time to be addressed. Much of the work the AST and ESC faculty had to do was right near the end of the semester where they are busiest.

Once faculty see the demographic data they are usually pretty interested in doing something to get better success rates or a better demographic distribution in their courses. It helps a lot if you have done this previously and can show your success stories. My Scientist Spotlights have been a huge success and my colleagues can tell by my enthusiasm. Offer to help with the manual labor. Figure out a way to make this a "kill two birds with one stone" project. Get a person of higher Admin rank to support your efforts if faculty are reluctant to do the extra work. Remind them that they are teaching at a 2Y institution because they want to be "teachers" more than researchers and this project will make them better teachers.

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