The California Community Colleges Board of Governors recognized a number of college programs, including the Santa Barbara City College wellness center, with its Exemplary Program Award for employing an equity-first approach while transitioning to a virtual environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sponsored by the Chancellor’s Office and the Foundation for California Community Colleges, the program award was established in 1991 to recognize outstanding community college programs. The Academic Senate for California Community College selects annual themes, with the theme for the 2021-awards, announced last week, being “Equitable Practice in a Virtual Educational Environment.”
Along with City College, the Sierra College Undocumented Student Center and the Ventura College Faculty Academy Program were also recognized, according to a news release.
“The California Community Colleges has been at the forefront of meeting seemingly insurmountable challenges being faced during this deadly pandemic, and we are proud to honor these deserving recipients of the Exemplary Program Award for not letting anything get in the way of serving their students,” Board of Governors President Pamela Haynes said in a statement.
The wellness center at City College, known as The WELL, was honored for its seamless transition of its in-person program to a virtual platform. Approximately 6,000 students found resources and services on its website from January to October 2020.
The WELL offers holistic health and wellness workshops, skills building, group counseling and related services and has had an interactive virtual presence since January, 2019. The experience proved critical during a transition that ensured students had equitable access to health and wellness education through remote learning.
Sierra College’s Undocumented Student Center was recognized for continuing to provide an inclusive and safe educational environment for undocumented students and students of mixed-status families on a virtual platform. The training, public charge policy workshops, peer educator scholarships, guest presentations, and the Undocu Student Guide Training collaboration with student services departments were among the highlights.
Ventura College’s Faculty Academy Program encourages faculty from different disciplines to discuss pedagogy, promote student engagement in a culturally inclusive manner and address equity gaps. While the transition provided an opportunity to continue a student’s educational journey, it also introduced a host of equity and access concerns, misperceptions around students’ technology abilities and unique challenges for some student populations. The Faculty Academy allowed participants to engage with these issues and experiment with ways to better serve students online.
Honorable mentions went to College of the Canyons for its noncredit program, which has expanded equitable educational opportunities in an online environment in part by training 65 faculty to teach in a remote fashion over the past two years; and to Oxnard College’s Public Safety Department for having one of few college Fire Academy programs able to immediately transition to a hybrid format during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtually every student in the spring 2020 cohort successfully pass the course and state certification testing.