Guided Pathways for Student Success

What are Guided Pathways?

The Pathways model is an integrated, college-wide approach to student success that helps students navigate their way through their entire higher education experience to completion. Central to Pathways are clear, educationally coherent program maps. The Pathways maps created by faculty and staff contain easy-to-understand steps for the routes through meta-majors, along with the learning outcomes of the programs that are aligned with identified requirements for success when transferring and entering the workforce. Pathways begin with the student’s starting position on the map, provide the support necessary to get the student onto college-level pathways and keep the student on the pathway to successful completion, transfer, and/or career.

Guided Pathways Essential Practices

  • Clarifying the Path: backwards design to create meta majors that provide structured flexibility
  • Help students choose and enter a pathway: locate students within the educational landscape
  • Help students stay on the path: actively monitor where students are on the path and provide support
  • Ensure that students are learning: clearly define and measure institutional, program, and course outcomes
  • (Strobel & Christian2016)

Why Guided Pathways at AWC?

According to the Community College Research Center (CCRC), one of the challenges to closing equity gaps in higher education is that many first-generation college students encounter “structural barriers, including disconnected courses, unclear program requirements, advising services that are difficult to access, and lengthy developmental education sequences” (March 2018). Additionally, first-generation college students frequently have fewer outside resources available to them to help navigate college. Based on the research and recommendation of the CCRC, pathways models have now been adopted as best practices by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), and Pathways initiatives across the country are receiving significant financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, among others.

At AWC, approximately 55% of our students are first-generation, and 26% begin in developmental coursework (AWC Fact Book 2017-18). Developing clear, intentional pathways for students to navigate their educational experience from AWC to a university and/or into the work-force ensures our students succeed and thrive in their communities.

How did we Develop AWC’s Pathways Model?

A small group of faculty and staff convened in the Fall of 2017, in concert with early Strategic Planning initiatives. That small group helped identify key stakeholders to help shepherd the process of researching, designing, and adopting a Pathways model appropriate for AWC.

Guided Pathways Task-force (Jan 2018-Nov 2018): Jim Hutchison; Bryan Doak; Reetika Dhawan; Tiffany Tipton-Pavey; Linda Elliott Nelson; Eric Lee; Vanessa Natseway; Jana Moore; Christine Rouff; Brad Pease; Martha Martinez; Renee Macaluso; Moses Diazdeleon; Monica Ketchum; Jane Peabody; Dave Sylvester; Jane DeLaurier; Liz Renaud; Angel Luna; Lee Altman; David Burris; Therese Dehne; Robert Killin; Jennie Buoy; Martha Cordova; Kathy Ocampo; Elaine Groggett; Nic Byle; Ashley Macawile; Dawn Whinnery; Troy Baughtman; Julia Howe; Maria Guzman Ramirez; Mel Parker; Karyn VanWhy; Silvia Kempton

Milestones to Date (January 2018-February 2019):

  • Researched Guided Pathways models statewide & nationally
  • Conferenced with 2 statewide community colleges (SCC & MCC)
  • Reviewed Nursing framework as a potential model to scale
  • Determined essential components for AWC model
  • Presented Pathways progress at Presidential Town Halls
  • Presented progress at AZTransfer conference
  • Attended Pathways presentations by YCC & PCC at AZTransfer conference
  • Agreed on Transfer Pathway/AAS & Cert Metamodel
  • Gathered in-person feedback from 175+ students at all campuses
  • Gathered feedback via survey from faculty & staff
  • Presented final framework to Cabinet
  • Established teams to develop Meta-majors, Success Course, Course Maps
  • Joined Arizona Student Success Network (established January 2019)
  • Presented progress to AWC District Governing Board

Next Steps:

  • Establish Meta-majors [Draft Proposal 3.27.19]
  • Design Success Course
  • Align & Map Coursework
  • Design Capstone Curriculum
  • Create Program Maps
  • Coordinate Career Assessment Tools
  • Develop Additional Community Apprenticeships
  • Coordinate with Centralized Scheduling
  • Create Student Web Interface
  • Create Faculty & Advisor Training
  • Create Measurements for Effectiveness


In Progress

1. Establish Meta-majors  

Timeline: Spring 2019

What are Meta-majors? Meta-majors are collections or clusters of academic disciplines that share related methodologies. Within each Meta-major are degrees and certificates that have related courses. The intent of selecting a Meta-Major is to help students choose an Associate’s degree or certificate based on their interests, knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Objective: Create a Meta-major draft to circulate to faculty for feedback & revision 


  • Division Chairs: Monica D Ketchum; Brad J Pease; Eric S Lee; Martha C. Martinez; Renee M Macaluso; Robert K Killin; Moses Diazdeleon;
  • Director of Nursing: David B Sylvester;
  • Wellness Coordinator:  Jane A Peabody
  • Director of Healthcare Programs:Kate Turpin
  • CIE Director: Joann Chang
  • Faculty Senate President: Angel O. Luna
  • Honors Director: Light R Bryant
  • Associate Dean:  Katheline M Ocampo
  • CTE Director: Reetika Dhawan
  • SP Faculty tri-chair (ex-officio) Ellen Riek
  • Elaine Groggett, Martha Cordova, & Marco Diaz serve as resources as needed                                                                     

2. Design Success Course

Timeline: Pilot Fall 2020

Objective: Design a Success Course tailored to each Meta-major, with the following essential elements:

  • Orientation (ORI) course revamped
  • Mandatory 1st semester, as appropriate
  • Co-taught by faculty & advisors 
  • Tailored for each meta-major
  • Includes successful student mentors
  • Major/Career Exploration
  • Offered in varied delivery modes & times to align students with the level of support needed


  • Advisor with ORI teaching expertise: Omar Heredia
  • Faculty with Dev Ed expertise: Donna Taylor
  • Faculty with Curriculum Development expertise: Jennie Buoy
  • Staff with Retention & Success expertise: Michelle Thomas
  • Faculty/Staff with AVID curriculum expertise: Julia Howe
  • Staff with Student Support expertise: Vanessa Natseway
  • Staff with Major/Career/Transfer expertise: Mel Parker
  • Advisor: Cristina Gonzalez
  • SP Faculty tri-chair (ex-officio) Ellen Riek
  • Elaine Groggett & Martha Cordova serve as resources as needed

3. Align & Map Coursework

Timeline: Complete Spring 2020

Objective: Ensure Programs and Courses are intentionally sequenced & aligned within and across meta-majors, to include:

  • FT & PT student educational plans
  • 15 credits  per semester encouraged when possible
  • Early alert system
  • Coordinated learning and peer support for high-risk courses and at-risk students
  • Intentional & Systematic advising (faculty advisors/academic advisors) with redirection as necessary


  • Faculty Division Chair: Monica Ketchum
  • Staff with Advising expertise: Marco Diaz
  • Scheduling Committee Chair: Eric Lee
  • Faculty with Advising expertise: Patty Powers
  • CTE Director: Reetika Dhawan
  • Additional Faculty: Aman Ghebremicael
  • General Education Curriculum Committee representative: Clayton Nichols
  • Staff with Student Support expertise:
  • SP Faculty tri-chair (ex-officio): Ellen Riek

Note: Elaine Groggett & Martha Cordova serve as resources as needed

4. Design Capstone Curriculum

Timeline: Pilot Fall 2020

Objective: Design capstone curriculum tailored to each Meta-major with the following essential curricular elements:

  • Complete transfer/job applications
  • Develop resumé and/or scholarship essays
  • Secure internships/job shadowing
  • Prepare Web portfolio for program & institutional assessment of learning outcomes

Task-force (to be determined):

  • Faculty Division Chair
  • Staff with Transfer expertise
  • Faculty with Disciplinary Writing expertise (1 for each Meta-major)
  • Writing Curriculum Committee Representative
  • Staff with Internship design expertise
  • Faculty with portfolio expertise
  • SP Faculty tri-chair (ex-officio)
  • Additional Faculty (up to 3)

Additional Resources:

American Association of Community Colleges, Pathways Resources

Community College Research Council, “What We Know About Guided Pathways”

Association of American Colleges & Universities, Guided Pathways at Community Colleges: From Theory to Practice

For more information or to get involved, please contact Dr. Ellen Riek or Dr. Joann Chang