Chula VistaSouthwestern College’s (SWC) Dr. Angélica Suárez knows community colleges from every angle. She was a community college student, staff member, faculty, and currently is an administrator. Suárez’s knowledge of these higher education institutions led to her recent selection to the National Advisory Council of the Community College Student Success Project.
“Community colleges have made a significant difference in my life first by allowing me to pursue a higher education, and second, by allowing me to help others do the same” said Suárez, interim director of SWC’s Education Center at San Ysidro. “The passion I bring to my profession as a community college educator is due in large part because of the positive experiences I had at my local community college. I have been afforded an opportunity to experience the community college journey from different perspectives,” she added.
Suárez will be one of 18 Advisory Council members from six regions in the country and one of two from California, which operates the largest community college system in the world. This project seeks to support community colleges in conducting effective evaluations of programs and campus initiatives designed to promote successful student outcomes. The role of the Advisory Council composed of community college administrators and institutional researchers will be to shape the understanding of the research team, on issues relating to the effective evaluation of student experiences and outcomes. The goal of the Community College Student Success Project, a research and service project of the University of Massachusetts Boston and funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education, is to identify, develop, and disseminate resources that support community college administrators and institutional researchers in evaluating the factors that influence the success of their students.
“I am very excited about my selection because it provides a great opportunity for me to share information about our successful programs, and learn, at the same time, about other creative approaches to evaluating the success of our students” explained Suárez, who has worked as a faculty member, and administrator at community colleges in Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Diego area. She came to SWC as a counselor in 1999 and later was selected as director of SWC’s Higher Education Center at National City before moving to her current position.
The issues that the Project will be focusing on are not new to Suárez. For her doctoral dissertation, she studied the factors that contribute to the successful transfer of community college students to a four-year university. Her research focused on students from Southwestern College but not by looking at the barriers that keep students from transferring to four-year colleges and universities. Instead, she researched the positive aspects that have worked for so many students. Suarez commented, “focusing exclusively on barriers to transfer overlooks what might be learned if we focused on those students who have been successful in their transfer to the university.” She concluded by noting, “I look forward to serving on this council because of the many opportunities it offers to exchange ideas with other educators across the country on issues that affect the success of our community college students.”