The College of Southern Maryland announced in a news release that it has joined Achieving the Dream, a network of more than 220 colleges in 43 states dedicated to improving student success. As a network institution, CSM will innovate to implement, align and scale cutting-edge reforms, work with ATD coaches to build institutional capacity and connect with peers to foster learning and share information, according to the release. 

“Achieving the Dream is a network of people across the country that will support us as we focus on what it is we need to do to help our students in finding their paths and finish what they started. This is something that is going to be very powerful for Southern Maryland,” said CSM president Maureen Murphy. “CSM is joining Achieving the Dream for three years, and the ultimate result is that our students will be so much better off. They will help us identify exactly what we need to do. We will really understand what our students’ needs are and we can shape our programs and services around their needs. Most of all we can help our students find their paths and finish what they start in a timely manner that improves their lives, the lives of the families and really enriches our entire communities.“

“The strength of local and regional economies, our ability to rebuild the middle class, and the possibility that a new generation will achieve their goals depends on community colleges,” said Karen A. Stout, ATD president and CEO. “Colleges that join the ATD Network show an exceptional commitment to becoming the kind of institution that will lead the nation into the future.” 

ATD offers a capacity-building framework and companion self-assessment that allow colleges to pinpoint strengths and areas for improvement across seven institutional capacities in areas such as leadership and vision, teaching and learning, and data and technology. ATD’s approach integrates and aligns existing college success efforts and offers valuable support in preparing for accreditation, fostering conversation about goals, and making bold, holistic institution-wide changes because initiatives that don’t reach most of a college’s student body have not shown strong results, according to the release.

“Achieving the Dream brings together everybody across the college. We’re all in it,” Murphy said. “Every single one of us is responsible for student success in a very different way. It’s not just in the classroom. It’s not just with the advisors. Every single one of us touches these students on their journeys and we can help make a difference in where they go. Achieving the Dream helps us identify those things more clearly.”

A team from CSM will meet with leaders from 15 other colleges in Phoenix in June to plan the launch of their ATD work. Murphy outlined CSM’s concentration will be on student success to solidify a shared vision that will allow the focused, evidence-based work to fulfill the goals of the college’s strategic plan. This includes improving student progress and completion, providing targeted programming to meet regional needs, and to function as one regional college, according to the release.

“Our focus areas are going to be around guided pathways, something we’ve started already by mapping our curriculum. We’ve also connected our guided pathways with our short-term workforce training because we know that sometimes that’s what our students need more than a degree,” Murphy said. “CSM is the primary cog in the economic development engine in our region when it comes to developing the workforce. Our students will be able to identify their career paths and their career goals, how that connects those high demand occupations right here in Southern Maryland, and we will be supporting them all the way until they achieve those credentials.”

ATD Network colleges report data using metrics that answer critical questions about who attends college, who succeeds in and after college and how college is financed. To advance goals of social mobility and equity, the metrics provide information on how low income and other underserved students fare. These metrics are categorized into performance metrics, efficiency metrics and equity metrics at points during the student experience from access through post-college outcomes, according to the release.

As colleges in the new cohort progress, they may apply to participate in initiatives supported by philanthropic funding and managed by ATD. These initiatives help incubate new ideas that help colleges refine practices based on evidence of what works and allow ATD to disseminate knowledge to the broader network and the field. New initiatives address the challenge of engaging adjunct faculty more deeply as key members of colleges’ workforces and implementing degree programs using only open educational resources.