Southwestern College Offers Students Alternative Pathways for Academic Success
Southwestern College has been reinventing itself in the way it caters to the individual academic needs of students.
Michael Odu, dean of School of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, spoke to La Prensa San Diego about the recent changes that have occurred in the Math Department which, according to him, have been beneficial for non-math major students attending SWC.
“We are offering Statway, an accelerated program where in two semesters the college required math courses can be completed,” Odu said. “It is important to have present that this is only for students whose major do not require university level math.”
Although the College has made internal changes, more changes have to be made at the high school level. As Odu mentioned, they are working with the Sweetwater Union High School District by sending a modified curriculum in order for students to be ready and successfully complete college level math.
“Prerequisites are road blocks, we are working with the Sweetwater High School District completing a gap analysis,” said Odu. “We’ve noticed that students that have been coming from that district are struggling to meet the college level math and we are setting up class courses so when these students are done with high school they are ready for college level math.”
Prerequisites and placement test have now become optional for the students.
Students now have the option on using their previous math courses and grades coming from high school to place them in the math courses that best fit them. The college has yet left the testing optional in case the student feels that the test results may be more accurate for their placement.
Giving the students the opportunity to enter four year university is the purpose of these changes but also giving them a support system they need is the priority, according to the dean.
“It is not that we can’t take students from point a to point b, the important thing is to prepare them for the next step,” said Odu. “Every teacher can teach a student to pass a class, but preparing them for the next level is crucial. There’s no point in setting them up for failure by pushing them into the university. Although we are making changes and helping students achieve their goal we must do it in a way that we don’t lower the standards.”
The accelerated program is a tool that can be useful for students who have clear what path they want to take. On the contrary if a student has yet not decided what major they will pursue for the rest of their academic journey it can cause them to take more math courses to fulfill the requirements of the career they choose.
“As of now we do have a class that will help those students who choose a different major that does require the university level math,” Odu said. “We want for it to be a smooth transaction for them. Even though the class does exist we still have not offered it due to the system being relatively new we have not been required to do so. When a student comes to a college they should have mandatory orientation where all these options are available.”
Modifying the curriculum to the students who the Statway may benefit is something that not all universities find appealing according to Odu.
Odu said one of the obstacles they have faced is that they lack support from the UC system, but they have managed to gain the cooperation of the SU system.
“Students should not have to leave college because they are spending too much time taking courses that are not needed for their field,” Odu said. “It is our duty to advise students about the different pathways that can help them finishing college on time and contribute to their communities. It will give them economic mobility an everyone will benefit from it. It’s not about the money, it’s about love that is how we show love to our students, helping them be successful.”