On Monday, October 26, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley with his senior leadership team and members of the Board of Governors virtually visited Bakersfield College, meeting with students and staff in an online tour of the campus. He concluded his visit with a generous donation to the Renegade Pantry of $5,000 and presented the Renegade community a Certificate of Recognition acknowledging commitments to the greater community and willingness to share ideas in an effort to replicate BC’s model statewide in order to improve equity and student success.
He concluded his visit with a virtual town hall, where he discussed recent statewide policy changes that will drive progress toward meeting goals outlined in the Vision for Success and how colleges are responding to the needs of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Chancellor Oakley is the leader of the nation’s largest system of higher education, supporting 116 colleges which collectively serve more than 2.1 million students every year,” said BC’s President, Dr. Sonya Christian. “On behalf of the entire Renegade community, we are so grateful for the work Chancellor Oakley is leading to advance academic success, supporting the unique needs of community college students throughout these challenging times, and ultimately helping students reach their full potential.”
Chancellor Oakley took time to hear directly from and visit with Renegade students who are involved in multifaceted programs aimed at academic excellence, personal development, student life, and career readiness. Two students who were excited to share their stories were Computer Science student, Anthony Colin and Environmental Engineering student, Jennifer Villalba, both of whom are involved in BC’s MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) program. Over the past three years, BC’s MESA program yielded an outstanding average of 90% in good academic standing and a course completion success of 81%.
Conversations with Chancellor Oakley and his visitation team centered on the college's supportive culture with a focus on inclusivity. BC’s African American Initiatives Affinity group (UMOJA-ASTEP) was a feature as the group aims to increase student success and retention rates just like MESA, but utilizes cultural capital to empower students. Dr. Paula Parks started the program in 2015 and shared the rising percentage of first-time African American students attempting 15+ units in their first time remained stable, whereas the percentage of first-time UMOJA students attempting 15+ units in their first term has increased over time. Similarly, 23% of UMOJA students completed transfer-level English and math in their first year in fall 2018, a 21% increase from the previous fall.
In addition, conversations promoting faculty diversity, enhancing intersegmental efficiency, and community collaborations were highlighted. Kylie Campbell, BC’s Director of BC’s Early College was proud to report strong enrollment and even program growth, despite the challenging times brought on by COVID-19 and distance learning.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, a total of 700 Early College course sections were offered across 31 public high schools throughout Kern County, which is a 30% growth in section count from the year prior. Over the past five years, enrollment, too has grown resulting in a more than 760% growth since 2015. As participation continues to grow, student outcomes also remain above BC’s institution-set standard, proving that high school students are capable of meeting the rigor and expectations of college-level courses.
Kern Community College District Chancellor, Tom Burke gave welcoming remarks to all in attendance at the virtual Town Hall and commended the local efforts. “I’ll proudly share that BC has been an innovator in several of the critical initiatives in the community college system. For example, Bakersfield College was a leader in the state to promote the Guided Pathways framework and under the leadership of Chancellor Oakley formed the foundation on which the Vision for Success was developed. The whole community college system has adopted the Vision for Success to set our goals for colleges.”
During this open session with members of the campus and community, Chancellor Oakley briefly spoke of his Vision for Success while praising college faculty and staff for their work on important issues like inclusion and diversity and advancing transformative programs such as Early College and Project HireUp.
“I can’t be more proud of what I’ve seen BC do,” said Chancellor Oakley before recognizing Renegades, not only for their academic work over the past year, but also specifically recognizing BC’s nursing students, adult learners, and undocumented students for their strength and commitment. “Students are a critical asset in our community,” he said. “They are our future.”
At this time, the Renegade Pantry is assisting students with drive-thru services in the form of pre-bagged food pickups, hygiene products, school supplies, or clothing. Students must be enrolled in at least .5 units at Bakersfield College to utilize the Renegade Pantry services. The Bakersfield College campus remains closed to the general public and is only offering essential courses with strict protocols and guidelines. BC’s various services and programs are virtually open to students through the Student Information Desk, Mon. through Thurs. from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.