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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TR Campus reflects on first full year, prepares for second

By Sandy Hill/reporter

Dynamic and diverse were words used to describe Trinity River Campus’ student body recently as administrators reflected on their first full year of operation and prepared to start their second.

“We had high expectations, and we believe we met them,” said Dr. Tahita Fulkerson, TR Campus president. “Our primary concern is student success, and that involves everything from greeting [students] when they first come into the building to giving them good advice, to putting them into schedules that allow them to succeed, to having them return.”

Seeing each student as a whole person with needs and not just a number in a classroom is the driving force behind everything employees do, Fulkerson said.

It’s the “Everyone makes a difference” principle Fulkerson has promoted since day one, a philosophy from the book Inside the Magic Kingdom.

“Every person that the student contacts or runs into on campus matters and makes the experience good or bad for the student or indifferent for the student,” she said. “So it is incumbent on us, it’s required of us to be as accessible and as helpful to students and to visitors on the campus as we possibly can.”

Dr. Bryan Stewart, vice president of teaching and learning services, said students seemed excited to be on the new campus.

“I learned we have an incredible student body,” he said. “It was kind of a hodgepodge to start the year, but a lot of students have since made Trinity River their home campus.”

Michael Baumgardner, director of student development services, called the opening of the new campus a “tremendous undertaking.”

“From working to hire your folks … to learning your staff and other new hires on the campus, policies, procedures and protocols,” he said, “working all that together is quite an undertaking while also learning your way around the buildings because it’s a new facility for us, too.”

While all of this was going on, administrators were simultaneously planning and implementing more than 40 programs for students. It was one of their biggest challenges going into the first year, Baumgardner said.

“It was a miracle at times to be able to pull everything off in the short time frame that we had,” he said.

Starting off the year, Stewart said the campus really didn’t have many activities for students but felt the staff did an excellent job incorporating different events throughout the year.

“We’ve had great events, and this year they are going to expand because we’ve had a year to grow those and develop student clubs and such,” he said.

Baumgardner enjoyed watching students engage in the different programs, events and activities throughout the year.

“To see their involvement with us and their commitment to some of the things that we have been doing, not only the students but also faculty and staff as well as community members, that’s probably, for me, been the most satisfying,” he said.

Starting with 3,714 students in fall 2009, administrators saw a 30 percent increase by spring 2010. Expecting the numbers to grow, campus leaders are working hard to better understand their student population.

“[We are] trying to hit as many different populations as we can to try to be more broad in our scope of approaching some of our engagement activities for students,” Baumgardner said.

In addition to service, students, and personal and professional growth, the focus on year two will be on multicultural competence, Fulkerson said.

“We’re going to dig beyond the superficial and go into what is unique and valuable in every culture,” she said.

This year, faculty members are using some of their office hours to staff The Zone, an area of the café where students can go for help. Faculty members created the idea.

“To get to their classes, students have to walk through the corridor of the café,” Fulkerson said. “There will always be someone in The Zone that a student can go to for answers to questions.”

In a recent survey given to students, Weekend College was well received, and students wanted more time slots. Since some students can attend only on weekends, Stewart said administrators are looking for ways to expand the program.

“Believe it or not, we’ve had a lot of requests for Sunday a.m. classes,” he said. “That’s something we’re gonna look at a little closer. We’re gonna add Saturday night time slots for sure.”

Letty Gallegos, TR director of Weekend College, said although marketing didn’t happen until right around registration time, about 240 students enrolled in weekend-only classes during the spring.

“Things went really smoothly,” she said. “Students were learning, and faculty was here. We had little hiccups, but it was in the supporting services where we were trying to get things geared up.”

Stewart sees change coming down the track in the form of hybrid classes, which he believes will be beneficial to weekend and weekday students. He also shared his excitement over the growth of the dual-credit program.

“I see our dual-credit program as being an outstanding program that’s gonna at least triple this next year,” he said. “We had about 110 kids that started the program, and it looks like we’ve recruited around 400 to start the fall.”

The continuing education department added a new program for ophthalmology assistants for fall.

“This certificate program is designed to be completed in one year,” said Tiffany Lopez, director of continuing education services. “On completion of the program, students will be prepared to become a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant. In other words, this is the entry-level pathway for a career as a certified allied health professional in ophthalmology.”

Fulkerson said she expects students to continue being active through the student leadership development initiative.

“All our student clubs have mission statements with service components, and they participate in focus groups and surveys to keep us informed about their perspectives and their needs,” she said.

Amanda Makin, who is learning to be a leader and role model to her fellow students as president of the Leaders Council, believes administrators are reaching out to meet the needs of students on campus.

“I absolutely love Trinity River Campus,” she said. “Because we’re a new school, they want to hear the feedback of the students. It’s just an all-around great college environment.”


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