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Inside Higher Ed: Getting It Right the First Time

WASHINGTON — Starting an educational institution from scratch is a hard task. But it does have its advantages. Just ask the founding set of administrators and instructors at The University of the District of Columbia Community College, which wrapped up its first academic year a few months ago.

They believe the institution's relative newness — and therefore its lack of entrenched faculty and staff — give them the ideal opportunity to implement the academic and administrative practices considered likeliest to improve student success. Though college officials hope to create an institution where data collection is an everyday occurrence and nearly all academic decisions are based on that evidence, they have to get substantial buy-in from faculty and staff, who haven’t had enough time to become entrenched but have plenty of preconceived notions of their own about teaching and learning.


“We have some barriers to break down internally,” acknowledges Jonathan Gueverra, the college’s founding chief executive officer. “Even if you have the luxury of bringing in all new people, you have the problem of trying to present before them a blank slate and then showing them what we want done. The one thing I know about all faculty is that they recognize the need for students to succeed. Using data and knowledge, we want to provide them with that springboard.”

So far, the community college has only 37 full-time faculty members and well over 100 adjuncts. Many of them came directly from teaching at the University of the District of Columbia — the troubled land-grant that, for ages, was the city’s lone public institution. Now, it is the incubation site for the new community college until it moves across town and becomes a freestanding institution.

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