Program success through MentorLinks

By Louise Petruzzella

With MentorLinks, one college saw program completion rates rise and increased student and faculty engagement.

As a recipient of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and National Science Foundation (NSF) MentorLinks award, my students, faculty, and program at Shoreline Community College (Washington) have benefited in numerous ways. While some may shy away from applying for this grant because it is a relatively small award, the return on investment for my Clean Energy Technology and Entrepreneurship program has paid dividends beyond expectation.

The biggest benefit overall has been the opportunity for me to build a network with fellow STEM educators from around the United States. I’ve learned new techniques for instruction, hands-on learning and retention strategies to bolster student success. I believe there’s a strong correlation between what I’ve brought back to my program and an increase in student completions by 43 percent. The students are engaged and eager to learn the new content my colleagues have shared with me and my faculty.

The funding received also allowed my college to purchase much needed equipment for the hands-on demonstration projects on campus and small devices used to instruct local middle and high school teachers via workshops held on campus. I hope to open up a pipeline for graduating seniors to enter the Clean Energy Technology program thereby increasing enrollment and providing my industry partners with highly-skilled workers.

Prior to the MentorLinks award, the Clean Tech program had struggled a bit getting the attention it deserved at Shoreline Community College. Once I was able to demonstrate to President Cheryl Roberts that building this robust network only helped bring additional attention to the college (on a national level), the upper administration at my school started funneling added resources such as marketing and communications our way. As a result, enrollment in the Clean Energy program has ticked up and the program continues to attract new students, incumbent workers interested in up-skilling and second career folks.

Finally, the MentorLinks award has served as a precursor to future funding possibilities with NSF. The college submitted two proposals this fall requesting nearly $1 million for the two programs I support: Clean Energy Technology and Biotechnology. I firmly believe that, as a result of building relationships with key people in NSF and AACC, Shoreline Community College has an excellent chance of being awarded future funding.

With the MentorLinks award I grew both personally and professionally. I’ve made great connections with new colleagues and learned new techniques for instruction, curriculum and program development, and fundraising strategies. My students are benefiting directly and my faculty are engaged and excited about supporting students. I encourage community colleges to apply for the next MentorLinks cohort and prepare to be amazed!

Learn more about MentorLinks and apply to be part of the program online.

Louise Petruzzella

Louise Petruzzella is director of the Clean Energy Technology & Entrepreneurship program and an industry liaison for the Biotechnology Lab Specialist program at Shoreline Community College in Washington.

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