• Heating Up and Cooling Out at the Community College: The Potential of Student-Faculty Interactions to Contribute to Student Aspiration

      Horvat, Erin McNamara, 1964-; Shaw, Kathleen M.; Caldwell, Corrinne A.; Jordan, Will J.; Goyette, Kimberly A. (Temple University. Libraries, 2009)
      This study examines the potential of faculty at the community college to positively influence, or "heat up," student aspirations. With increasing emphasis on graduation and transfer rates in higher education, the importance of micro-level interactions that shape student aspiration has been neglected. To better understand how individuals within the institution, especially faculty, contribute to student aspirations, this study attempts to bridge the "cooling out" and "heating up" literature in the context of the modern community college by recognizing the role of the individual academic program. Applying organizational theory from a systems perspective, as well as the theories of Paolo Freire, the study examines the nature of student-faculty interactions that have the potential to contribute to student aspiration in the context of institutional limitations. The participants include students and faculty in three academic programs that have different approaches to student success within one urban community college. The case study involves a combination of qualitative approaches, including interviews and observations. The study inductively examines student-faculty interactions and their potential to contribute to student aspirations within three different academic programs. The most significant barriers to student success and increasing aspirations are found on the institutional level. These limitations, including bureaucratic confusion, advisement issues, remediation, variation in attendance policies, financial constraints, and lacking a cohesive institutional culture and commitment, have the potential to "cool out" student aspiration, as supported in the majority of the community college literature on this topic. However, the mezzo-level effects of programs and the micro-level practices of the individuals hold substantial potential in terms of "heating up" student aspiration. Programs vary in the degree to which they handle the institutional limitations. Programs that take an active role in mediating between the limiting institutional barriers and students provide a cushioning program-wide protection from the cooling out elements. The micro-level interactions between individual students and faculty also hold potential to heat up by helping students navigate the systematic confusion that seems characteristic of the community college. Therefore, this study suggests that there is hope for the community college in fulfilling its promise of educational opportunity. Macro-level institutional challenges, as well as larger societal inequalities, are substantial and pervasive at the community college and solutions are often limited by financial constraints. However, the programs and individuals within the community college hold promise. The study suggests that the roles of the program and the individual are instrumental in shaping student aspiration.