based on responses from students about what works for them.
In addition to developing the curriculum, one of Lamboy-Naughton's biggest responsibilities was interviewing and hiring the faculty. Faculty members are part-time and non-tenured, just as they are at Brandman University. Many have backgrounds that are similar to students at Ameritas.
"We have had no problem finding faculty who are well-prepared bilingual specialists," she said. "Not only do they have the commitment to our students, hut they also are role models."
Enzo Caminotti is one of the adjunct faculty members who teach at Ameritas. He is the operations manager for Converse (a division of Nike) in Ontario and saw the opportunity to teach as a chance to give back to the community and help others reach their goal. Caminotti said he also identifies with the type of student at Ameritas. As a young boy, his family moved to New York from Puerto Rico, and although they struggled financially, he eventually went to college, thanks to the "never-ending support" he received from his mother. Like his current students, Caminotti worked hard to achieve his dreams. He believes that Ameritas College's bilingual model is one dial can help motivate studente and encourage them to participate more fully in the learning process.
"We use Spanish and English exercises in the classroom and in the online platform," he said. "These exercises help the students work on both languages while also developing other skills, such as creating presentations, using a computer, communication and research, just to name a few. Every course marries content and language in such a way that students find themselves learning the content, acquiring professional skills and enhancing both their Spanish and English at the same time."
In trying to boost graduation and retention rates. Ameritas is relying on faculty such as Caminotti and the support of the college's own retention and tracking measures that have been put into place. Those measures involve a combination of human and technological resources.
"It starts when we assign each student a 'success specialist' who walks them through enrollment and financial aid," said Lamboy-Naughton. "Then we add technology support in which students can bring their iPads and devices and make sure they are set up properly. We show than how to contact an online tutor or specialist that will help them with writing assignments.
"We help students navigate everything and anything they need. We are a community that is meant to help."
First-time students also must take the pathway program, which consists of a student orientation, including an introduction to technology, and a success course covering time management, study tips and stress. To help with retention, the college developed an early warning system that alerts the student success specialist of potential issues before they become a problem. For example, if a student falls behind or is absent, his/her faculty member will contact the success specialist.
Ameritas has set high goals and is aiming for a completion rate that is greater than that of public colleges, said Lamboy-Naughton. She cites the success of Brandman University, which has a 68 percent six-year graduation rate for bachelor's degree-seeking students. Ameritas would like to equal or exceed that percentage.
The Hispanic higher education community and other groups are watching and hoping Ameritas can produce results. The concept was given some financial support when it received a $250,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Educause, through the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) initiative. The grant lauded the college for its innovative mission to provide Hispanic students the opportunity to earn associate and bachelor's degrees through dual-language academic instruction.
The college will use the funds to extend its Blended Dual Language English Immersion (DLEI) program into a 100 percent online program that will further expand access to Hispanic adults in need of higher education. Using Brandman University's Instructional Design for Engaged Adult Learning, Ameritas College has already redesigned courses that integrate DLEI instruction.
As described in college brochures, DLEI is unlike other models of bilingual instruction, because it has functional bilingualism for all its students as a goal. Discipline-specific instruction to support vocabulary and concept development is incorporated in both languages. The instructional framework maintains equal focus on college-level content and language learning, without sacrificing program learning. Lamboy-Naughton says they are aware that students who enroll for the totally online program will need additional support.
"When this 100 percent online program is up and running, we want to make sure our students have both the skills and the social environment they need to complete the program," she said. "We don't want them to feel isolated just because they are distance learners."
Officials at Ameritas acknowledge that they have a great challenge ahead of them; however, they are confident and optimistic about bringing a viable educational option to the rapidly growing Hispanic community.
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