Dr. Susan Marshall remembers hearing rumors in regards to the “sunsetting” of the Program for Academic & Career Excellence (PACE). She could not get a clear answer on what was the faith of the grant that she had written five years ago. Being the last of the remaining voices of the original people at California State University, Stanislaus (Stan State) to write this grant, she felt compelled to voice the writers’ intentions of institutionalizing PACE.
Marshall is not the only one that seems to be concerned about the original intention of the institutionalization of PACE. Students, faculty and administration continue to discuss the true intention of this Title V grant that was awarded five years ago. It is clear that the PACE will be ending after Spring 2016, but it is still unclear of any transition plan for the PACERS.
In the grant under Methods and Resources it is stated,“Both the First Year Experience (FYE) and Check in, Check up, Check Out (C3) will work with all campus constituencies in all planning and implementation, and institutionalization stages during and after the closing of the program. Data collected will be disseminated to varied campus stakeholders and committees to insure that informed decisions are made for institutionalization of FYE and C3 after the life of the grant.”
“Institutionalizing means that the institution, in our case Cal State Stanislaus, will take over supporting the activities of the grant,” Marshall, Professor of English said. “I know that its has been said ‘we really didn’t mean that’ but we did mean it. I meant it when I was writing it. And we can see that academic affairs has institutionalized it with the FYE program and that means that it’s available to more students ideally but at least to the students that was target population And if that couldn’t happen for some reason, budgetary or otherwise it wasn’t going to happen, it seems like a plan should have been made on how to help those students.”
Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Suzanne Espinoza, states that the concept of institutionalized in the grant is being evaluated.
“There are a number of places where this grant makes statements like that,” Espinoza said. “We intend to fully institutionalize all of these different pieces and we are evaluating all of that to see what we can afford to do.”
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. James Strong shares his concerns for the rest of the student body at Stan State in the Faculty Senate Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27, “I would say that many of our students are just like PACE students and we really appreciate the good work that PACE has done and we want to incorporate the best practices from PACE, and if all of their practices are the best, well then we will incorporate all of them.”
The best practices that will be adopted are yet undeclared. It is even unknown what practices are considered the best.
PACE Academic Advisor, Garrett Soriano shares that the personal advising that PACE offers is what makes it so successful.
“They all [PACERS] know that they are welcome to come and see us [advisors] whenever they want, if they have a question or concern and that’s the biggest thing, building and cultivating those relationships,” Soriano said.
Marshall states firmly what the grant promised.
“I have heard remarks that there will be discussion about how to implement the best practices so that we can help these students but I would argue that we already know what those are and we have been doing those for the past five years,” Marshall said. “The grant, it promises entrance to exit services to students and it seems to me that the time for these conversations was before it was decided that PACE was going to sunset not after.”
Espinoza and Strong affirmed that PACE students would continue to get advising through their major department as well as in the advising center. They are finalizing the recommendations of the Academic Advising Comittee in which one recommendation would be to increase the number of advisers that are available and also expanding the advising space.
“We are hoping that we would be able to create a structure and increase the capacity to follow up with those students, but we don’t have those specific plans worked out yet,” Espinoza said.
PACE Director, Jill Tiemann-Gonzalez believes that the PACE environment is one of the best practices because it builds a family.
PACE students showed their concerns of this environment being lost in the meeting hosted by Espinoza and Strong on Wednesday, Oct 28 to receive feedback from the PACERS.
“Picture our college education as a tower. Right now we are at the top. This force that want to take this program is like a demolition crew that hits the first floor knocking it out,” Saúl Ávila (senior, Business) said. “What then? With out PACE we are just rubble.”
Espinoza states that the PACE office will not be the same format as it is offered now.
“We are hoping to find space so that we can create a gathering place, if you will, for students that are getting advising through the advising center,” Espinoza said. “We are hoping to expand the notion of the commons idea to other academic ideas, but there will not be a stand alone PACE office anymore.”
In the grant under the Key Personal section it states, “The University intends to fully institutionalize and fund this position upon the close of the five year funding.” However, once PACE comes to an end the position of director will no longer exist.
“Nobody is losing their jobs.” Gonzalez said. “Two of them have already left knowing that it was coming to an end. When they saw new opportunities they took them and the two that have already left both got promotions. Now we are down to three, and the university will take care of them. They wont be out of a job.”
Espinoza also affirmed that no jobs were at risk. Strong stated that that was a commitment that they had made since last February.
“Even the people who are in the PACE program, most of the employees, we are going to try and find a way to incorporate them in different offices,” Espinoza said. “So its not like anyone is really going to go away.”
Soriano however, has not been approached in regards to his position after PACE is over.
“When I took the job I knew that there was only two years of the grant left but with the possibility of it getting institutionalized.” Soriano said. “Since I’m only on my second year I don’t really have job security, which is fine because I took this job knowing that possibly I would only be here for the next few years.”
Soriano was not the only one that took the job with that understanding. Former PACE Director Michael Igoe also took the job with the understand of the program being institutionalized by the university.
“I took the job with the anticipation that it was going to be a difficult job to institutionalize the grant but I always believed that we would be a better university if we were able to find a way to institutionalize it,” Igoe said. “ So that was my primarily goal follow through the objective of the grant which was to institutionalize PACE and look for opportunities. So when the opportunity of a sixth year seemed to make an easier transition into the university budget. But the goal was always to institutionalize it.”
What the future holds for the PACERS is still unclear.
Dr. Shawna Young, Interim Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, presented a possible transition plan and future possible funding at the PACE student meeting with Espinoza and Strong.
“Two particular opportunities are coming very soon and they are through the TRIO grants which they are part of the family that is related to the Student Support Services. The two opportunities combined would be equivalent to about $560,000 per year for five years,” Young explained to the students. “The TRIO grants are even better than Title V grants because if we are able to crack into it we have greater chance of getting continue funding in the next five year cycle because we have previous experience points.”
All of the PACERS present however were left with the same question, What happens if we don’t get the grant?
Even though PACE will be coming to an end, PACE made a positive impact on many students.
“Pace has given me an identity that I could not find elsewhere on campus. With PACE working as a peer mentor I felt like I had found a place on campus,” Fatima Serrato (senior, Nursing) said. “I have a purpose and a motivation to continue with my studies. I have found an identity with PACE.”
Igoe hopes that PACE could still have an opportunity to be institutionalized. Even though he is no longer with the program he hopes to stay connected with the students.
“I hope to stay connected with the students that I had an impact on, and insure that the community that we started doesn’t get over looked,” Igoe said. “Because that is what it was to me. It was more about developing a community of students who felt that they belonged and they would be successful here and it would be because of each other.”
Sonriano hopes to continue being there for the students as well.
“I think that regardless of what happens, whether the program get picked up or it closes, what I am confident is that the students will still have each other. I am confident in the advising that we do here and if we are not here anymore that they can go out and do it on their own,” Sonriano said. “PACE has been more than a program, PACE is a family and I see it out there everyday. The students stick out for each other.”
Marshall hopes for this program to be preserved just the way it is. She hopes that the original intention of the grant that she wrote, along with others, will be respected.
“I think a lot of small programs that have proven to work are a great model for this university," Marshall said. “I think PACE is a great model as it is and I would like to see it continue just as it is. That’s my hope.”