Shelagh Rose: Finding Opportunity in an Unlikely Situation

Pam Sornson, JD

Well, here’s some pretty sweet lemonade made from one fairly bitter lemon: Shelagh Rose, Career Community Faculty Coordinator at Pasadena City College (PCC), looks at the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity, not an obstacle. Like any other unexpected development, the situation forced her and her colleagues to re-evaluate the work they do to keep PCC’s stellar faculty and staff well able to teach and serve PCC’s equally stellar student population. She’s using both data revealed by inquiry into student experience at PCC and the conclusions it suggests to address long-standing concerns while building a healthier future for the entire PCC region.



She’s also enthused by the present mindset of the PCC faculty. The pandemic has opened their collective eyes to challenges they’d not otherwise been in a place to see. With their heightened attention also piquing their interest, Rose hopes to engage them in new considerations that better serve PCC’s greater diverse community.


Always Learning; Looking to Teach

Rose is currently a student in the doctoral program in Educational Leadership at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (GSEIS). She is also fortunate to be a part of a long-standing Research-Practitioner Partnership with faculty and Ph.D. students from GSEIS. As a member of this partnership, Rose, along with a multiconstituent group from PCC, participates in a Data Inquiry Group (DIG) focusing on student ‘career decision-making processes‘ at all stages of their education. As the research partners gather data about the barriers and supports PCC students face in their career exploration and decision-making process, Rose gains insights about the additional supports that would benefit students engaging in this process.

One of the significant drivers of the UCLA program is its focus on equity and how inequitable access to information affects long-term outcomes for historically underserved students. The COVID-19 concern is acting as a substantial disruption to ‘standard operating procedures,’ revealing where those inequities lie and how destructive they are. She intends to partner with others campus-wide to use the information to inform the changes she hopes to see at PCC. She likens the COVID-19 situation to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, which educated millions of Americans about long-standing injustice, and ushered in years of enlightened legislation to address those challenges.


Deeper Insights = Better Decisions

One of the first concerns Rose noted when reviewing data provided by PCC’s UCLA partners was how often Latino/Latina/Latinx and Black/African American students choose career paths that may respond to their personal values, but that don’t necessarily lead to a livable wage or a wider range of career options. While most seek jobs that will improve their community, they may limit themselves to a narrow field of known choices and fail to discover a wider selection of careers related to that occupation. Rose and her team of career community faculty leads are working to introduce them to those expanded options, many in the STEM field, that address their concerns with social issues while also facilitating a more lucrative future.

At PCC, she’s bringing her insights to her work with the Robert G. Freeman Center, its Work-based Learning department, and the PCC Transfer Center, who have partnered with her and her team to organize PCC’s six Career Communities. Supported by a federal Title 5 grant dedicated to Hispanic Serving Institutions, she has also engaged the partnership of a collaborative “Equipo” (Spanish for ‘team’) – an advisory board of students who work with their PCC faculty colleagues. The six Career Communities they advise now provide a space for all students to explore career and major options while also connecting them to the academic, career, and personal support they need to achieve their goals. Because her work is faculty-facing, Rose also supports the faculty in their role as leads for their respective career community. (When asked, 28 faculty members applied for the Team Lead role, and the college hired all. Many of these leads attend the UCLA inquiry partnership, gaining valuable information about students, which they can then take back to their specific Career Community development team.)


Pre- and Post-COVID-19: It’s All Good

Rose is just in her second year as Career Community Lead, after spending 13 years fully dedicated to classroom teaching as an ESL instructor and another ten as faculty lead for the First Year Pathways programs. During these years, she participated successfully in campus leadership positions:

As a member of the Senate Executive of Academic Senate, she suggested that updates on the school’s Guided Pathways program be added to every meeting agenda to report on the program’s progress for the full faculty.

As a member of the Pathways team, she coordinated College 1, developing professional development, in which over 200 faculty, administrators, and staff participated.

Rose is proud of the long-term relationships she enjoys with PCC’s faculty, staff, and administration, including several significant friendships that she treasures and on which she is relying as she moves forward. She deeply understands that it takes many collaborators to transform a college so that their processes actually improve students’ lives.

For the early part of the 2019-2020 school year, Rose collaborated with her team to develop several events to introduce students to explore the broadest possible range of career options. The highlight was a two-day ‘Explore Your Career Comunidad’ fair that attracted approximately 1,000 PCC students. Since that event occurred in March immediately before the college went remote, it has been challenging to plan additional events. Instead, Rose has taken the opportunity to team up with Myriam Altounji, the Guided Pathways Faculty Lead, Jacqueline Javier, the Director of Work-based Learning at the Freeman Center, and Jason Barquero, the new Freeman Center Director, to develop a strategy for ongoing collaboration between the Center and the instructional side of the campus.


Past Lessons; Forward Progress

Looking back, Shelagh Rose wouldn’t change anything that’s gotten her to this point in her career at PCC, and she’s very excited about taking those next steps towards her Ed.D. She recognizes that making any substantial change in an academic setting is a process. In her opinion, PCC is already deep into the process of ‘awareness building,’ as more faculty, staff, and administration members acknowledge the social realities of bias and inequality. There is a growing realization that the campus must play a role in achieving an equitable outcome for Latino/Latina/Latinx and African-American students.

Looking forward, she’s excited about PCC’s Career Communities’ ‘Social Justice Conference,’ running September 15th through the 17th. Following the conference, she and her team, with support from Strategic Communications and Marketing, will roll out a new website designed to streamline the PCC student’s user experience. And she’ll continue to plan career events for the future while exploring new ways to help PCC teachers help PCC students gain the satisfying careers they want. Far from being dismayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Shelagh Rose has embraced the opportunity it created to sharpen her focus and commitment to find even more success for all of PCC’s student body. Now isn’t that refreshing??







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