History & Timeline

The institutional initiative South 2017, introduced by South Seattle College President Gary Oertli in 2014, has evolved into the transformational work known as the Guided Pathways. Here's a look back at where we started, and how far we’ve come:

History, from South 2017 to Guided Pathways

In 2014, we began work on South 2017 to increase student progression, retention and completion rates. The initiative was significantly inspired by the Community College Research Center’s Guided Pathways models, which tell us students benefit from guided educational pathways and individualized, intentional support services.

The South Seattle 2017 model had three pillars: Strong StartStructured Programs and Seamless Support Services. With the groundwork in place, groups were formed in 2015 to take on tasks within those pillars. The accomplishments made under the South 2017 initiative set us on the right track toward the more inclusive and in-depth Guided Pathways transformation. Here are several highlights (and a note that work continues on these areas today):

Strong Start

Students benefit from a structured first-year experience. Students get the guidance and resources they need to develop an individualized educational, financial and career plan.

  • Work began on the Seattle Colleges to Careers website, a district-wide tool to market our programs by meta-major, pathway maps, career occupations, cost and funding resources. The final product is nearing launch.
  • An HDC (Human Development Course) committee was formed to evaluate our college preparatory courses, and we increased the number of HDC courses offered to strengthen our incoming students’ college readiness.
  • Basic and Transitional Studies (BTS) incorporated a Career Pathways class into their GED and High School 21+ curriculum, where students develop higher education and career plans, map those plans and investigate how to pay for college. They also started offering an ESL 3 College and Careers class with similar goals.

Structured Programs

South Seattle's programs are structured to help students progress and complete, through features such as support for early completion of “gateway” courses and annual schedules with courses and sequences.

  • Deans and faculty across academic transfer and professional-technical programs began working together in earnest on contextualizing related instruction content for technical programs, and began to move courses into an earlier and predictable scheduling sequence to increase completion of these courses in our certificate and degree programs.
  • BTS I-BEST courses offered, incorporating basic skills and career training in a single program. Today, I-BEST is offered in Maintenance and Light Repair, Home Care Aide and CNC Machining. Future plans include Academic Transfer, Welding and Auto Body Repair.
  • Developmental English faculty revised their curriculum with an integrated reading/writing focus that shortens the pathway to no more than two quarters before students are ready for college-level English.
  • Development Math faculty revised their curriculum and developed several pathways to and through college-level Math. Again, the focus is to both shorten and enrich the instruction for the students.

Seamless Support Services

Students are fully supported during their educational experience at South with coaching, tutoring, proactive monitoring and structured support programs.

  • As part of a Project Finish Line Grant, we started our Completion Coaches program to support and encourage individual students to reach their goals and graduate on time. The grant concluded at the end of December 2016, but the program continues due to strong indications of success.
  • We began the development of a funding support plan for students, a quarter-by-quarter tool that will map out funding resources and deadlines, and link to other information on our revised Paying for College web pages currently in development.
  • Advising committed to ensuring all degree-seeking students have an educational plan, and continue to evaluate best practices and impact on retention, persistence and completion.
  • Advising began Early Classroom Interventions to support students in coordination with faculty. For example, Developmental English students have a designated advisor who visits classrooms and assists with educational planning. Plans to expand this program and incorporate prescriptive tutoring are in the works.
  • Planning began to implement 15-30-45 credit interventions with intentional messaging to students at those milestones, focused on persistence and retention. Related, we actively reach out to "low scholarship" students to support student accountability and reduce continuous payment for uncompleted/non-passing courses.
  • ENGL099 now includes productive persistence strategies as part of the instruction, so that students use effective strategies when putting forth great effort.

Transition to Guided Pathways

Our staff and faculty accomplished a great deal towards our South 2017 initiative, and that work became the foundation for our larger-scale transition to a Guided Pathways approach. That approach starts with clearly designed, coherent, and well-communicated programs; ample support for career exploration; and informed program selection. A student in a guided pathway sees very clearly the map of courses required to complete the program, develops a personalized, comprehensive plan to reach their goal, and receives structured support to ensure they stay on the path.

South Seattle was selected in late 2015 as one of 30 colleges nationwide to participate in the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Pathways Project, an 18-month institution-wide professional development opportunity. In 2016, South was selected as one of five Washington State community colleges to participate in the Guided Pathways Cohort, a five-year grant sponsored by the College Spark Foundation and State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. Participation in these opportunities made it clear that while we had given our institution a strong start with South 2017, the college-wide transformation to a Guided Pathways institution would extend beyond 2017.


A timeline is being developed and will be posted shortly.