Posted: Saturday, October 10, 2015 12:00 pm
From Staff Reports
Passion for students
From her early beginnings as a community college student to her current position as a district president, Dr. Barbara Kavalier’s passion for community colleges, learning and serving students has flourished.
The Place It All Began
Kavalier’s life was transformed at a young age through her experiences at a community college. As a first-generation community college student, for the first time in her educational journey, she felt encouraged and excited. It was obvious that faculty members truly believed in her by providing encouragement and support. She felt a connection to higher education, because it allowed her to envision all of the opportunities ahead.
After completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Kavalier began working at a local community college as a support staff in the testing center. Her responsibilities allowed her to serve students on the front-line where she found herself beginning to understand, on a very intimate level, the hopes, needs and challenges of students. She saw herself in those students and felt a connection to the things they were going through. The longer she stayed with the college, the more others recognized the talent she had for serving students. The positions she held along the way allowed her to develop policies and procedures and implement practices that ultimately impacted the retention and success of students, bringing her to where she is today as District President of Navarro College.
Focusing on What Matters
Dr. Kavalier is embarking on her third year at Navarro College and couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for the next three-to-five years. She has focused much attention in transitioning the college from a primary focus on enrollment to student retention and success; in fact, academic excellence is one of the top priorities for 2015-16. Evidence of progress and increasing academic success include Navarro College’s recognition as one of the top community colleges in Texas and its invitation to become the first college in Texas to be part of the American Honors program.
The American Honors program supports faculty in the development of innovative curriculum targeted to a specific cohort of students who take classes, study and live together, a model that is proven to be very effective. Another major initiative that will make a tremendous difference in the retention and success of students is the development of the Quality Enhancement Plan, known as QEP. This effort provides a comprehensive systematic approach to helping students who struggle with math. One of the biggest benefits to the student is the TEAM Center, a math tutoring lab where students can get one-on-one personal attention to help raise their math skills to the level they need to pass developmental and credit-bearing math courses.
In addition, the college is using data to make informed decisions about its future efforts. “It’s difficult to significantly impact the retention and success of students if you don’t know where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going,” says Dr. Kavalier. To support this culture of inquiry and evidence, the college’s research capacity has been strengthened with a full-time researcher and a dean of institutional effectiveness. The data gathered is being used to study student success at Navarro College and implement new strategies to improve learning.
At Navarro College, Kavalier isn’t the only one with a passion for students. The faculty and staff truly care about the students, love them really, and want them to be successful. According to Kavalier, “The college continues to develop ways to further engage faculty and cultivate the environment of inquiry. Giving faculty the tools and technology needed, as well as increasing professional development opportunities, will help fulfill the priorities and mission of the college while playing a major role in student retention.”
The Next Chapter
As Dr. Kavalier begins her third year as district president, she reflected on what she loves most about the college:
“Navarro College has a great family atmosphere. For many visitors, the college seems like a small university. When you arrive at the campus, you feel the culture of higher education, as if something special is in the air. I don’t know how many people have shared with me stories about their experience as a student at Navarro College. There’s a sense of pride about being connected with this great institution. I am certainly proud to be a bulldog!”
According to Kavalier, many exciting things are planned for the 2015-16 academic year. “Although we are only a few weeks into the fall semester, I have already heard many positive comments from faculty about our students. The other day I received a text message from one of our faculty sharing how very respectful his students are as compared to previous years. He went on to recognize the progress we are making with our civility efforts.”
The Civility Program is one of the key priorities for the upcoming year. The others include academic excellence, professional development, technology and communication.
These priorities will give Navarro College the foundation needed to sustain growth in the future.
With the vision that Dr. Kavalier brings to the college and the community, coupled by dedicated faculty and staff and a supportive Board, Navarro College is well-positioned to reimagine its future and establish new directions for meeting the needs of students. In doing so, the College will fulfill its recently updated mission statement which is to “provide educational opportunities that empower students to achieve their personal, academic, and career goals and that promote life-long learning for all communities served.” This is more than just a mission statement. It is a passion shared district-wide by all involved, including the district president.
“Community colleges touch the lives of people who may not have chance otherwise,” states Kavalier. “This was certainly the case in my own life. I’m in love with our mission and am dedicated to inspiring our students to greatness for many years to come.”
Dr. Barbara Kavalier, District President of Navarro College, talks with students in Rick and Rosie’s Cafe on the Corsicana campus. Her passion for community colleges dates back to her own days as a student.