Guided pathways to student success

Mesa Community College (MCC) is making changes to focus on student success. 

Professors, advisors, and faculty have joined together to make a task force that aims to help students identify their goals and chart the path to completion. The group started with forty members and has grown into hundreds of active members planning extensively to streamline the college’s goals for student success. 

According to Guided Pathways to Success (GPS) co-chair Steve Budge, the discussion of guided pathways began in 2015. The GPS taskforce came across literature and data from other colleges that proved students were more successful with guided pathways. 

Over the past four years, the GPS have been planning and teaming up with 10 other colleges in the district to build their capacity to launch. 

“There were elements that you would consider guided pathways already happening here, but not scaled,” explained Budge. “The framework is to scale it to all students. If it’s a good thing we are doing, then it needs to impact everyone.” 

According to Budge, all the planning and groundwork has begun to pay off, because they managed to create one shared pathway for any degree across all 10 district community colleges.

“Guided pathways is a comprehensive framework that relates everything we do to student experience,” said Budge. “We hope to do a much better job identifying students’ goals, needs and interests, then charting a clear and coherent pathway to timely completion. That ensures that students need to be successful in their career and further education.”

Budge said they want students to know which courses to take and in which order that will optimize their learning and ensure they are not taking courses that do not meet their needs. This, he said, will help them avoid over-spending and wasting time. 

This March for fall priority 2020 registration, MCC is launching Guided Pathways 1.0. 

This includes accessible resources for housing, food, and financial needs for students and faculty. 

Second GPS co-chair Lindsey Pedersen said new students will be able to choose a field of interest and be guided from there to what they want their specific studies.

There are nine fields of interest divided into specialized degrees and certificates. The broad categories allow students who don’t have a specific path in mind to begin taking their core classes in that field of study, giving them time before they lock into a specific degree path.

“Even now, if you go on the MCC website you can select a field of interest,” Pedersen explained. “When you click on that, it gives you a list of pathways that the student can select what degree or certificate will best meet their needs. You also have a full layout of what classes are required for that degree and what classes you can take here before transferring to university. It’s all transparent.”

Each specific degree and certificate also breaks down career opportunities in that field with a description, salary, and employment growth projections. 

Pedersen is excited about the fields of interest and hopes each field grows as individual communities within the college.
“I love the idea of students feeling like they can belong,” she said. “They’ll get to support one another and focus on their common interests.”

“This is just the beginning,” Budge said. “It’s not going to be perfect the first time out, but it will be an improvement. We have a lot of work left to do. We love our students and want to make their college experience better and better.”

Pedersen said following versions will be about improvements and how students can benefit the most and be successful.

“We hope in later versions we will have tutors embedded in classrooms and more learning communities,” she explained. “All students are going to benefit from these pathways, not just new students.” 

Budge has worked at MCC for over 23 years and is passionate  about Guided Pathways. 

“We are doing this all because of you,” Budge said. “There’s a lot of us here who love our students and we just want them to achieve great things. Everyone deserves an opportunity for education, no matter your race, ethnicity, religious background or gender. Isn’t that supposed to be the mission of a community college?”

Pedersen urges students to use the new MyInfo application, free for students with Android and Apple phones, to access transcripts, schedules and financial aid. She also wants students to share their ideas on how to improve Guided Pathways at MCC.

To share your ideas, email Pedersen or Budge at or


  • Cristina Mills

    Cristina Mills is a United States Navy veteran that served five years as a Mass Communication Specialist. Upon leaving the military she moved to Arizona where she lives with her husband, Ron, and English Bulldog, Stella. Cristina attends Arizona State University and Mesa Community College where she studies journalism, and joined the Mesa Legend in January 2020 as the Features Editor.

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