National VUB Training Workshops Held at TMCC

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
VUB Conference Attendees Image

Participants in the VUB Art and Science of Program Success professional development conference at TMCC traveled from as far away as South Carolina and Ohio.

The TMCC Veterans Upward Bound program conducted a two-day professional development conference on June 12 and 13 at the Meadowood Center.

“The Art and Science of Program Success” was a collaboration with the National Association of Veterans Upward Bound (NAVUB). Robert Hernandez, Director of Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) at TMCC led the workshops, along with fellow presenter Ken Mela, VUB Program Specialist and math and science instructor.

Hernandez and Mela offered training for 10 VUB personnel who attended from as far away as South Carolina.

“The VUB staff is highly commended for providing this professional development opportunity for our Association members,” said Leroy Chavez, President, NAVUB. “We are also very grateful to the TMCC administration for their excellent support of these efforts.”

Hernandez said he was eager to host the workshops.

“Program success as an art is an on-going process and the practice of being creative and flexible in designing services that are meaningful and effective for veteran student success,” Hernandez said.

He listed the five key service principles at VUB are:

  • Engaging the veteran
  • Co-creating an individualized plan of action
  • Empowerment through the development of academic skills
  • Help with the transition and integration process
  • Maintaining continuous support and monitoring progress

Day one of the conference focused on the art, the qualitative facets of connecting with new returning veterans many of whom differ in their mindset from veterans in the past because they are millennials who are more experienced in utilizing digital media. Existing programs must be updated to better recruit and retain veterans for the purpose of helping them to begin and succeed in higher education, Hernandez said.

Other topics considered were improving productivity by best practices in caseload management, creating collaborations with existing community organizations and techniques for monitoring and assessing program effectiveness and financial accountability.

Attendees received templates built with Microsoft Word to help them create a program procedures manual and an evaluation handbook adaptable for their programs.

“The workshop was excellent as it provided great ideas on how to improve our programs,” said Liz Beltran from Trident Technical Community College in Charleston, S.C.

Day two addressed methods for digitally maintaining data

Day two featured The Science of Program Success, a hands-on workshop in the VUB computer lab. It focused on quantitative data collection methods for monitoring student progress and demonstrating accountability. Data can help assess program outcomes, Hernandez said.

Attendees were trained in using Microsoft Excel as a software tool for organizing and reporting data about enrollment and to track veterans’ progress from their pre-college preparation through college graduation. Mela gave examples of charts and graphs that may be created for presentations and publications. He said that visuals can highlight program outcomes and illustrate veteran student success.

“VUBs have required data to report to the U.S. Department of Education in an Annual Performance Report,” Mela said. “These data can be used to demonstrate our successful operation and accountability not only to the Department of Education, but other stakeholders.”

The presenters have more than 50 years of combined leadership experience

Hernandez has served for 26 years as Director of Veterans Upward Bound at TMCC, assisting veterans become college ready. He has presented on veteran-focused topics, and leadership and management development at national and regional conferences.

Mela maintains TMCC VUB’s data for annual performance reports and has been a Program Specialist for almost 25 years. He has presented workshops at NAVUB, Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel (WESTOP), and the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) about data collection and analysis. Mela is currently the technical committee chair for NAVUB and maintains the outcomes data collection and analysis on all Veterans Upward Bound Programs in the nation.

“The synergy that happens when you are able to attend a face to face seminar is irreplaceable and cannot be duplicated elsewhere,” said Marjorie Morrison, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, Ohio. “The value of meeting like this multiplies exponentially as each of us return to our programs and share with our personnel.”

For more information about Veterans Upward Bound, call Hernandez at 775-829-9007, or Mela at 775-824-3803.