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Ashley Bigard to Serve as Advising Specialist for Title III Block Grant

Ashley Bigard PhotoOlney Central College’s Ashley Bigard will serve as the new Advising Specialist for the Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Title III Block Grant.

The Title III program is supported in part by a five-year grant awarded to Olney Central College from the U.S. Department of Education effective October 1, 2018. The estimated total cost for all project activities is $2,506,775 financed by the grant award of $2,249,968 (90%) and $256,807 (10%) by Olney Central College. Grant initiatives include streamlining the college’s advisement process, redesigning the Information Systems Technology and Welding programs and developing an Unmanned Aerial Systems Program.

An OCC graduate, Bigard completed her associate’s degree in 2011. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with a minor in psychology from Eastern Illinois University in 2013. Bigard finished her studies at EIU the following year earning a master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis in family services. She has served as an advisor at OCC since April 2017.

In her new position, Bigard will work with advisors across the IECC District to implement intrusive advising and fine-tune the early alert system to assist students who may be facing issues in the classroom.

“One of the greatest ways to reach at-risk students is through the use of intrusive advising,” Bigard said. “It is about getting to the heart of what is causing difficulty for a student and recommending the appropriate intervention. Intrusive advising is an action-oriented approach to connecting and inspiring students to pursue assistance when desired. It is not ‘hand-holding’ or parenting, but rather active concern for students’ academic preparation. While most students know that they have an advisor, many are unaware of how and when they should make contact. The goal is for advisors to be intrusive without being intruding. Intrusive advising can improve the advising relationship while also encouraging student accountability and involvement.”

Bigard also will assist with the integration of new technology tools including the placement of a kiosk at both OCC and the West Richland Center in Noble. Students will be able to self-register and receive assistance with financial aid forms using the kiosks. The units are expected to be in place by August.

“The kiosks will really enhance the registration process,” Bigard said. “Students will be able to visit them and register for classes recommended by their advisor. They can set parameters allowing them to request morning or afternoon classes, whichever best fits into their schedule.”

Bigard also is examining the current Pathways curriculum, which assists students in successfully transitioning to college.

“We will be working to redesign the Pathways course,” she said. “I’ll be looking at different models that have been successful at other universities.”

Bigard is excited about her new position and the opportunities it presents.

“IECC strives to deliver excellent education and services to the students who attend,” Bigard said. “Although, individually everyone may have different interests in IECC, we work together to make every day possible. It is encouraging to work for an organization where each person has the same goal of improving the lives of our students. I look forward to being a part of the Title III Grant. I believe that the new programs we are building will not only provide better opportunities for our students, but will also strengthen our communities. I am excited for the opportunity to continue making a difference, and helping each student reach their goals.”

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