SWTJC Dean of Instructional Services and Chief Financial Officer Hector Gonzales has added a new title to his resume – doctor.
Gonzales successfully defended his dissertation before a three-member panel on Feb. 22 at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. He will officially be awarded his Ph.D. in Education, with a concentration in organizational leadership, during UIW commencement ceremonies this May.
A 1988 graduate of Uvalde High School, Gonzales earned his Bachelors Degree in business administration and accounting from Angelo State University in 1992. He went on to earn is MBA from Sul Ross State University in 1996 and received his CPA licensure in 1997.
Gonzales was hired at SWTJC in 1999 as director of accounting and controller. In 2003 he was named dean of instructional services and chief financial officer
"It's hard to believe that it has been almost seven years since I was accepted in the doctoral program at Incarnate Word," Gonzales said. "I took my first class in the summer of 2005 and have been working toward this goal ever since."
Prior to beginning work on his dissertation, Gonzales attended night classes in San Antonio to complete 66 hours of doctoral level classes. After finishing the course work, he had to pass written and oral comprehensive exams before being admitted to candidacy.
"Once admitted to candidacy you submit a dissertation proposal and, after it is accepted, then you compile your research and write your dissertation," Gonzales said. "My proposal was accepted in 2010."
According to Gonzales, his dissertation focused on researching how gaps in the developmental math sequence impact success in college algebra.
"Community colleges are undergoing a transformation. Historically, they have been focused on improving access to higher education; now the focus has shifted to student success," Gonzales said. "For community colleges, the key to this success must include reform and improvement in developmental education."
In his study, Gonzales used the fall 2004 first-time-in-college cohort of 885 students at SWTJC. Their record of enrollment in developmental mathematics courses over a six-year period was collected and analyzed noting each time a student had a gap or stop out in enrolling for the next course in the sequence.
"If a student passed a level in the fall, but didn't enroll in the next course in the sequence until the next fall, that would count as three gaps (spring, summer 1, summer 2)," Gonzales said. "In the final analysis, the results indicate that each gap increases the risk of failure by 1.5 times."
At SWTJC there are three levels of developmental mathematics: level one, basic mathematics; level two, elementary algebra; and level three, intermediate algebra. In the cohort used in Gonzales' study, 71% of first-time-in-college students were required to take developmental math classes.
"There have been lots of studies of success rates for developmental math students, and their success rates, depending on their entry level, are considerably lower than non-developmental students," Gonzales said. "My dissertation shows that the risk of failure increases significantly every time a student postpones moving to the next level in the sequence."
With the results of his research, Gonzales hopes to implement new policies to address eliminating as many gaps as possible to improve students' chances for success.
"Identifying the problem is the first step in the process. Now we need to come up with solutions. I believe we definitely need to be more prescriptive in advising students to avoid gaps in the math sequence, and I'd like to see some focus groups organized to help us determine exactly what is causing these gaps," Gonzales said.
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