Skip to Content
Palomar College Learning For Success


Palomar College Guided Pathways

Category: Clarify the Path

Meet the 20/21 GP Pillar Leads

Wendy Nelson - Pillar 1
(Clarify the Path)

Alex Cuatok - Pillar 2
(Enter the Path)

Glyn Bongolan - Pillar 3
(Stay on the Path)

Sabrina Santiago - Pillar 4
(Ensure Learning)

Non-Instructional Partners

Pillar 1:
Dr. Nancy Browne, Manager
Student Success & Engagement

Pillar 2:
Steven Salter, Director

Pillar 3:
Leslie Salas, Dean
Counseling Services

Pillar 4:

Image Sources

  • Sabrina.Santiago.pic: Palomar Community College District

New Student Tools

Palomar College is offering new tools to help students clarify and stay on the path. Below you will find information about the Palomar Pathways Mapper, Starfish Degree Planner, and Starfish Early Alert.

Palomar Pathway Mapper

by Wendy Nelson

Palomar College launched the Palomar Pathways Mapper in June.  The user-friendly site begins with seven “meta-majors,” designed to help students narrow down their choices.  Each grouping leads to a menu of degrees and certificates. Once a student selects one of these options, they will find a variety of useful information that will help them reach their desired goal.  

Each pathway page provides an overview of the field:  

  • overview of the degree or certificate 
  • “learning outcomes” students can expect to achieve  
  • a range of salaries in related careers 
  • an industry growth outlook  
  • an easy-to-read, term-by-term course schedule 

There are several links to Palomar Pathways on the college website so students and community members can learn about the degrees and certificates available at the College. 

Counselors are also using the tool while working with students during counseling appointments. According to Associate Professor/Counselor, Karan Huskey, a cybersecurity student told her, “I have attended several local colleges, and this is the first time I really understand how a degree works.” Another student said, “I love the way this is hands on, and if I need to change a course from my educational plan, I feel like I’m more comfortable selecting my classes now.” 

The Palomar Pathways mapper will be updated annually to reflect new degrees and certificates.  The College is also working with CSUSM to improve transfer and graduation rates using the mapper tool. Students interested in starting at Palomar College and then transferring to CSUSM will soon be able to see a map of all four years - the first two at Palomar and the second two at CSUSM.  

Pathway Mapper - Palomar website view

Starfish Degree Planner

by Bethany Contreras

Starfish Degree Planner is an interactive tool that helps students be more proactive with their course planning. Coupled with meeting with a counselor, students can use Degree Planner to create a customized education plan based on their program selection, scheduling needs, and prior learning experiences if applicable. Starfish Degree Planner supports the Guided Pathways by helping students create a clear plan, make well-informed decisions, and provide Palomar College with valuable insights. To date, approximately 130 students have used Degree Planner. 

Sample view - Student degree plan

Starfish Early Alert

by Cindy Anfinson, Nancy Browne, and Kineta Rios 

Starfish Early Alert continues to expand usage and alerts in the fall 2020 semester. Until this semester, the Progress Survey feature has only been available for the 16-week full semester classes. It has been expanded in fall 2020 to include FT1, FT2, and the four-week classes. In response to the pandemic, several new alerts were added to address student technology concerns and textbook assistance needs. Faculty can use those alerts to direct students towards campus resources. When faculty raise an alert, student services staff are calling students and notifying faculty that the student was directly contacted. We call this closing the loop. 

The Starfish Early Alert website has been updated so the landing page is student focused. The faculty training PowerPoint is also available on the website, so faculty have access to the materials at all time. Regular trainings offered through Professional Development continue to be offered and the material is updated every semester.  

Students now have access to the Student Dashboard in Starfish. As part of our Pathway Navigation Grant, a Palomar Pathways Questionnaire was deployed last spring to strengthen new student onboarding. In the future, when a student completes a simple questionnaire on Starfish, student and academic support departments could reach out to them with information about services they are eligible for. There are also plans to test a new feature that will allow students to raise their hand, or ask for help, using Starfish. 

Starfish Early Alert Usage Data

Starfish Usage Data

Image Sources

Instructional Changes – May 2019

Instructional Changes

 by P.J. DeMaris, Jack Kahn, Najib Manea, Wendy Nelson, Travis Ritt


A significant implementation progress has been made integrating Ad Astra with our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).  Ad Astra is now fully integrated with Palomar ERP system that includes the VPN network, PeopleSoft, Email System, Single Sign-On (SSO) service, and hosts a complete Palomar Rooms/Spaces inventory. The on-site training and Design Strategy implementation phase is underway, and it will require a larger collaboration and integration.

The goal is for the Ad Astra Programs of Study/Pathways is to be created using the imported student historical data or managed manually. It will help determine demand for courses during Planner Analysis and Simulated Registration.

Image Sources

  • Step 1: Clarify the Path: Palomar Community College District | All Rights Reserved

Meta Majors – April 2019

Meta Majors

By Kelly Falcone, Wendy Nelson, Cindy Anfinson

The Spring 2019 semester started with two opportunities to learn about Meta Majors from experts in the field. First, Rob Johnstone led several workshops at Spring Plenary, and then we had the opportunity to learn from Maria Hesse, Vice Chancellor from ASU, and Camille Newton from Maricopa Community College District.  Rob, Maria, and Camille provided a good basic understanding about Meta Majors to start exploring what our Meta Majors could be at Palomar College.  Since March we have collected data from a college wide survey and conducted workshops.  Details of each are are follows:

Meta Majors Review Survey

To begin the Meta Major process we invited all employee groups to complete a Meta Major survey in which they reviewed the Meta Majors of several different colleges and provided us with feedback about what they liked and disliked (if you would like to participate in this activity click here). We want to thank everyone who provided their feedback!  We received over 100 responses which included 47% Full-Time Faculty, 33% Classified Staff, 10% Part-Time Faculty, 7% AA, and 2% CAST.  The responses allowed us to get a much better idea of what we like and dislike to help us prepare for how we will construct and present out Meta Majors.

Some of the key learning from reviewing your feedback is:

  • Presentation is key
    –  It is important for us to design a simple and easy to navigate website that uses pictures and video, is not too wordy, and does not take too many clicks.  The presentation needs to be inspiring and not feel like a course catalog. Most of you really liked how Bakersfield presented their Meta Majors and the tool they use is available to all of the CCCs to use!
  • Link to Career/Employment
    –  Meta Majors clearly linked to possible careers and income potential. Provide explanation of what students can do upon completion of program.
  • Easily Connect to Program Maps
    –  Students need to be able to easily and quickly see the program maps within the Meta Major.
  • Links to 4-year degrees
    –  Keep in mind the students pathway from Palomar to University.
  • Undecided/Transitional students
    –  Provide a way for our undecided students to choose a program such as “transitional studies”.
  • Ensure students can view their progress
    –  Important for students to visually see how they have progressed through their pathway.
  • Meta Majors called Academic and Career Pathways
    –  51.5% of respondents prefer the term Academic and Career Pathways. This was followed by Career Pathways, Palomar Pathways, and Areas of Interest.

Meta Majors Workshops

We held seven Meta Majors workshops for our employees; one during our monthly Chairs and Directors meeting, one during Faculty Senate, and five more workshops open to all employees to attend.  At these workshops the attendees worked in groups to sort our programs into Meta Majors and then name each Meta Major. The workshops were a great opportunity for robust dialogue about our programs and which programs we thought worked well together from a students’ perspective.  Some “aha” moments from the workshops was that it is hard! Many participants said how hard it was to try to sort our program into clusters. One of the difficulties was trying to break out of our current structure and think like a student. One participant said “it was hard to break out of our normal divisional structure and think outside the box, but once we did it was really fun!”  Overall, the feedback from the workshops was very positive; participants said it clarified to them the concept of meta-majors and they enjoyed working with their colleagues from different disciplines.


We are now conducting the Meta Major Card Swap activity with students!  We have 6 classes participating and have also had High School students participate.  After we collect and review all of the data we will present the findings to the college.

Image Sources

  • Step 1: Clarify the Path: Palomar Community College District | All Rights Reserved

Communication and Professional Development – March 2019

Guided Pathways Workshops Well-Attended

By Kelly Falcone, Wendy Nelson, and Justin Smiley

The 316 employees who have attended Guided Pathways Professional Development trainings account for 597 completed trainings!  We were very happy to see every employee group represented in the GP training which included: 138 PT Faculty, 129 FT Faculty, 28 Classified Staff, 16 CAST/AA, and 7 Short-Term Employees.

To begin engaging the entire college in Guided Pathways, the PD Office offered several workshops at the Fall 2018 plenary.  In the Fall our Guided Pathways training began with two pre-plenary days facilitated by two GP experts, Dr. Maria Hesse, Vice Provost for Academic Partnerships at Arizona State University (ASU), and senior research scholar, Dr. Davis Jenkins.  At our all-college plenary we had an amazing keynote by Dr. Pedro Noguera who helped us to see how GP would help us to reduce equity gaps at Palomar College.  After hearing from these amazing academics, employees were invited to attend an “Introduction to Guided Pathways” workshop. At this workshop the GP team shared with the college what GP is, why we are doing it, and some of the actions we would be taking.

Continuing with the focus on Guided Pathways throughout the Fall semester, the GP team led additional “Introduction to Guided Pathways” workshops and offered 10 Coffee Talks to provide an opportunity for employees to have informal conversation about GP.  In addition to this, the GP team offered to attend department meetings to provide information about GP and answer questions.

Guided Pathways continued to be a focus of our Spring 2019 All-College Plenary.  Dr. Rob Johnstone, from the Center for Inquiry and Improvement, led two workshops and a keynote talk.  Dr. Johnstone helped us begin our institutional conversation about Meta Majors.  During the first week of school we continued the discussion about Meta Majors by again inviting GP scholars to visit the campus.  Dr. Maria Hesse, from ASU, and Dr. Camille Newton, from Maricopa Community College District shared with us how they developed Meta Majors and how they collaborated to develop a pathway from Community College to University.

Image Sources

  • Step 1: Clarify the Path: Palomar Community College District | All Rights Reserved

Mapping & Meta Majors – March 2019

Mapping & Meta Majors

By Kelly Falcone, Wendy Nelson, Travis Ritt

Department Chairs and discipline experts created 200 degree and certificate maps during the fall semester.  Counselors will review the maps this spring to ensure that general education and degree requirements are correct. The maps will be available to students during the fall semester. The maps will also be used to help the College create its Meta-Majors through analysis of shared courses across degrees and certificates.

Meta Majors are educational programs that have related courses and/or requirements. They include courses that meet academic and/or industry requirements across several disciplines and specific programs of study. Meta majors help students identify a program pathway that aligns with their interests, knowledge, skills and abilities. Enrollment and completion of meta-major courses guide students through initial foundational requirements and into more specific programs of study.

Please consider taking our Introduction to Meta Major Survey. In this survey you will review the work done by a few colleges who have already designed and implemented Meta Majors.  Please take a few minutes to see what these schools have done and give us some feedback about what you like and disliked. To complete the survey go to:

Image Sources

  • Step 1: Clarify the Path: Palomar Community College District | All Rights Reserved