Only 39% of community college students earn a degree within six years. The challenge is particularly tough for low-income and first-generation students. Why? The pathway to a credential is fraught with twist and turns that make students likely to drop out and give up.
In 2011, Completion by Design set out to change that. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Completion by Design sought to improve the student experience so that significantly more students walked away with degrees and credentials. They started by selecting nine community colleges to lead the work, and continued by tracking and reporting on their progress over the six-year initiative.
Pyramid was engaged as Completion By Design's strategic communications partner to help with communications strategy and implementation, which included branding and design work. We knew that to be successful, they would have to set the right goals, tell the right stories, and build appetite for change in the field.
Establishing the Completion by Design brand
To set Completion by Design up for success, we started with communications planning and strategy, branding, messaging, a logo and style guide development.
Our work embodied the organization's philosophy of reform—learning is a journey, not a destination. The circular logo we designed echoes this. It complemented a bright, optimistic brand look and feel. We developed a website and more.
Completion by Design then dove into the real work—guiding their nine colleges as they tackled institutional culture change and transformed all aspects of the student experience. Along the way, we supported them by consulting on strategies to share lessons among colleges and designing print and digital tools to make them a reality.
Halfway through the initiative, Completion by Design asked us to help them tell the story of the initiative’s progress and lessons to the field. We designed a professional piece that told each college’s story and highlighted collective lessons learned for sharing with the field.
Developing a Knowledge Center
Over the course of the multi-year initiative, we developed a series of learning tools and resources. These were to be shared initially with the nine university partners, and later with the field — to encourage embracement of the initiative’s research-based change concepts. The resources were housed in the Completion By Design website’s "Knowledge Center," seeded first with a foundational set of resources that were steadily added to as the body of evidence and best practices grew.
Sharing their success
Now, four years into the work, Completion by Design is at a perfect moment to tell their full story. We’ve re-engaged with them to equip their nine colleges—including 50 community college leaders from three states—with the skills and tools to share their work and elevate their impact beyond their own campuses.
Dozens of community college leaders from across the country have already begun to reach out to the Completion by Design schools. Practitioners at participating schools are answering calls, giving tours, and sharing tools with other leaders who are eager to get the work of comprehensive reform started on their own campuses.