"Al helps get you to the crux of what’s blocking progress. Using a methodical model that encourages dialogue, understanding, and accountability, he enables team members to arrive at solutions that are contextually sound and stakeholder-owned. That makes the change efforts take hold. Al gives feedback that is frank and direct, unfettered by politicized campus narratives. While forthright, Al is also generous, amiable, and ethical."

Dr. Beatriz Gonzalez
President, Wolfson Campus, Miami Dade College

Hi! I'm Al.

Founder & Higher Ed Coach at the Continuous Learning Institute. I use my expertise in coaching, facilitation, training, and project management to support institutions of higher education to effectively plan and implement homegrown practices to improve student success and equity. Areas of support include and are not limited to:

- Executive, middle management, and faculty coaching to improve team performance
- Reducing equity gaps through instructional inquiry & action by improving pedagogy practices
- Guided pathways implementation with equity impact
- Ed master planning & strategic planning
- Grant implementation support

My work has been studied by Columbia University's Community College Research Center (CCRC).

Findings demonstrate that my coaching and inquiry & action model improves college teams' culture and outcomes.

I also give back to the field by providing free resources at the Continuous Learning Institute website to help college educators improve their craft.

Approach

- I coach as opposed to consult. The former helps educators develop homegrown practices; therefore, increasing the chances of successful implementation. The latter tells people what to do. 

- I'm a strong believer in kindness. A meaningful test of success in life is how helpful we are in contributing to our fellow human being’s happiness.

- I help institutions with what I call the "Three Cs": Clarity, Coherence, Consensus. Without setting the conditions for relentless clarity and coherence, consensus ultimately fails to occur and priorities such as closing equity gaps and nurturing a culture of continuous improvement fade and never take root. 

Most of my work is as an embedded coach. I'm neck deep in college settings (a time and a place to get important work done) using my inquiry & action process to move college teams into meaningful ACTION. 

Background

- New York City kid whose first language was Spanish with mediocre high school grades ends up at Cornell University thanks to the community college system.

- I was a returning student after serving in the Marine Corps. The humanitarian deployment to Somalia in '92 had a significant impact on me and sparked my interest in education.

- I started my career in K12 teaching and school management, including serving on a research, development, and implementation team (founded by Stanford & UCLA researchers and school practitioners) that coached principals and teachers nationally. 

- I began working at colleges in the early 2000’s, leading large-scale grant planning and implementation efforts that increased student success.

- I've operated my coaching practice for 15 years, serving 50+ institutions to support the planning and implementation of small, medium, and large-scale initiatives.

- Along the way I earned a doctorate in education from UCLA. I appreciate research and scholarship, but I'm first and foremost a practitioner. My most meaningful training for my work was growing in NYC, constantly working to resolve conflict and facilitate conversations as a kid. The benefits of martial arts has played a significant positive role in my life. My good sense of humor is often the pole that adds balance to the steps as I walk tight ropes.  

Slides: Work with Campuses

Supporting institutions to effectively plan and implement homegrown practices to improve student success and equity.

"Dr. Al is a consummate professional with amazing insight and knowledge which he openly shares with higher education leaders and practitioners. Cuyamaca College had the privilege of working closely with him for over a year as part of our student experience redesign efforts, laying the foundation for equity-minded, systemic change. The Continuous Learning Institute website resources are comprehensive and his Student Success Podcast piques dialogue, thought, and action. His authentic, courageous, and forward-thinking approach is refreshing and is exactly what is needed to meet the moment. "

Dr. Julie Asperin Barnes
Chancellor, South Orange CCCD (former president, Cuyamaca College)

Services Q&A

When I work with colleges we establish settings--a time and a place for educators to get important work done. I'm in embedded in all of the settings to coach them from planning to implementation. It's not a monthly check-in call or "parachute in when needed" model. I'm present at your settings to help you get results. College teams own the data-informed projects they decide to implement. I don't tell teams what to do. I coach them to implement homegrown practices. Embedded coaching is a long-term support service. Colleges sign up for a minimum of six months.

Depending on the needs of the institution, I often use my 6-Step Inquiry & Action team model. The model ensures that teams don't get stuck on data analysis, talk, planning to plan, more data analysis, more talk, and instead move into meaningful ACTION.

Generally speaking, services are categorized into three areas:

Strategy Design | Organizational Change | Implementation Support

Within these areas I provide:
- Executive, middle management, and faculty coaching to improve team performance
- Reducing equity gaps through instructional inquiry & action by improving pedagogy practices
- Guided pathways implementation with equity impact
- Ed master planning & strategic planning
- Grant implementation support

Yes, I'm often asked to provide short-term trainings, facilitations, and keynotes.

For a variety of unfortunate reasons, bullying and dysfunction are very real at colleges. Centering kindness improves the culture over time and makes people feel valued and productive.

Helping You Get Results

Contact me to schedule a complimentary video conference or call to learn about your campus needs.

"My work on the Inquiry & Action team has been some of the most exciting, productive, and encouraging collaboration I have experienced during my time at LBCC. Dr. Al has been invaluable in exemplifying effective group leadership and providing strategies for moving forward and implementing positive change in our team and as a college, giving us all energy and impetus to truly make a difference for students. I’d also like to add that our team work has stood out as a space where I, as an underrepresented minority among faculty, have felt truly heard in a collegial group. The cultural shift and constructive energy are palpable! "

Geneva Chao
English Faculty, Long Beach City College

"Dr. Al’s work with our college and teams has been transformational in building capacity, improving culture, supporting our Inquiry and Action Teams, and in encouraging deep reflection for leaders to lead courageously and intentionally. He has a keen way of moving the dialogue to focus on the central issue, rather than the noise which prevents institutional progress. Our work is absolutely more mission-centered and equity-focused through Dr. Al’s coaching, and we are seeing the results with greater impacts on student success and completion. "

Dr. Marsha Gable
Vice President of Student Services, Grossmont College

"Dr. Al provides college leaders with powerful insights for advancing culture change and continuous improvement efforts. Now more than ever, leaders must contend with the internal and external factors that impact institutional viability. Dr. Al engages our thinking, encourages reflection, and inspires our teams to reach peak performance so that the students we serve will get the educational experience they need to help them live the lives they deserve."

Dr. Michael Baston
President, Cuyahoga Community College, OH

"Collaborating with Dr. Al proved transformative when I was at San Jose City College. His expertise and guidance were pivotal in accelerating our progress, overcoming a two-year guided pathways setback. His approach not only fostered collaboration and a bit of fun, but also provided us with a practical roadmap and methodology to improve student access, retention, and completion rates. "

Dr. Lena Tran
President, Columbia College

"Over the last few years, I’ve sincerely enjoyed working with Al as we worked on institutional transformation using a guided pathways framework. Al’s coaching approach is one that creates a space for reflective, equity-minded and powerful dialogue that leads to action."

Dr. Angelica Suarez
President, Orange Coast College

"Dr. Al is extraordinarily skilled in helping colleges implement complex, whole-college student success reforms like Guided Pathways. If your college wants a coach who can break down the change process into clear steps and help you organize teams to design, plan and execute improvements in academic programs, teaching and student support services, Dr. Al is the one to call. "

Dr. Davis Jenkins
Co-Author, Redesigning America's Community Colleges; Senior Research Scholar Community College Research Center, Columbia University

"Dr. Solano’s unique style transforms institutions, enabling college leaders to manage change in a manner that supports faculty efforts to foster success, equity and inclusion. With Dr. Solano’s help, Allan Hancock College has made great progress toward building pathways for students that will have a lasting impact on our community."

Dr. Kevin Walthers
President, Allan Hancock College

"Dr. Al's honest candor is refreshing and so needed during this time. He knows how to balance truth with kindness in the only way an amazing coach can. In my time as a Guided Pathways Regional Coordinator, I noticed many of the schools that were further along in their GP collaboration and implementation process had been coached by Al. When I reached out to inquire about the structures he helped to build, he was extremely generous with his time, energy, and talents. He continues to be instrumental in coaching so many through what can be cumbersome improvement journeys. His hallmark Three C's: Clarity, Coherence, Consensus are exactly what colleges need to implement any goal. Moreover, he continues to bless the field with free, accessible, practitioner-focused resources that are easily digestible and ready for application. Any educational institution looking for guidance and support for change would be wise to seek his support!"

Libby Curiel
Speech Professor, Rio Hondo College

"Al worked closely with us to plan and implement a session to help us build a structure for guided pathways inquiry. His session was highly engaging, challenged us to think critically, and ensured that we achieved the outcomes that met our needs."

Dr. John Hernandez
President, Santiago Canyon College

"Dr. Al's collaborative and inclusive leadership style is highly effective. His facilitation of our 3-day summit was highly engaging. It propelled our work and his continued coaching support has ensured that we maintain a steady momentum."

Marie Vicario-Fisher
Faculty, Health Science & Environmental Technology, Former Acting Special Assistant to the President, Southwestern College

"I am instinctively unsympathetic to consultants who, in my experience, are slow to listen and quick to tell colleges what to do. Happily, Al has been a complete exception to that experience. Al listens attentively, respectfully, thoughtfully—and then draws on his significant experience with a wide range of colleges to indicate what peers having success with and which might be transferable to other colleges. In my experience, Al never tells a college what it should do, but engages in reflection on what it might do and how various approaches might equally well address college challenges. I have always found conversations with Al thought provoking and well worth the time spent."

Dr. Richard Mahon
Vice President of Instruction, Mt. San Antonio College

"Dr. Al understands and genuinely appreciates participatory governance and the critical roll faculty play in shaping reforms such as Guided Pathways. He brings an array of tools, resources, and coaching skills that are tremendously valuable to our work. We engage with him extensively and he makes himself available at a moment's notice. The level of communication is unparalleled."

Dr. Martha McDonald
Vice President, Student Services, Citrus College

"Dr. Al helped secure two NSF grants that support our STEM field of study and a Title V HSI to support teacher education. He listens to our needs and is an effective communicator and consensus builder."

Dr. Par Mohammadian
Faculty, Life Science Vice Chair/Allied Health Director/NSF PI, Los Angeles Mission College

"Dr. Solano provided our college with exactly what we needed to help effectively kick start our Guided Pathways planning and implementation efforts. His expertise and experience helped guide our campus to determine the best approaches to get our college moving in the right direction, ensuring that we bring all faculty and staff along, and to be strategic in our planning process. Dr. Solano provided meaningful activities that helped our college administration, faculty, and staff remain centered on students, work collaboratively, to think about how we want students to experience our campus, and to understand the importance of this work in creating equitable outcomes for all students. I have a deep respect for Dr. Solano as someone who thinks deeply about his work, the planning process, as well has his ability to helping campuses clarify and carry out their visions and goals."

Dr. Steve Bautista
Counselor, Santa Ana College

"Our campus participated in a regional integrated planning workshop that Dr. Al led. We were so impressed with the session that we invited him to Diablo Valley College to assist us with integration work and trainings. He didn't disappoint! Don't expect "sit and get" sessions with him. He'll facilitate groups to do productive and meaningful work. It says a lot about his abilities when he can keep a group motivated and engaged from morning until the end of the day!"

Dr. Mark Akiyama
Faculty, Diablo Valley College, Psychology & Chair, Student Equity Committee

"Dr. Al provided us with exceptionally well-received customized trainings based on our needs. Our "why, what, how" of Guided Pathways session helped us create the planning structure that best suited us to move forward. In addition, he helped plan and conduct a student panel that helped to give additional meaning to the subsequent meta-major sorting activity with faculty and staff that he facilitated. We appreciate his approach of planning and executing with us instead of to us."

Dr. Mary-Jo Apigo
Dean, Teaching & Learning, West Los Angeles College

"Al remains a trusted partner of the RP Group as reliable project managers and effective facilitators are a valued commodity. "

Dr. Darla Cooper
Executive Director, The RP Group (higher ed research & planning nonprofit)

"Al is a collegial problem-solver who knows how to communicate and collaborate effectively. I appreciate his brief, highly practical articles that help institutions plan and implement effective practices. "

Rita Karam, PhD
Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation

"Al was very effective in working with faculty in the college to lay the foundation for meaningful strategic planning work. He has also served as project lead for online course development for professional development opportunities for instructors at community colleges and so he has helped us enormously to strengthen our ability to serve our community college partners."

Dr. Cheryl Ney
Dean, Charter College of Education, California State University, Los Angeles

"Al secured $3.8MM in state and federal grants to boost our dual enrollment efforts and basic skills revamp. In addition, he was instrumental in helping us understand gaps in our program review process in order to improve its structure and processes."

Carlos Ayon
Dean, Business, CIS, Economic & Workforce Development (former Director of Institutional Effectiveness), Fullerton College

"I'm thankful for Al's dedication in spreading kindness and his expertise across our educational field. It is always a pleasure to receive his emails as they are resourceful, relevant, and always invoke a positive tone while calling for us to engage in transformational work."

Dr. Monica Green
President, Norco College

"Dr. Al is a trusted coach. The resources he curates are always on point and on time. He has a talent for pinpointing the challenges we face implementing campus-wide initiatives and then providing frameworks to help move stakeholders from conversation to action in an inclusive and thoughtful manner. He stands out from other consultants by centering equity in his practices, even making his resources freely available, which is greatly appreciated by those of us working at small colleges with limited resources serving high needs students."

Dr. Mayra Padilla
Dean, Institutional Effectiveness & Equity, Contra Costa College

"I am very grateful to have Dr. Al as a colleague. He has a deep understanding of critical needs in the community college space and provides online resources, solutions, and tools that are both informative and timely. Dr. Al’s commitment to kindness is key to the work we do with our students and employees from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs."

Dr. Alka Arora Singh
Associate Vice Chancellor, Enterprise Performance Office, Maricopa County Community College District

"Change on a college campus is frequently met with opposition, but with the guidance of Dr. Al the process of implementing Guided Pathways has been a positive experience. Primarily because of Al’s approach. He is a coach and not a consultant! I have been so impressed with his ability to help people see beyond the 'weeds in the field' and narrow down the steps needed to make critical changes. Our campus has grown in so many ways thanks to him!"

Dr. Lisa Brewster
Communication Faculty & Guided Pathways Coordinator, Miramar College

"It was a pleasure working with Dr. Al during the building phases of a new Title V grant proposal. Al’s expertise in practitioner focused interventions to support higher education institutions as a means for improving success and equity, had particularly informed the work of our institution. Al’s innovative strategies for building cross-collaboration on campus is unquestionable. The level of professionalism and expertise in institutional programming that we received was exceptional."

Dr. Angélica M. González
Title V Grant Implementation Expert; Chicano/a Studies Faculty (Various Colleges)

"It was a pleasure to work with Al during the application and receipt of Cypress College's successful Title V grant. Dr. Solano helped us create an environment for brainstorming our critical needs, and then provided technical assistance as we honed our ideas into a grant proposal. His expertise was critical in our successful application and he has continued to coach and assist the college prepare for a successful implementation. I wouldn't hesitate to ask Dr. Solano for assistance again and appreciate the thought and care that went into his guidance and support throughout this process."

Dr. JoAnna Schilling
President, Cypress College

"Dr. Al has been an invaluable asset to our GPS2 (Guided Pathways for Student Success) efforts! His demeanor, approach, knowledge, experience, insights and patience have been critical to helping our institution embrace the GP framework as a whole. Frankly, it’s more about WHO he is and HOW he works with us that has been the most helpful in his gaining the confidence and respect across our employee base (not just in Student Affairs and Academic Affairs). His expertise comes as a bonus in the package because he’s already gained the trust of many potential CAVE dwellers (Colleagues Against Virtually Everything), through his considerate and humble approach."

Dr. Joan Williams
Vice President, Student Affairs, Southeastern Community College

"(1) Working with Dr. Al uncovered the students that need the most assistance in succeeding in our course and research-backed methods to do so. The process was very smooth and we are coming up with ways to have more success in our course. (2) Dr. Al was wonderful to work with. Attentive and welcoming always, he provided a steady leadership presence with a wealth of knowledge that greatly helped to direct the team's energies and keep everyone focused on the important things. (3) Dr. Al is extremely knowledgeable and has been an instrumental guide through our process of establishing more equitable teaching practices. His positive attitude and focused, constructive critique during the development of our CAP (meta-major) team were critical for our success. (4) Dr. Al is a master like no other at getting groups to commit to a project, build respect through teamwork, clear expectations & communication! (5) Dr. Al is able to guide our group by supplying us with various perspectives, asking us to hone in on certain problems, and listening to one another. Step by step he leads us through inquiry in a very productive and collaborative way. (6) Dr. Al is an amazing facilitator. I love the tone that he sets in the group--he creates an atmosphere of collaboration and inquisitiveness. He centers equity in all data inquiry and action efforts. I am also really impressed about how he has made data inquiry and analysis so approachable when sometimes it can be intimidating. (7) Instead of just talking abstractly, Dr. Al gives very concrete examples so that all faculty and staff can clearly see how we can actually take action and implement changes."

Faculty Participating in Inquiry & Action Teams
Santa Barbara City College

"Dr. Al is Lin-Manuel Miranda's 'Alexander Hamilton'--he's nonstop! Always thinking, writing, creating, implementing, and pushing the field to continually improve."

Dr. Rob Johnstone
Founder & President, National Center for Inquiry & Improvement

"Irvine Valley College worked with Dr. Al to help us with our Completion Teams implementation on the recommendation of several colleagues who had worked with him at previous institutions. As a general skeptic of “coaching,” I was a little cautious to move forward; however, to my great delight and surprise, my skepticism was misplaced. He helped us solidify a working model for our Completion Teams, provided materials to help our teams start their inquiry-to-action process, and helped me as a Guided Pathways lead to better clarify and implement our many other Guided Pathways goals. In addition, Dr. Al provided professional development for our campus with leadership and classroom planning workshops, and led retreats for several student services offices. His guidance, support, and endless patience helped me as the Guided Pathways lead, and our campus, move our efforts forward. "

Rebecca Kaminsky
English Faculty & Guided Pathways Lead, Irvine Valley College

"I am occasionally so impressed by someone that I find it difficult to write feedback that adequately expresses my confidence and appreciation without sounding unrealistic. Dr. Al is such a person. He is, quite frankly, one of the most truly brilliant and global-thinking individuals I have ever known. He is a powerful facilitator who not only evidences exceptional problem-solving skills and has a crystal clear grasp of the subtleties of organizational change combined with "the big picture” of education, but who also has a huge heart, and who genuinely hears everyone’s input, confirming to every team member that he or she is fully involved and valued. Despite his genius, he is unshakably ethical, and extremely humble. He seeks feedback, and clearly changes and grows from all of it. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that our meetings with him were uniformly fun and productive. I have sometimes wondered when and how he humanly accomplishes as much as he does."

Dr. John Bartelt
University of La Verne Professor of Education & Community College Instructor

"I often refer to Dr. Al’s resources. As we continue to redesign our work and support for students, his recommendations for organizational success strategies are very timely. His approach to continuous improvement and culture change can bring transformational and impactful outcomes for our students and team members."

Dr. Frances Villagran-Glover
President, Houston Community College, Southeast College, TX

"Dr. Al's insights and processes help support our integrity in meeting our mission of positively impacting student success."

Dr. Pamela E. Scott-Johnson
Dean, College of Natural and Social Sciences, California State University Los Angeles

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