"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. I also author a practitioner-focused blog, provide insightful webinars & podcastsand create easy-to-navigate resources and tools to help educators learn about promising practices. 

Learn about coaching & training

Approach

- I coach as opposed to consult. The former helps people develop homegrown practices with buy-in and ownership; therefore, increasing the chances of successful implementation and sustainability. 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. 

- I believe that for institutions of higher education to be productive places of learning for students, they must also be for college personnel. 

 

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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 run my private practice for over a decade, serving 40+ 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.  

Contact me

"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 guided pathways efforts, laying the foundation for equity-minded, systemic change. The Continuous Learning Institute website resources are comprehensive and his recently established Student Success Podcast is sure to pique dialogue, thought, and action. Al's authentic, courageous, and forward-thinking approach is refreshing and is exactly what is needed to meet the moment. "

Dr. Julianna Barnes
President, Cuyamaca College

"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

"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

"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

"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 Solano 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

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