The 2021 Benefits for Success CTE Academy

The 2021 Benefits for Success CTE (Career and Technical Education) Academy is a one-year hands-on learning and design project for community and technical college CTE programs to maximize students’ use of vital benefits and resources. Designed to build on existing work at the college, the Academy will provide participants with new strategies to support student retention and completion through the design and testing of evidence-based solutions.

The application window for the Academy has now closed. Stay tuned for updates!


During this pandemic, students are struggling to stay enrolled in college. COVID-19 hits low-income and underserved students the hardest—the very students who could benefit most from a post-secondary education.

A key solution is to ensure that students take full advantage of the benefits and supports available to them. In this Academy, SCD will work with colleges to make sure that resources for students don’t go under-utilized. Maximizing students’ use of resources will help colleges make lasting changes to the ways they deliver services to meet current and future challenges.


SCD team will select three student-focused community college CTE programs to participate in the Academy. Participants will receive a specially designed toolkit, research support, and technical assistance to streamline student access to resources. There is no fee to participate in the Academy.

Through this work, participating colleges will have the opportunity to share and learn from each other and look to the future, identifying the best ways to integrate the student voice into their priorities and practices.


Participating colleges will develop resilient practices to support student success and respond in real time to COVID-related challenges. Participants will receive training in improvement science, allowing them to lead the way in developing innovative processes that streamline benefits access for students. By the end of the Academy, participants will have gained:

  • New and enhanced strategies to support student retention and completion goals
  • A deeper understanding of the current student experience: obstacles that students encounter, their needs and motivations, and their ideas for improvement
  • A stronger understanding of how students engage with benefits, resources, and supports
  • Experience using applied behavioral science, improvement science, and human-centered design techniques
  • Results from intervention testing to remove obstacles in student-facing processes
  • The capacity to address similar challenges in the future and support more students in need


Watch our info webinar to learn all the details about the Academy and the application process. Have additional questions? E-mail us at


November 12Live informational webinar and Q&A at 10 AM PT/ 1 PM ET. See recording above.
December 1 Deadline (optional): Send an email of interest to
December 18Deadline: Submit your application by 5:00 PM PT to
January 11-29Contact short-listed institutions to schedule and conduct interviews
February 15Notification of status
A group of community and technical college staff and faculty participating in a mapping and design activity


  • Academy Timeline: April 2021 – April 2022, with welcome calls and project definition taking place in March 2021.
  • Format and Activities: The Academy will take place virtually. College participants will work in teams of 3-4 and progress through the phases below. Teams will attend 5 training webinars and up to 2 virtual working sessions throughout the year. They will also receive monthly technical assistance calls from the Student-Centered Design team. Between webinars, participants will complete research and design activities to move their projects forward.
  • Who Should Apply:
    • This Academy is intended for community/technical colleges that wish to: 1) ensure that CTE students have equitable access to resources, 2) integrate benefits access work into their long-term strategies and operations, 3) enhance their CTE student retention strategies, 4) identify and close equity gaps.
    • Project teams should consist of staff and faculty members who administer and deliver CTE services, supports, and/or classes, and who wish to build capacity to enhance student supports by integrating learning and design tools and techniques into their work.


The Academy will take place between April 2021 and April 2022, with welcome calls and project definition taking place in March 2021.


Welcome Calls and Project Definition

Phase 1

Learn, Assess, and Understand

Phase 2

Collaborative Intervention Design

Phase 3

Implement and Test Interventions

Phase 4

Debrief and Agenda Setting for the Future


BNguyen Headshot

Bri Nguyen

Senior Consultant

Bri provides technical assistance to higher education and government partners to build capacity to deliver effective services that move people out of poverty. She also helps organizations evolve by leading change initiatives, designing and facilitating improvement processes, and developing high-impact programs. In 2017 and 2018, Bri ran a national learning academy to create new leadership capacity to build SNAP E&T programs across the country. As a facilitator and instructor, she delivers trainings that provide practical tools and real-life examples, drawing from her 15 years of experience in the public, non-profit, and private sectors.

Natasha Bennett

Research and Project Consultant

Natasha’s nine years of experience as a social science researcher includes extensive qualitative fieldwork and leveraging quantitative methods. Her substantive research interests include working with diverse and underserved populations to improve equitable access to social goods and services. She holds a PhD from UC Santa Barbara, and prior to joining SJI, she worked in higher education as a visiting assistant professor. In her spare time, she enjoys camping, visiting national parks, and playing bridge.


FAQ updated regularly

Q: Is my community college/technical college/CTE program eligible for the Benefits for Success CTE Academy?

A: Yes! All community and technical colleges nationwide are eligible to apply. This Academy is designed for CTE programs, so applicants should be prepared to focus on CTE students. However, the training, experience, and tools that you will receive in this program will apply to helping all students connect to the benefits, resources, and supports that they need.

Q: Is my college a good fit for this Academy?

A: The Academy is a good fit for college teams who want to:

  • Ensure that students have equitable access to resources
  • Integrate benefits access work into their long-term strategies and operations
  • Enhance their student retention strategies/improve student retention
  • Close equity gaps

Q: Is there a fee to participate in this Academy?

A: No, there is no fee for colleges to participate. Colleges selected to participate in the Academy will receive a stipend of $3,500 to help cover implementation costs. SCD will cover the cost of gift cards for student participants (see more about student involvement).

Q: How many hours a month should a college’s project team members expect to contribute?

A:  Participation in the Academy is a one-year commitment. The project team lead should plan to allocate 6-9 hours per month to this work. The lead will serve as the primary liaison between the college and SCD and ensure that the project moves forward. Other project team members should expect to dedicate about 3-6 hours per month. Activities will include attending webinars and calls, and participating in research, design, and implementation activities.

Q: How will students be involved?

A: Integrating the student voice is key to our approach, helping to ensure that college processes and practices serve students effectively. Students will be integrated into the research and design phases and may serve as focus group participants, survey respondents, and/or participate in mapping sessions. All student participants will receive e-gift cards.

Q: Where does funding for this program come from? 

A: This Academy is supported by the ECMC Foundation and Seattle Jobs Initiative. 

Q: What kinds of interventions and solutions can we expect to develop and test?

While the process will largely determine which interventions are most appropriate for your college’s context and needs, we use a combination of improvement science, applied behavioral science, and human-centered design techniques to develop interventions that can target student roadblocks and root causes. Interventions could include benefits enrollment process improvements, outreach improvements, stigma-reducing practices, and/or reminders and strategies to foster higher student engagement with resources and supports.

The Academy is intentionally designed to be a short-term one year initiative focused on rapid-cycle improvement testing. Within this time frame, we will focus on designing and testing low-cost interventions that will help participating college build the internal capacity to do this increasingly important work in the future.

Q: How should we go about building a project team?

A: To apply, we ask that you identify two key individuals to be members of your team: the Project Team Lead and a member from your college’s Leadership Team. Once colleges are chosen for the Academy, each college will add an additional 1-2 project team members. These additional members could include staff or faculty members from your CTE programs and/or staff who oversee the benefit or resource your college will target for this program work.

Q: Will there be an opportunity to collaborate with other participants?

A: Yes! We will be convening the group multiple times throughout the Academy in the form of webinars and working sessions. At these sessions participants will be able to work together, share notes and findings, and network with each other.

Q: What if we have other questions?

A: Drop us a line at and we will follow up with you! 

Have questions?