Monday, November 16, 2015

SUNYCON 2015 – A Window into the Future? (Part 2)

Like past SUNYCON agendas, this year’s theme of “Building a New Business Model for the Academy: Partnerships, Affiliations, Mergers, and Acquisitions” planted the seeds of what likely will grow into fundamental change for the SUNY system. 

The biggest question of all is, what change will that be? I don’t come by this prediction lightly, as it is based on my experience of the past four SUNYCON events. The conference provides an active learning environment with powerful speakers and “creative collisions” at the breaks to consider the shifting sands of the postsecondary sector and what will be needed for the SUNY system to clarify and pursue the change necessary for the future.  

Consider the SUNYCON themes and related subsequent actions over the years: 

SUNYCON 2011 – Universities as Economic Engines. Not too much later, we experienced the passing of the Start-Up NY legislation, and today we have 143 new companies that have created more than 4,000 jobs throughout New York. 

SUNYCON 2012 – Harnessing Systemness and Delivering Performance. We’ve seen continuous progress toward systemness with the work on shared resources, IT platforms, and the seamless transfer initiative. 

SUNYCON 2013 – Building a Smarter University: Big Data, Innovation, and Ingenuity. Not too much later, we saw the development of SUNY Excels and the Performance Improvement Plans. 

SUNYCON 2014 – Executing Change to Drive Collective Impact. Today, SUNY has more than a dozen communities with active partnerships in the Cradle to Career Alliance across the state. 

SUNYCON 2015 – Building a New Business Model for the Academy: Partnerships, Affiliations, Mergers, and Acquisitions. We shall see.

The not-so-subtle pattern of a connection between the SUNYCON theme and some significant forward progress within SUNY is an interesting signpost and source of inspiration for everyone to consider answering the Chancellor’s top ten questions sooner rather than later, because the future will not wait for us.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

SUNYCON 2015 – A Window into the Future? (Part 1)

I always find the annual SUNY Critical Issues Conference to be a mind-expanding experience as well as a divination tool to gain insight into the future before it unfolds completely. This year’s SUNYCON 2015 did not disappoint.  
While the panels and speakers were powerful and made for an action-packed, thought-provoking day and a half, it was Chancellor Zimpher’s context-setting welcome remarks that stayed with me. She told us that the sessions would promote new ideas and could be considered as an intentional collective brainstorming session about the future – and to get us started, she offered her “Top 10” considerations:
10. How do we meet students where they are? – Think of the convenience banking offers.
9. How can we create the equivalent of a universal student record? – Think of the move to a common individualized medical record in health care.
8. How can we right-size our college campus infrastructure? – 232 public and private physical college campuses in New York State … perhaps a few too many?
7. What are the implications of learning by doing? – Think of the power of simulations, internships, and service learning.
6. How do we best secure public/private partnerships? – Think of Start-Up NY and the countless partnerships throughout the SUNY system.
5. How can we better share resources for common goals? – Think P-Tech and the notion of “braided” funding that ties organizations together through integrated funding streams.
4. How can we better incentivize innovation and investment? – SUNY received more than 211 proposals of nearly $500 million in requests for the $100 million total available through the SUNY investment fund.
3. How can we incentivize changes in student behavior? – Think of the Finish in 4 program at the University at Buffalo or the notion of a possible Finish in 2 program for community colleges.
2. Is there anything to be learned from the for-profit education sector? – Think of their successes in recruitment and outreach.
1. How can we unpack quality and pitch our value proposition to the public?  - This underscores the need for higher education to find a better way to create a public message and unpack quality.
As the Chancellor shared in her 2015 State of the University address last January, we need to find ways to “become the best at getting better.” The answers to these 10 questions will move us in that direction. Finding the answers won’t be easy, and that message was reinforced throughout the SUNYCON 2015 agenda.  
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, November 2, 2015

From the Internet of Things to big data and the quantified student

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Hawk Vision group keeps an eye on the future for MVCC and identifies trends worth watching. This is the first of what will likely be several guest blog posts in the future that warrant our attention. Enjoy.

The Internet of Things is happening all around us, and it has been for some time now. It is a movement to connect physical things to the Internet and to each other through wireless technologies to form a seamless, coherent experience  (http://www.entrepreneurial-insights.com/internet-of-things-future-data/). The future of the Internet of Things raises questions regarding big data and what we do with it. There is much discussion about how everything connects through wireless technology, but what happens with all the data that gets collected? Is there a place for the Internet of Things in higher education? And if so, what? 
According to a white paper written by software company Oracle (“This paper provides an overview for the adoption of Big Data and analytic capabilities as part of a ‘next-generation’ architecture that can meet the needs of higher education institutions”) on enterprise architecture, “Institutions have traditionally measured students by grades and attendance. Students facing severe academic challenges are often recognized too late. Many institutions are now starting to look at Big Data solutions to better understand student sentiment (gathered from social media) and other aspects of the campus life experience. For example, sensors in buildings enable tracking of students and the time that they spend in the classroom, in their dormitory, in the cafeteria, or in the library. The effectiveness of their instructor can be partly determined by analysis of student sentiment. Problems can be detected and corrected earlier, with less dire consequences for all involved.” (For the complete report, click here.) Although written and researched by a for-profit company, the implication of the direction of one of the largest data companies is staggering. 
So does the Internet of Things begin to quantify our students? Can we use the examples of a quantified self to increase student performance and completion? What is quantified self and what data are used to quantify one’s self? Currently the trend in quantified self is using personal data, such as fitness trackers, calorie counters, etc., to track one’s fitness and health. According to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), “Quantified Self describes the phenomenon of consumers being able to closely track data that is relevant to their daily activities through the use of technology.” It is enabled by wearable technology and the mobile web. This is a notable trend because it gives us a glimpse of what our daily lives will be like in the near future, in which many of the emerging technologies that we are just getting used to – the mobile, big data, wearable technology – will come together for a seamless consumer experience. (Full article
Only when the Internet of Things, quantified self, and big data come together in a student profile can we begin to understand how much impact the data can have on higher education. In the near future, we will have to address how these three come together to better aid our students in study habits, health habits, and academic planning to truly enhance the entire student experience. The future beyond big data will be the true quantified self through learning experiences, and competency-based education through just-in-time learning and creating a fully quantified self that will serve as an e-portfolio of a person’s true qualifications and ability. The future of higher education will be credentialing competency-based education, experiential learning, and lifelong learning. Self-tracking websites such as LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) give us a peek into the future and the quantified self. 
Do you have any comments or questions about the Internet of Things and the quantified self? Hawk Vision would love to hear from you! Share your thoughts with us at hawkvision@mvcc.edu.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Anticipating the Future

The world is changing fast, and change in the world of community colleges (and higher education as a whole) seems only to be accelerating in pace and complexity. One question that might give many community college presidents pause is, “What mechanism do you have in place to anticipate the future and build capacity to position the college accordingly?” I’m proud to say that the Strategic Horizon Network is the primary mechanism for MVCC, and more recently, Hawk Vision is the newest piece to our future-anticipating puzzle.

Since 2008, MVCC has been a member of the Strategic Horizon Network (SHN), a small group of community colleges from the Eastern and Midwestern parts of the country that twice a year bring teams of faculty and staff together in fascinating colloquia. I like to call it common learning through uncommon experiences, because the premise of the network design is that in order to more effectively anticipate the future, we must go beyond the boundaries of higher education to get exposed to new ideas and concepts necessary to help us do so.

For example, about six years ago, SHN took us to California to spend time with IDEO – a design firm in the Silicon Valley that helped create Apple’s first mouse and several other products that have helped to change society. We learned about their use of design thinking. On the surface, one could say design thinking is a modern form of brainstorming, but it’s so much more: It’s a process to understand the root cause of an issue that needs to be addressed; it changes the problem-solving process by continually asking “how might we?” and adds the value of accelerated prototypes. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted design thinking as a necessary tool for creatively building organizational capacity for the complexities of the future – six years after our first contact with the topic. 

About five years ago, SHN spent time hearing from researchers on abundance and positive psychology work with the Gallup Strengthsfinder. The colloquium experience gave us a view of how it all applied in a food company in Ann Arbor where they operate eight different businesses (deli, creamery, bakery, restaurant, etc.) and explored similar application in the culture of Quicken Loans. Simultaneously, we began to more intentionally prototype our use of the Gallup Strengthsfinder with our employees and students. As a result, we launched the use of the Gallup Strengthsfinder with all degree-seeking students in our ED 100 College Success Seminar class, and “Strengths” is part of MVCC. This past summer, a Time magazine article focused on these topics and espoused that 457 of the Fortune 500 companies use the Gallup Strengthsfinder in some manner. In a world of growing similarities among colleges, MVCC students have a distinctive experience when they discover their “strengths” and learn how to apply them for personal and academic success.

Now we have Hawk Vision.  Similar to the InnovationWorks group at fellow SHN member, Montgomery College in Maryland, Hawk Vision is a small group of faculty and staff with a significant role at MVCC – to continually scan and explore trends that will shape the future of community colleges; identify where innovation is occurring at MVCC and find ways to amplify it and help bring it to scale. As the first community college in New York State, MVCC takes great pride in anticipating the future, and with the Strategic Horizon Network and Hawk Vision in place, we’re increasing our odds to continue that tradition. 

If you have any questions or comments on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Advanced Manufacturing: The Future is Now!

The headlines read that the jobs are coming!

Yes, more than 2,000 jobs will emerge from the developments at Marcy Nano and Quad-C with the recent announcements from Austrian company AMS and General Electric. It’s all somewhat overwhelming for a community that has been longing for news like this for more than a decade. 

What’s just as exciting is the skills in demand to fill these new jobs are many of the same skills that are already in high demand from existing employers. MVCC has been placing students at nanotechnology giant Global Foundries in Malta, N.Y., for a few years now – with our graduates receiving great entry-level salaries with opportunities for overtime and swift promotions with excellent performance.

Recently, MVCC participated in the extremely successful Advanced Manufacturing Day at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, where we had the chance to tour scores of high school students through our high-tech, state-of-the art labs. Until the recent announcements, advanced manufacturing has taken different forms in different business lines. From brewing to yogurt, and paper to machine parts production, there is a common set of skills that are essential to the heart of our local economy.

All of these skills can be acquired through enrollment and completion of our many degree and certificate programs related to advanced manufacturing. To learn more about all that MVCC has to offer for careers in the economy of the Mohawk Valley's future, just watch the video above.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Distinctiveness – the MVCC Cultural Series

The MVCC Cultural Series Fall Schedule recently hit mailboxes throughout the County. As I reviewed it, I quickly got my pen and started checking off the dates of the events that caught my interest – headliner Bill Nye The Science Guy; Sawyer Fredericks (winner of NBC’s “The Voice”); Filharmonic (from NBC’s “The Sing Off” and the film “Pitch Perfect 2”); Channing the mentalist; TEDxUtica, the Unspoken International Human Rights Film Festival; the Listening Room Concert Series and the Family Fun and Film Series at the Rome Campus; an actual naturalization ceremony of our newest citizens; and numerous other movies and performances that provide high-quality entertainment and thought-provoking experiences to help our students and community grow and learn together.

Over the past several years, my family and I have had the pleasure of experiencing some amazing speakers, performers, and musicians including:

Speakers – Maya Angelou; Neil deGrasse Tyson; Geoffrey Canada; George Saunders (2011 Time Magazine Top 100 most influential people); Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo; Elizabeth Smart; Captain Phillips (not Tom Hanks, but the real Captain); Arun Ghandi (grandson of Mohandas Gandhi); media expert Jean Kilbourne; and Tony Mendez (the real-life federal agent played by Ben Affleck in the movie “Argo”).

Musicians and Entertainers – “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips; Grammy winners Kacey Musgraves, Hot Chelle Rae and the Band Perry; chart-toppers Gavin DeGraw, Edwin McCain; Sean Kingston, and Shontelle; “America’s Got Talent” winner Kenichi Ebina and “AGT” finalist and MVCC alum, Leon Etienne and Romy Low; and comedians Brian Regan, “AGT” runner-up Taylor Williamson, and actor Rob Schneider.

These are just a sampling of what I’ve seen and experienced over the years through the incredible offerings of the MVCC Cultural Series. I continue to be amazed at the programming our Cultural Events Council develops and the first-class experiences our Events staff create. The entire Cultural Series is included in the student activity fee, so students pay nothing extra, and most events are only $5 for general community members. The MVCC Cultural Series is certainly a point of distinction for the College with significant advantages to our students and our community.

For more information, go to www.mvcc.edu/culture. If you have any comments or questions, you can contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What Do Dogs Do When They Catch the Car?

 The Mohawk Valley region did it – the future just got here really quick!  With the announcements of GE as the major tenant in the Quad-C and AMS working with New York State to build a chip fab, real jobs with real wages will come in quickly over the next three years.  If it’s anything like similar ventures (i.e., Global Foundries in Malta), those jobs will continue to come for a decade or more as things expand and accelerate.

With easily more than half of the projected jobs predicted to require less than a bachelor’s degree, many eyes are turning to MVCC for ensuring a trained workforce.  We embraced the challenge at our fall opening event for faculty and staff as we considered the multitude of ways in which we’re ready to rise to the challenges of a regional economic transformation.

And there is still time for people in the community to start working toward new nano careers right away. Our fall classes start Aug. 26, and we offer many opportunities to start right away on the degree, certificate, and training programs that will open doors to new opportunities.

We have the necessary programs – semiconductor and mechatronics programs to support advanced manufacturing; electrical service technology to support the complex machine tools used in the nanotechnology industry; HVAC to support the intense airflow environment of clean rooms; carpentry/masonry and welding to support the billions of dollars fueling the coming construction boom.

And we’ve been working hard to do our part in preparing the community over the past few years – shifting our collective view from a fixed mindset of scarcity to a growth mindset of abundance!  A few of our efforts we’ve pursued to prepare for this include:

  • Set nanotechnology education as the college’s number one strategic enrollment priority;
  • Launched Mechatronics Certificate (developed in direct partnership with SUNY and industry partners); hired a new, full-time mechatronics faculty position
  • Created and refined Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology associate’s degree (developed and updated specifically to cater to the needs of chip fab employers)
  • Updated curricula of Electrical Engineering Technology, Electrical Service Technician, and Engineering Science degrees to keep pace with developments in nanotechnology
  • Launched Nano Info Sessions to educate the public about careers and education options
  • Joined the MIT FABLab Network; opens the region’s first collegiate FABLab
  • Equipped a new Mechatronics lab and Hydraulics lab to train students on the kinds of equipment that will be used in advanced manufacturing, supported by $689K TAACCCT grant
  • Partnered with Oneida County Workforce to offer scholarships for students entering nano programs
  • Partnered with Workforce Investment Board to arrange student tours of nanotechnology facilities
  • Brought nano recruiters and industry experts to campus to interact with students
  • Launched Cybersecurity certificate and degree programs, to meet the evolving IT needs of the nano industry
  • Expanded non-credit offerings to meet nano industry infrastructural needs, like heavy equipment operator training, truck driving training, forklift operator training, etc.
  • Planning for expansion and relocation of carpentry/masonry program (pending approval) to better meet the construction needs of the industry
  • Acquired two new CNC machines capable of 5-axis and 3-axis machining, giving students hands-on experience with machines used in advanced manufacturing
  • Arrange and takes part in speaking opportunities throughout the county to engage youth in the growing Nano and STEM fields
  • Created Nano and STEM career camps for youth
  • Launched the Thincubator and Innovation Hotspot to assist new entrepreneurs in the region to keep pace with the market’s growth
So we’re ready.  And I can’t help but think of what dogs might do when they catch a car they’ve been chasing for a long time, they celebrate; catch their breath; and buckle up for the ride!

If you have any comments or questions, you can contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

FABulous Opportunity for Innovation

MVCC’s new FABlab is the latest addition in a long history of staying on the leading edge of technology. Founded as a technical institute in 1946, MVCC has deep roots in technical education, and our FABlab builds on that tradition to provide an incredible resource for our faculty, students, and community as the emerging high-tech economy takes hold here in the Mohawk Valley.

As part of a $15 million SUNY 2020 grant that created the Center for Global Advanced Manufacturing (CGAM) – a network of nine community colleges working with SUNY Poly – the MVCC FABlab was developed on the Utica Campus. It’s all part of providing resources for students to build skills and think of the possibilities to design, manufacture and produce products that add value to the local economy.

The MVCC FABLab is a member of the MIT International FABlab Network, which requires certain standards of equipment be maintained; participation and contribution to the Network; and availability of the lab resources opened to community members. This means that designs from all over the world can be accessed through the Network and printed and produced right here in Utica. In addition, community access means that local entrepreneurs can produce prototypes, and existing businesses can produce one-off parts to efficiently find solutions for their existing lines of operation.

With multiple 3D printers and various milling machines to complement our CNC lab and welding lab that are co-located across the hall in the Science and Technology Building, the possibilities are only limited by imagination. To check out more on the MVCC FABlab, click this link – FABlab

If you have any comments or questions, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Psychology of College Choice

As the school year winds down, high school seniors are going through an important rite of passage – what to do after high school? May 1st is the typical deadline for high school seniors to make their college decision, which makes the month of April a 30-day stretch of stress and anxiety in many households across the country. The high school graduation parties and summer family reunions will soon be here, and students need a story to tell when relatives ask, “so what are you going to do in the fall?” Sorting through the various aspects of a decision that has a significant effect on the trajectory of one's life can be overwhelming. Fully understanding the variables and the choices in play is a critical component to making the right decision that can help ease that natural anxiety.

Twenty years ago, I took a class called the Psychology of Student Success as part of my doctoral program. One of the topics covered was the psychology of college choice – why do students choose the colleges they do? The research was one of the most scattered, inconclusive bodies of knowledge I ever encountered in my studies. It uncovered variables such as familiarity (parents or sibling attended); academic program (when most students change their major multiple times); social reasons (high school friends are attending); and several other factors that held great influence over choosing a college but have little to do with the eventual satisfaction with the overall college experience.

At 18 years old, it seems unrealistic to think that we know exactly what we want in a college when the college experience is typically an unknown frontier in great contrast to high school. Sorting through the information is particularly hard when colleges seem to blend all too easily into an indistinguishable array of pretty buildings, smiling tour guides, and piles of information that can easily morph into a hodgepodge of ambiguity – leaving a prospective student to sort through marginal differences when trying to decide between colleges.

Our Vice President for Learning & Academic Affairs, Dr. Maryrose Eannace, always speaks about how a successful college decision is comprised of a triangle of choice in which all three points need to be satisfied – the head, the heart, and the wallet. If all three aren't accounted for, students run the risk of making a choice that may limit their immediate and long-term success. The head component is comprised of all the quantitative factors – location, enrollment size, academic program choices, campus life, housing options, and other specific things students might be looking for in a college. The heart component is comprised of the qualitative factors – emotional reaction to the idea of the college, the feeling when you walk around campus, first impressions when meeting faculty, staff, and students, walking through the buildings and visualizing spending the next few years there. And finally, the wallet component is as straight forward as can be – is the college affordable and how much debt may be a part of the future after graduation? Satisfying any two and not the third will create risk for success. If the wallet is satisfied (graduate with no debt) and the head is satisfied (all logical criteria are satisfied), but the heart isn't there (it just doesn't feel right and there isn't a connection), the likelihood of the student being engaged and committed is not good. Likewise, if the head and heart are satisfied but a student graduates with a mountain of crushing debt, it's not likely to have been worth it in the long run.

It's very difficult to tell an 18-year-old facing one of the most significant decisions in their life to this point that it will all work out eventually. Phrases like, “It's not so much where you start as it is where you finish” hold little weight when all that seems to matter at 18 is where you start. It might be difficult for 18-year-olds to tune out peer pressure, but in reality, the opinions of their high school friends probably won't matter as much a year from now. The important part is that they make that college choice and get themselves excited about wherever they go, because it's not so much the college that will make them successful as much as their own personal attitude and motivation to engage, connect, and finish that will.  

I haven't seen the most recent research, but I have my own theory about the psychology of student success – we all have the choice to make the best decision we can with the information we have and make the most of whatever experience those decisions provide us.  

If you have any comments or questions, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Silver Linings

I had the great pleasure of joining my family and some friends at the Kacey Musgraves concert at MVCC this past weekend at our own Robert R. Jorgensen Center. Our amazing Events Office partnered with Big Frog FM Country to bring Kacey to town. She’s a two-time Grammy Award winner and two-time Country Music Award winner who writes playfully vivid lyrics.  Kacey and her band gave a great performance and I emerged a new fan as her music provided me with a new lens on our world.

My academic training in organizational development often orients my mind to applying concepts and experiences – however disparate – to our College as a way to continually analyze and understand where we are.  One of Kacey’s hit songs is called “Silver Lining,” and I bought it the day after the concert. Some of the lyrics quickly brought to mind our current enrollment and budget situation. As she sings, “If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining, it’s gotta be a cloudy day. If you wanna fill your bottle up with lightening, you’re gonna have to stand in the rain.” Kacey captures the two sides of every coin paradox that certainly applies to where we are with our enrollment – as we now return to “pre-recession enrollment levels.”

We’re emerging from the Great Recession where the counter-cyclical nature of community enrollment was magnified in an unprecedented manner. From 2007-2014, MVCC had the 3rd largest percentage enrollment increase within the SUNY system (28%) and assumed the highest percentage of Pell-eligible and career-oriented students while maintaining the 5th lowest tuition and the 2nd lowest cost per student in the system. This was due in large part to the regional economic toll of the recession combined with our creative and aggressive outreach efforts – when people can't find work, they go back to college to upgrade their skills, and we were there for them. 

As the economy got a stronger footing in 2013 and people went back to work (the unemployment rate dropped from 9.7% to 5.5%), the declining enrollment impact was amplified by the fact that the high school graduating class was the first one born after Griffiss Air Force Base closed 18 years earlier in 1995. The subsequent overall drop in high school graduates certainly has had a negative impact on our enrollment, but ironically, the percentage of high school graduates in Oneida County attending MVCC has increased in the past few years, surpassing 30% this past fall.

While we were expanding enrollment 5% to 10% a year from 2009-2012, some wondered why we would pursue such growth knowing it could not be maintained in the long term. The short answer is that MVCC needed to be there for this community when it needed us most – during a once-in-a-century recession. The positive relationships and the community trust that was nurtured as the result of our response has been confirmed in a recent community assessment that involved nearly 900 individuals participating in interviews and focus groups.

From that assessment, it seems clear that we do have lightning in a bottle, but now we just need to stand in the rain for a little bit. And while the current budget makes for some cloudy days, the silver lining is that we have an abundance of partnerships, as well as a deeper sense of our core mission, to provide a trained workforce and educated citizenry through a robust array of workforce development programs and a heightened commitment to the liberal arts and sciences.

The future economic outlook for our community has never been brighter.  MVCC is now seen as a central catalyst to helping reverse four decades of economic decline in the next 5-10 years, as we collectively pursue a diverse high-tech economy that will be oh so sweet.  We have some challenging decisions to be made in the next few months to balance the 2015-16 budget, but as Kacey Musgraves sings, “If you wanna find the honey, you can’t be scared of the bees. And if you wanna see the forest, you’re gonna have to look past the trees.”

Those lyrics are on point as I think about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed. Cloudy days are all too easy to find here in the Mohawk Valley, but fortunately, the silver linings are getting easier to spot as well.