Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Supporting Student Success

Similar to the Student Intake Design Team, the Student Support Design Team took their charter very seriously - to "research and explore ideas to make thoughtful and daring recommendations to significantly improve the student support system." The group went above and beyond in their efforts to research best practices at other institutions. The notion of "student support" can encompass a broad range of services and attributes of the College in providing the overall student experience. The Team did a great job of further defining their task and clarifying their focus to provide a set of important and meaningful recommendations that included:
  • Implement institution wide changes to Developmental Education.
  • Establish an Office for the First Year Experience.
  • In the Master Plan, include the construction of a multi use “Learning Commons”, centralizing all student supports.
  • Develop a strategy to create a culture of service learning and volunteerism.
  • Expand the services and staff of Institutional Assessment, Grants and Institutional Research, and Information Technology to collect information allowing data driven decision making.
  • The college should implement systems to promote student and academic department interactions aimed at building community. Each academic department should implement specific ongoing activities to foster and encourage student and faculty engagement that will promote a sense of shared academic experience, commitment to academic excellence, and belonging.

Some of these recommendations are already being incorporated into the updated strategic plan (coordination of developmental education) or the review of the organizational structure (capacity in the assessment, grants, and IT functions). As the College pursues the update of the Campus Master Plan, conversations surrounding facility needs related to academic and student support will be central to that effort. Other recommendations like establishing an Office of the First-Year Experience, service learning, and academic department connections will require some deliberation to find the right window for implementation.

Improving our student support system requires a strategic look and includes few "quick fixes". While some things can be addressed in the short-term, the emphasis with these and other design team recommendations will be to make the initial changes that will create capacity for even greater changes in the future. Thank you to all of the members of the Student Support Design Team for their efforts in completing their charter and providing the College with useful and insightful recommendations. A complete list of the Team's recommendations can be found at http://www.mvcc.edu/fcltystaff/involvement/support.cfm. Please review them and share any reactions or reflections with me at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Getting Students Off to a Great Start

Over the past few months more than sixty faculty and staff served on six different design teams to closely examine major administrative systems in need of review that were identified in the College Strategic Plan. Each team was provided a charter that set forth the purpose of researching best practices at other community colleges, examining our existing internal processes, comparing and contrasting the two and then making "thoughtful and daring recommendations". This is the first of six posts that will review the recommendations from each design team.

The recommendations for all groups have been posted on a website where people can review the charters, membership and recommendations for each group as well as a future placeholder where updates will be provided. The information regarding the Student Intake System Design Team can be found here - http://www.mvcc.edu/fcltystaff/involvement/intake.cfm (Click on the recommendations tab and scroll all the way to the bottom to see a summary of their recommendations.)

The task of improving our system for getting students into MVCC from the point of admission to registration can be a daunting and complex effort. However, looking at the recommendations as a whole allows one to take in the recommendations and see that much is possible - but that it will also likely take some time. One of the College's the Intake Design Team visited said they had been on a four-year journey of transforming the way they served students in these functions of admissions, placement testing, advising, financial aid, registration, and payment.

The Process Review Committee and the Executive Committee will be meeting next week to review these recommendations along with the recommendations from the Student Support Design Team. I fully recognize that the exciting recommendations from all six of these Design Teams have created a great deal of optimism for many at the College while simultaneously creating a certain level of anxiety - a natural byproduct of change.

This approach was the best way I could think of to take a comprehensive approach toward creating positive change at the College - to review our major systems all at once and create a context in which change can occur. As the budget revenue projections become more clear in the weeks ahead, the feasibility of many of these recommendations will also become more clear. What's exciting to me is that the recommendations don't offer a series of simple fixes but rather provide a roadmap for potentially transformative change. I appreciate the time and commitment of each member of the Student Intake Design Team for a job well done.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the recommendations - share them with me at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Staying Informed - What's Next?

The Accreditation self-study process is complete. The System Design Teams have submitted their recommendations. The Strategic Plan is almost finished. The budget is slowly coming together – very slowly with the delay of the state budget in Albany. We have a lot of ideas, a number of possibilities and a fair amount of energy and anticipation for positive changes yet to come.

With all of the expectations associated with the positive momentum one thing is clear – it’s not all going to get done in the month of June. The recommendations from the Design Teams and the initiatives outlined in the Strategic Plan set forth an important and compelling direction for us – direction that will take a lot of energy and time to fully pursue. It will be important that the College Senate be fully engaged to make assignments to various committees and work groups that will carry out whatever the next steps will be to keep things moving in a positive direction.

As different groups take up this important work, communication will be paramount. An idea that has been nurtured and further developed by the President’s Think Tank is a web resource that centralizes information with updates about various initiatives underway at the College. Thanks to Paul Graziadei, the College webmaster, for putting this together and for all of the team leaders and committee chairs for providing all of the information. Hopefully, the updates that will be provided on this site in the future will keep communication flowing and give everyone easy access to the latest information as the exciting developments come together on these various initiatives.

For now, the site is called the Employee Involvement System and it will likely evolve over time. The idea is that employees need to get involved to make all of these great ideas come to life. So this Employee Involvement System web resource is a way for everyone to keep track of what’s happening with everything. Take a look at the following link http://www.mvcc.edu/fcltystaff/involvement/index.cfm and let me know what you think at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Accreditation - an on-going process

Just as we expect our students to meet certain requirements to graduate, MVCC must meet certain requirements to remain accredited. We are accredited by the Middle States Association (http://www.msche.org/) - a status that allows our students to receive federal financial aid, transfer credits to other colleges, take their degrees to employers to get jobs, and benefit from federal grants that we would not otherwise be able to access. The process of accreditation is a tremendous opportunity for institutional self-reflection and growth.

This week is the culmination of two years of study, with more than 100 faculty and staff participating on various committees studying every aspect of the College's operation. Through the recent workshops, all full-time employees should be familiar with our self-study process but it's worth highlighting a bit here on my blog.

With an evaluation team of eight members from other community colleges on campus for three days this week, we are in the next to final phase of our self-study. We've gone through preparing for the self-study, organizing for the self-study, conducting the self-study, discussing the results, submitting our self-study, and then preparing for the visit taking place this week. Having been heavily involved in self-study accreditation processes at two other community colleges, I feel very fortunate to have joined MVCC at the tail-end of this extensive process. I also have great appreciation for the tremendous efforts on the part of so many who have done such a fantastic job in every phase of the self-study.

However, the final chapters of the best self-study efforts always remain unwritten until well after the evaluation team has come and gone. The final chapter is what do we do with the results of the self-study and the recommendations of the team. Keeping these recommendations in front of us to guide our priorities and future work not only makes the past two years of self study worthwhile, but sets us up for success five years from now when we have our periodic review and eight years from now when we launch a new cycle for self-study. It's a great feeling to think this cycle is done, but it's important to remember the cycle of continuous improvement never ends. For more information on our self-study process, visit the following link - http://www.mvcc.edu/selfstudy/.

If you have any comments about our self study, please let me know at presblog@mvcc.edu.