Monday, April 27, 2009

Growing Pains

We are headed into our seventh (summer) and likely eighth (fall) consecutive semester with an enrollment increase - a streak not experienced for some time at MVCC. Despite the economic forces bringing growing numbers to our front door, my expectation is that this is not a streak but a strategic direction of managed enrollment growth. I recently created a charter for an Enrollment Management Council to review enrollment data and community trends to coordinate our efforts and, to the extent possible, manage enrollment rather than have our enrollment manage us. However, the current enrollment increases seem to be outpacing our expectations and testing some of our recently refined systems and processes.

With enrollment up between eight and nine percent this spring, faculty and staff have stepped right up and responded with proportional support and services for students. Thanks to some bold initiatives by a number of staff, we have implemented two critical processes that have changed the way we operate. Priority registration allows students with the most credits to enroll first to give them the best opportunity to enroll in those classes they need to graduate. In addition, implementing waitlists for full class sections allows us to track where the enrollment pressures are greatest and do everything we can to open additional class sections on demand. With these new processes in place, we're likely to see even more students this summer and fall (and on into the future) along with increased parking demands and substantially more students through processes designed perhaps for fewer students...something we need to think about very quickly.

Although this may be a recent phenomenon for MVCC, community colleges around the country have been experiencing periods of double digit increases throughout the last decade. Large enrollment increases will require us to be as creative as possible to maintain access for so many new students. It will also require that each one of us bring the best we have to offer to work every day and recognize that nearly every challenge will be best met through teamwork. Everyone will have to do their part and rely on everyone else to do the same - even more so than normal. It's times like these when I emphasize locus of control and sphere of influence. To keep stress to a minimum (for our students and ourselves), it's often helpful to reflect on what you can and cannot control and use your abilities to communicate and influence things you may not be able to control. Walking in each others shoes and recognizing the solution may seem simple from your perspective, but not as clear from someone else's viewpoint.

I've often referred to the importance of all of us working collaboratively in new and different ways. We've made progress with this these notions the past few semesters and have seen enrollment grow ever so steady, between one and four percent. Now that we're up toward double digit growth, it's time to really magnify and employ these skills - believing in ourselves and perhaps more importantly helping all of us believe in each other. If you have any thoughts or feedback on this post, please email me at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, April 20, 2009

MVCC and Stimulus Dollars - making a difference

Talk of the stimulus package is everywhere these days. The last time the federal government jump-started such a desperate economy it was called the New Deal. A few years later our College was founded. The New Deal and World War II transformed our nation’s workforce by pouring money into job creation and making higher education more accessible. MVCC and most other community colleges owe their early existence to these developments.

Fast forward to 2009 when the White House and Congress are again pouring money into creating jobs, retooling the workforce for new challenges, and making higher education more accessible. What does all this mean for MVCC? For one, federal stimulus funds have made it possible to restore the state-aid funds that Governor Paterson had proposed cutting from MVCC and other colleges. The stimulus package will also make Pell grants available to more of our students. Nationally, an additional $3.95 billion is being directed toward youth and workforce retraining with emphases on energy efficiency, health care and other high-demand fields.

Offices and departments throughout the College are working together to identify which credit and non-credit offerings are linked to stimulus priorities. Building on our productive partnerships with Working Solutions, the Workforce Investment Board and other agencies, we are tweaking these programs - and creating new ones - to meet abundant needs. To expedite commerce and hiring, faculty are collaborating to resequence courses and accelerate programs - - thus making them more accessible to those bumped from the workforce who can’t spend two years in a traditional semester format.

Staff are spending more time at local One Stop Centers, matching future workers with needed skills and funding sources to cover tuition and fees for students enrolling in MVCC programs. We’re conducting placement tests on site and will soon roll out a new math refresher course that is needed by many eager to be part of the emerging post-stimulus economy. Information sessions will be held for current students to help them take advantage of new programs and new funding.

I recently had the opportunity to join City, County and federal officials to announce five programs being launched locally with stimulus money to cover instructional costs, tuition, and fees. Three of five programs will be administered by MVCC. We will train youth to construct an Internet cafĂ© in the Utica Veterans Outreach Center; train another group of young people to construct retail space for entrepreneurs in Rome’s REACH arts and cultural center; and teach a third group to conduct and present environmental research on brownfields. Proposals to expand our capacity for healthcare training and green technologies are under development along with a half dozen other strategies to focus stimulus funding where it will do the most good.

So how does MVCC benefit from stimulus funds? We've already begun to do so, and more good things will come. MVCC is embracing change as we bring our programs and services closer to emerging community needs. If you have any thoughts on this, please let me know at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Diversity and a Global View

I've been using this blog to share different ideas I encounter as I continue to learn about the world around us and the shifts associated with that world changing in unprecedented ways. We hear from so many sources that the changes we're experiencing are making our world smaller and that we need to increase our understanding of diversity and expand our global view. In response to that need, MVCC has been working on a far-reaching Diversity and Global View (DGV) initiative that pre-dates me, so I've only tried to fan the flames so they burn even brighter.

This fall, MVCC added a new Diversity and Global View general education requirement where all degree-seeking students will need to satisfy the DGV requirement by successfully completing four tutorials, a DGV approved course and attending four approved events through our MVCC Cultural Series or other approved experiences. DGV sets MVCC apart from so many other institutions that espouse a commitment to diversity - we're bringing it to life through a fundamental shift in our general education degree requirements. Our Diversity and Global View Committee coordinates this significant effort at the College and will continue to refine our processes and procedures in the future.

The momentum created by the DGV initiative recently carried over to help make the 4th annual International festival at our Utica Campus a tremendous success. Thanks to the hard work of the International Initiatives Committee and a number of other helping hands, more than 400 students, faculty and staff learned a little more about each other, other cultures and themselves by attending the festival. I had the pleasure of welcoming everyone in the crowded event space in the lobby of our Blue Cross/Blue Shield Conference & Training Center. As part of the initial program, we had close to ten of our international students provide a welcome in their native languages, had a Buddhist monk say a few important words of welcome and then Mr. Khang sang a traditional Vietnamese song of welcome to get the event started. Mr. Khang is the Department Head of English at Kiang Gang Community College in the Mekong delta region of Vietnam. He is visiting MVCC for the entire month of April as part of the increasingly strong relationship between our two institutions and the ever-expanding diversity and global view efforts at the College.

The information booths, the music, the dancing, the smiles and welcoming atmosphere of our International Festival made the world feel smaller somehow; it made the world feel more personal, like all the change going on around us is just a reminder that culture to culture and person to person, we're all just people no matter where we are. If you have any thoughts on this, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Changing How We Think About Change

I recently attended the American Association of Community Colleges annual conference where a number of sessions confirmed for me that our Strategic Plan is guiding us in the right direction in these uncertain times. A number of sessions underscored just how much change we face as individuals and as community colleges. I saw a presentation that included a pretty interesting video on the speed of change.We know change is all around us in our daily lives when we read the newspaper…online, when we talk to distant relatives through our computer screen using skype – change is now a constant. However, in any organization change is not easy. Change is a blinking word that gets people’s attention. Change sets off internal switches that play against human nature and emotions that strive for stability and predictability.

Today’s most effective organizations are the ones that embrace change. Like my college golf coach once said, "let the wind be your friend - hit the way the wind is blowing, don't fight it, but make it work for you." I've always thought the same about change - work with it and make it your own, at any level. I believe positive change comes from intentionally shaping the future through ideas. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about where new ideas come from at the College and how they get surfaced. If we don't create an atmosphere of inquiry and conversation, our vibrant culture will never reach its potential. If we don't question our processes and find ways to problem-solve through more positive and collaborative means, these rapid changes happening all around us will consume us and pass us by in the next ten years.

Since our vision statement at MVCC speaks to meeting the rapidly changing needs of our community, we must work to reflect those changing community needs – making change an inherent part of who we are as an organization. In its simplest form, I think change comes down to mustering our collective will to make things better and continually working to close that gap between community needs and College programs and services. If you have any thoughts on this, please let me know at presblog@mvcc.edu.