Monday, January 25, 2010

Springing Forward

A number of exciting events always mark the start of a new semester. Among many activities last week, I had the opportunity to welcome students at New Student Orientation; talk with staff facilitating our first-ever academic recovery program for students; and help a few students find their way to an office or classroom. One of my favorite experiences of the week though, was meeting the incoming cohort of new employees for the spring semester. By way of welcome, I found myself talking about our vision and mission statements and the five priorities of our Strategic Plan - not just reciting them, but exploring the ways in which I see them coming to life every day. In particular, our vision statement has been carrying me through much of the fast-paced activity and collective effort of late. The vision that is guiding and connecting some incredibly hard work at the College is, "to transform lives by creating an innovative learning environment that meets the rapidly changing needs of our community." Here's what's on my mind.

Meeting the Rapidly Changing Needs of Our Community

Many attributions to our current 13% enrollment this semester (on top of a 9% increase last spring!) are made to local unemployment hovering around 10%. While I'm sure that is true to an extent, I think some recent efforts by faculty and staff are fueling that increase as well. Last spring we piloted a waitlist process along with priority registration, allowing us to respond to increased demand quickly. By watching waitlists, new class sections were opened on demand (5% more total sections than last year). That change moved more than 3,000 registrations from waitlist to enrollment. In addition, more than 400 fall enrollees participated in academic recovery workshops last week to re-focus and sharpen their educational goals.

Creating an Innovative Learning Environment

Innovation is critical to long-term institutional achievement. Over the past three years, all classrooms have become Internet connected and the number of smart classrooms (presentation/projection systems, etc.) have increased by 49%, making 75% of all classrooms (and many of our academic labs) equipped with the best teaching technology available. In addition, more than 15 state-of-the-art smartboards have been installed and many faculty have been trained to use them. Our Information Technology staff has expanded the College's Internet bandwidth five-fold in time for the first day of spring semester classes! We're also having discussions about new classroom furniture and piloting some new arrangements this semester to see how the physical environment can better facilitate the innovative learning environment we're further developing at MVCC.

Transforming Lives

All together, these efforts speak to what happens at MVCC each and every day. Students from different walks of life come through our doors (physical and virtual!) to enroll in classes. Here they find both a rigorous course of study and an incredible system of support and encouragement. When engaged and completed, the overwhelming majority of our graduates transfer successfully to college or university study, or enter the 21st Century workplace fully prepared to contribute to their employers, their families and their communities!

I'm often struck by the comments I receive semester after semester. Many say, "MVCC is harder than I thought it would be." What sets us apart is our daily commitment to insure that, when they complete their course of study at MVCC, every student finds him or herself in a place very different from where they began...in short, "lives transformed."

We still have a long way to go, but as many recent changes College settle in, our collective efforts will continue to align themselves and we'll see an even greater return as we pursue this inspiring vision. If you have any thoughts, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.