Sunday, March 27, 2011

New President Interview -- Part 2

Part two of an imaginary interview with the newly appointed president of the College.   Note this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental. 

Q> What are you hearing on campus?  
A> There’s anxiety about budget cuts, uncertain future, lack of clear learning goals, and about what it means for them. The morale among the faculty and staff is not at its highest level. People do not trust the administration. Employees want to be dedicated to the work, the College, our students, and our mission, yet they feel under-recognized and under-appreciated.  Appreciation is more about psychic rewards than monetary raises. They have seen jobs eliminated and the uncertainty about their own future diminishes their ability to serve students.   They see district administration hiring upper level administrators with little return to the College. They have taken on more responsibility and more work without the tools to do the new jobs optimally. They see the number of students growing and the lack of resources to serve them properly.  It is a stressful time and we have to work on improving morale.

However, there is a spirit and commitment to our mission that is really phenomenal. Many employees have a sense of commitment and demonstration of energy that contributes to student and institutional success. They want to believe in what we’re doing. Administrators have to nurture the commitments and reward those who contribute to the organization. The picture is not all negative; we have some great people with great ideas.  These ideas must be nurtured and encouraged if the faculty and staff are going to lead in creating excellence and serving the students better.

Q> The City Colleges have some duplicate programs; how closely will you look to working with the other Colleges.
A> As a commuter college district many students attend the college that is geographically most convenient when the program is offered in multiple places.  While each college has its own identity and unique place within the system, we have to look at areas of cooperation and sharing of our best practices.  We have to look closely at every part of the academic program to make sure the goals and expectations of a class (such as English 101) are uniform throughout the system while preserving the ability of faculty to weave in their skills and expertise.  For administrative areas we have to make sure there is commitment to communications and sharing of information.   Department heads need to have lines of communications that are consistent and regular.  We need to make sure everyone has the information they need to do their jobs and serve our community.  To do a better job, we have to know what we know and know how to find out what we don’t know.  Perhaps a district administrator could supervise similar programs at several colleges freeing the local college to concentrate on classes and students?  Perhaps some administrative tasks are redundant and can be combined?  Perhaps some areas have too much time wasting paper work?  
For the long haul, we need to think about further improvements. We are going to have to look at academic programs and devise ways to encourage continuous improvement.
We have to use the word “duplication” carefully.  Sometimes the duplication is needed and the best way to deliver our services.

I graduated from a dual liberal arts undergraduate experience that was very, very good.  One college was very small and focused on a relatively small set of disciplines while the other was a very large comprehensive university that offered the widest range of academic resources imaginable. The course offerings did not overlap. I was able to include a year of study abroad and finish two bachelor degrees in less than five years.  Both institutions co-operated and accepted each other’s credits.  Liberal education helps people to learn to think critically, speak effectively, analyze data correctly, and understand how to do research what they don’t know.  
This was before the days of online research.  First class institutions had first class libraries.  Today Google helps, but it is not the answer to serious research. While I won’t be able to duplicate my undergraduate experience at the College, I do want a college that focuses on teaching students to achieve their goals and in the process to direct them toward life-long learning.   We need to work with student to define success and then lead them on the correct paths.

If there are programs that are not helping the students or the community in general perhaps they should be eliminated?
Q>  In 1922 Detroit Junior College was the third largest institution of higher learning in Michigan.  They were granted four-year degree status in 1923 and became the College of the City of Detroit. In 1959 they became Wayne State University.  Do you see the City Colleges becoming bachelor degree granting colleges or becoming full universities?

A>  There are some programs that could benefit from offering courses beyond the associate or career certificate programs.  I would love to be able to offer continuing education programs for professionals such as teachers, lawyers, accountants, and librarians.  For these programs to work we would need faculty with the proper training and experience. 

The two year programs have an important role in our community.  We should concentrate on a job we can do well and then send our students to a job or another institution of higher learning.  It is not in our plan to become a university.  However, the nursing program is investigating what is required to grant a bachelor’s degree in nursing. An RN degree is not enough for most of the nurses in a hospital.  I don’t have any details as this matter is still under investigation internally and with the accreditation bodies. 

We have many great universities in this city and will continue to work with them on transfer programs.  Many of them recruit our students.  We are always proud to send student to prestigious universities to earn their bachelor degrees.

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