Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New President Interview -- Part 3

Part three 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> Is the economic impact of academic programs a factor in your decisions?

A> Absolutely, the economic impact is a part of every decision. Everything we do has economic implications. Money is the medium to cause actions. We have to be engaged with the community and listen to their input. But we still need the ivory tower that respects learning for the sake of learning. We have to give value for the taxes and the tuition we receive. We have to be responsible in our spending and also realize programs and buildings cost money to run properly. We have to be enablers, not bean counters.

Students and communities don’t always realize the need for some kinds of learning. Faculty members know more about learning their discipline than what occurs in the everyday class activities. We need places where people can think, dream, plan, and share because this results in ideas; sometimes great ideas and sometimes mundane. These ideas are what make our community and country great. We have to recognize the importance of excellence, knowledge and research and how they can be translated into economic drivers for our city and communities.

Q> Which employees are most at risk of losing jobs?

A>  I can not say with any certainly anything before examining the total situation. Certain non-academic staff members may have to change their duties and job descriptions. However, we must keep in mind that we are here to help students succeed. We can’t serve more students without more employees to help. To create excellence in the work place we must have stability and an atmosphere of support for excellence.

Q> You’re trying to improve retention and graduation rates, yet many entering students require remediation. How can you address that?

A> That’s a challenge. Many students enter to the City Colleges without adequate preparation. We have to start working with the high schools on some long range solutions. I find it hard to understand how the public school system could be failing so many students. My high school aged daughter says the literacy deficiency starts in elementary school. If students don’t succeed in high school, we have to offer the opportunity to work toward the goal of a college education. It is situation of correcting a deficiency on the supply end and at the same time fixing what is wrong after they enter our system. Perhaps we can reduce the amount of time spent in remediation courses if we do a good job of working with high schools to produce students who are ready for college work?

We should deal with student success rates rather than focus on the numbers who graduate. Students who move from our courses to four year universities or other rigorous programs should be counted as success stories even when we don’t grant them a degree or certificate. As an open enrollment system perhaps we need a matriculating and non-matriculating path. The matriculating path would be more selective than the non-matriculating. Students will need to be “college-ready” to be accepted for matriculation. Students in both paths may be in the same course, but the goals of their academic career may differ.

We need to work with students to create multiple pathways for success.

We are dealing with demographic shifts in this country. Many students in our city do not have English as a first language. The lack of English skills needs to be addressed. We need to serve students who increasingly are first-generation college-goers and have a lack of a learning tradition. These students and parents come from a totally different from the place where I came from. I was expected to go to college. These students don’t necessarily have the benefit of that kind of background. There are going to be some transition issues that we’ve got to pay attention to. We must recognize and respect cultural differences and how they effect the learning environment.

Q> Where do you stand on the question of closing a campus?

A>  Our College has more students than any previous year. We should be talking about how we can add space and /or buildings to better serve our students. Perhaps we can offer some classes off campus to reach students without the need to build new spaces? We probably need to examine the ways we use our space. At times we are at the limit of parking lot and classroom space. We have a lack of meeting rooms and relaxing rooms.

We are growing because more students are outside of the traditional college-age. We need to offer continuing education for professional growth and for personal growth. We are going to need more resources to serve a changing mission and population.

We are seeing that the world changing in a hurry. Information and entertainment are moving in more ways than imagined even ten years ago. The Internet has changed the way we communicate. Higher education is not investing at the same pace as the rate of change in the rest of the world. In part, our challenge is to always be part of the solution and not the problem.
We have to retain the edge. Higher education in the United States today is still better than anywhere else in the world. We have to make sure that in 10 years we have improved at a rate worthy of our community.

Q> Do you have a plan to improve student success rates?

A> We have to work on out definition of “success.” As an open enrollment institution we give students a chance to take courses and prove they are ready for college work. At a selective institution students who couldn’t succeed in the program are denied entrance. We have programs such as remedial classes, tutoring, writing center, advising, and mentoring to help students. Even I had to take preparatory classes in the summer before I entered college. However, the subject material I covered was not taught in a public school. The language of instruction of one college was not English and I needed help to get the level of the school. We spent eight  weeks at a summer camp learning language and texts so that we could be successful in the college program.

We have a mission to support three kinds of learning -- preparation for transfer to a bachelor degree program, training for a specific career, and continuing education. Continuing education includes adult education, basic skills, and career enhancement classes and programs.

Institutional core values include: Learning and education have the power to change our lives and improve our community; we value and are enriched by the diversity of people, places and ideas; we prize excellence and the pursuit of excellence; courses should be relevant, current, and designed to help the student master critical thinking skills; educational programs should be affordable; the physical plant should support and enhance the atmosphere of learning.

I plan to implement new certificates to recognize students who have accomplished personal goals without graduating. The deans are investigating requirements for a certificate of achievement that students could be awarded if they transfer before earning an associate’s degree. We plan to create a certificate for those who attend a certain number of continuing education classes. Students who receive these certificates will be counted as part of our success story.

Q> Before coming to the College you were recognized for your work in knowledge management. How will knowledge management ideas affect administrative procedures?

A> When I worked for a state agency I wrote a computer program that enabled anyone in the agency to know the phone number and office of every employee. The data base was updated every morning. At the College we have no such list. When students try to find part-time faculty, there is no list to check. This kind of directory should be conveniently available to everyone in the College. As a president I want to know where I can find everyone who works here.

The first step in a knowledge management system is to find out who knows what and make a list of who is responsible for systems, actions, people and places. I plan to tell all mangers to start paying attention to this knowledge. I will assign someone to investigate what we need to record and then create a system to store and access this information. This will give us a strategic advantage to get projects done with the right people. Hopefully this will lead the way to creating knowledge that can help us make wise decisions.

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