Managing Community College Change

Managing Community College Change

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Managing change at Amarillo Colleges have been a challenge, like it is for anyone else, I’m sure. Particularly here because our history is as a junior college that served, you know, the affluent part of our community, but our community shifted dramatically. We have a large influx of Immigration. So for us, change management started with listening to our students and what they needed from us. And it started with a deep commitment to a philosophical understanding of how to serve them. And that’s our no excuses philosophy. What the barriers are to our student success and then find systems to respond to those barriers. When you can look at yourself through the lens of your students, rather than through the lens of your history and your processes that are comfortable and known to you that create an atmosphere of curiosity, that will lead you to reevaluate everything that you’re doing. I had our students tell me what the perfect college for them needed to look like and the students selected five words that would serve as the values that would guide every single thing we did at this institution. And if we were going to be a student-driven institution, I wanted to honor those words. Those words are now written into every job description for every employee at this college, including mine. We’ve rewritten our evaluation to focus on how we live up to those values in those words. It’s important, I think if you’re going to lead change it to your institution to understand who your students are and what they need? In 2014, when Dr. Lowery-Hart moved into his position as president, he gave us a charge. He said that we have to do better for our students. He laid out the big-picture framework of what we needed, what he wanted us to be. And he allowed us to as leaders to go back into our areas to be able to lead our teams in that. Our charge was to make sure that our work wasn’t being a barrier to the students that were coming in that needed remediation. So, one of the innovations that we have put in for that I’m really excited about is how we co-locate services for students? It is very important to us in our model that we don’t make students feel like we’re turning them away or putting a barrier in place simply because they need some additional resources. So in my particular area we’ve designated one floor where they can go and get all things related to developmental and adult education services. We even have invited and made space for the Literacy Council of Amarillo and Canyon to be on our campus to provide adult literacy tutoring. Because, if a student comes onto our campus and their skills are so low that we don’t have classes for them. You don’t even have to leave campus for that. Yes, you can get literacy tutoring right here our college campus on that same floor and the collocation of services yes it benefits the customer; the student for us, but it has also helped to build the relationships of our team. Dr. Lowery-Hart set the goal of 70% completion by 2020, my team had to set a goal of 90% success in any Intervention. Because we wanted to make sure that if we’re going to have an opportunity to get to 70 percent completion, 90 percent of our students had to move forward out of remediation, out low skill coursework into being up to do college coursework. So that meant that we had to make sure that as many students as possible do that. And so we did our due diligence in tilling that soil and really working on that culture change. And so now, when you go and challenge and say 90 percent. They didn’t even blink they went forward and they, they conquered. The state decided to create what is called PA 1240 and the polity basically says that the state is willing to commit to at least one year of remedial education for students who do not meet the requirements being able to do college-level work for a certificate or degree programs. Not only did the state commit to the time, they also committed to putting resources in colleges that had a large population of students who were not ready to do college-level work initially. The reality is this, 70% of the students we serve receive financial aid, 50% of the students We serve need to take at least one developmental course. 70% of the students we serve are juggling many things concurrently including part-time jobs. 60% of the students we serve are females; and over 50% of the students we serve are minorities. Now that tells you that we’re dealing with the population of students that really need a lot of support. Because if students get what they need it inspires them to want to go further. Our commitment has to be to ensure that every person who walked through our doors feel better off, are better off, and feel that they can become all they want to be. If in fact they get an education. And that really is the mantra “Open Doors to Open Minds.” Take small goals. Don’t try to come up with big goals all at once. Document your success. Tell your success, find people in the community and businesses who support your success. And then inside your institutions, find champions and have those champions help you develop your vision for what you think is in the best interest of your students and your community. Dr. Kendrick is all about students first. She meets with a student body at least once a month, but she has an open-door policy. Well, I think it’s important to have the Adult Ed Centers at the table. Actually, I can tell you even this week a new principal of the New Haven Adult Ed met with our dean of academics and others to assure that the transition from there to here is smoother and that we’re both meeting each other’s expectations. In order to manage change at a college, I think it’s important to make sure that first and foremost that the president or the principal’s are behind it. And once that’s achieved, I think it’s important to make sure that all the stakeholders are at the table. We’ve been lucky to have the leadership, as well as the practitioners from the Adult Ed Centers, and then the faculty and the department chairs that are in charge of the developmental coursework. Change only occurs when where you are becomes more uncomfortable than where you want to be. And if you’re going to make some changes you’re going to have to create some discomfort. But you have to let people know that business as usual is not going to be the status quo.

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