Visionaries among community colleges

(Photo: Adam Auel Photography)

DALLAS — “Wow. I’m truly humbled. This is a surprise.”

Those were the words from professor Alison Consol who received the 2018 American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Award of Excellence in the category of faculty innovation. But they could have been uttered by any of the winners at Monday night’s awards event during the AACC annual convention.

Consol had a few more comments that also summarized what community colleges are all about. Twenty years ago, she came to the United States as a military wife with two kids. In 1998, she attended Wake Technical Community College — where she now teaches — and was the first in her family to earn a college degree.

This year’s AACC Awards of Excellence winners for the selected categories are:

Presidents from the winning colleges thanked their staff and other partners. Dennis Brown, president of Lee College, encouraged colleges to remember to place students first, no matter what. “Diversity is No. 1,” he said.

Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State Community College, thanked her board, in addition to her staff. “I think we sometimes don’t give enough credit to our board,” she said.

Shari Olson, president of South Mountain Community College, said a gun incident on campus in 2009 is what prompted the college to focus on creating a safer environment on campus.

Charlene Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College, came to the stage with a representative from MGM Resorts, who gave kudos to the partnership with the college and added she hopes to build on it.

Finally, Marcia Ballinger, president of Lorain County Community College, cited the journey her college has gone through with help from partners to improve student success.

“This is a dream for our campus and our students,” she said.

Below are profiles of the winning colleges, which were selected by a committee of the AACC board of directors.

A central hub

Lee College has taken a strategic, proactive approach to addressing inequities hindering the persistence of its underserved students, especially the growing Latino population. With grant funding, the college established a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Initiatives Department, which provides students with a central hub to take advantage of academic support.

Best practices learned from the new department led Lee College to receive the federal First in the World Grant. With the funding, the college developed its first Weekend College Program, which meets the needs of many part-time students.

Lee College now boasts a three-year graduation rate of 70 percent, in comparison to the state average of 20 percent.

Meeting local business needs

On Dec. 8, 2016, MGM National Harbor (MGM) opened its doors as a world-class destination resort in Prince George’s County, Maryland. MGM has invested in both the community and the Prince George’s Community College (PGCC), advancing the economic prosperity of residents.

PGCC has trained 1,100 students through its Hospitality Express Certification Program and Dealer School, both funded by MGM, and more than half of those students now fill positions in various departments throughout the resort, including the hotel, entertainment, casino and restaurants.

In addition, MGM’s relationship with the executive and legislative branches of government allied for the creation of the Prince George’s County Promise Scholarship Program, which will help meet the financial needs of 500 students annually.

Embracing technology to better serve students

The Faculty Innovation category honors a community college faculty member who thinks outside the box to increase student success. Alison Consol, a professor and program director at Wake Tech, more than fits the bill.

Consol has increased access for students by redesigning programs to be offered completely online and by adding stackable credentials. She creates short YouTube video clips to teach key concepts using light board and green screen technology and engages her students with free texting and social media services to build community and help them stay on track.

Consol uses learning management system rubrics and data analytics to monitor student progress, leading to an increase in student success. She also created proactive advising and eVising models that all program faculty now use to help students develop graduation plans. Consol has scaled her innovations by leading the development of a college-wide online teaching certification for faculty as part of the college’s quality enhancement project.

Being prepared

Safety has increasingly been on the minds of education leaders. For its efforts to keep students safe, South Mountain Community College (SMCC) established a Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) – a diverse group responsible for multi-hazard planning and coordination of emergency preparedness activities under the guidelines of the National Incident Management System.

The CIMT aligns its strategic planning and operational activities with the Maricopa Emergency Management System, which provides additional guidance and support for all Maricopa Community Colleges, of which SMCC is one. The college also hosts an annual Campus Safety Awareness Event where everyone practices their safety response to emergency situations. And simulation drills and training have been completed at SMCC in collaboration with Arizona State University’s Emergency Preparedness Department.

In alignment

Clark State Community College’s board of trustees demonstrates an unwavering commitment to students and adheres to a strong shared governance model that encourages input from faculty, staff and student leaders. At each board meeting, a student presents his/her success story to ensure that the board is focused on what matters most.

The board works closely with President Jo Alice Blondin to shape college policies and goals that align with student success and remove barriers for students. Together, they have led Clark State in a comprehensive strategic planning process that has led to the successful implementation of Ohio’s performance-based funding model.

To increase access to college, Blondin and the board also implemented the Tuition Challenge Program that provides students with a 10-percent tuition discount. In addition, wraparound services have been emphasized to address barriers to success.

Changing the culture

Ohio’s Lorain County Community College (LCCC) has strategically infused the student success agenda into all facets of the institution, creating a culture of continuous improvement based on data, research, innovation and evidence. Student success remains a top priority, spanning two of the college’s strategic plans, and the foundation of the College Completion Plan.

LCCC has refocused its vision to ensure equity for all students with a focus on transfer. Working with its K–12 partners, LCCC has mapped out pathways for high school dual enrollment to the bachelor’s degree by age 20. It also leads Ohio in bachelor’s degree completion for its transfer students. In addition, the college is scaling promising programs like co-requisite delivery of developmental education.

Since 2011, LCCC has tripled its 150-percent IPEDS graduation rate and has increased the number of degrees and certificates awarded by 53 percent.

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