The coronavirus postponed the announcement of the recipients of the 2020 AACC Awards of Excellence, which was to be held at the association’s 100th annual convention in April. But given all that has happened nationally since this spring, the categories, finalists and selected recipients named on Thursday during a live online broadcast were especially significant.
Advancing Diversity. Safety Planning and Leadership. Faculty Innovation. Corporate Partnership. Student Success. When each of the categories was announced along with the finalists, there was a brief moment of reflection on how much more important that work now is, which was noted by event co-hosts Angel Royal and Martha Parham of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Georgia Lorenz, president of Seminole State College of Florida, which received the Advancing Diversity award, noted that Seminole State’s 2025 strategic plan that will launch this fall will set a goal to achieve equity for all racial and ethnical groups in student completion and graduation rates.
“While this is ambitious, we believe it is the ultimate metric related to diversity and inclusion,” she said in accepting the award.
The 15-minute awards ceremony had its fun moments. Typically, there would be a gala with a nice dinner, presentations, some drinks, a live band and some dancing. This year, the co-hosts raised a glass of blue champagne to the winners and connected with them virtually. (The video of the event is posted at the AACC website.)
And there was some humor, too. “North Carolina proud, baby,” said Thomas Walker, president of Wayne Community College, in accepting the Student Success award on behalf of his college.
Faculty Innovation winner Dave Braunschweig, professor of computer information systems at Harper College (Illinois), had this message for his teaching colleagues: “Try anything legal you can think of to help your students succeed. Some of it will work.”
And the winners are…
This year’s AACC Awards of Excellence recipients and their accompanying summaries are below.
Seminole State College of Florida has emphasized its programmatic focus on the achievement rates for African-American students, especially males, while enhancing services to other populations. The college developed an action plan with 12 recommendations (10 have already been implemented), with a focus on improving achievement rates for African-American males.
The college has developed strategies that involve parents and families through events designed to prepare students for college. The institution has also broadened community partnerships by reaching out to new populations for faculty and staff when recruiting for new positions. More than 40 faculty, staff and students completed the 10-week Black Minds Matter program through San Diego State University, which aims to increase awareness of and involvement in equity-minded practices.
As a result, faculty are employing Black Minds pedagogy, and implicit bias reduction training has been provided, engaging more than 60 participants in the adjunct faculty academy. Seminole State College of Florida has also taken an active role in supporting the United Negro College Fund and Martin Luther King, Jr., celebrations in its community. In addition, the college launched a process to interview non-returning students to supplement data on student attrition.
Community College Safety Planning and Leadership
In Michigan, Mott Community College’s (MCC) commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for its students, employees and community guides administrative decision-making. The college’s 32 sworn and public safety officers recently applied for full accreditation from the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission. The MCC police department met the 105 standards to achieve accredited status in 2019, becoming the first community college police agency in the state to do so.
Over the past five years, the college has trained faculty, staff and students in emergency preparedness. In particular, MCC worked with student organizations to host student planning and training sessions, provide online campus planning, training tools, and to participate in an on-campus active shooter drill. The college’s licensed professional counselors and advisors provided Mott Care Team responses to simulate the amount of emotional and psychological support that would be needed.
MCC also identified a gap in communicating with deaf and the hard of hearing during the drill, which resulted in a plan to address the gaps that will be tested this year. And due to the ongoing Flint water crisis, the college has been purchasing campus-wide hydration stations for water consumption and filtration systems for food service. In addition, the college created its own distribution site for bottled water and filters, and it is testing monthly for contaminants, including lead and legionella.
Since 2012, Dave Braunschweig has created 15 open educational resources (OER) and co-authored an OER textbook for Harper College’s information technology program. Use of OER resulted in a 23 percent increase in student success in Braunschweig’s classes.
After experiencing these positive results, Braunschweig began working with other faculty in adopting OER. This led to a partnership with OpenStax at Rice University in Texas and strategic grants from Harper’s board to provide resources for faculty to adopt, adapt or create OER. Currently, 70 faculty members are teaching 115 course sections using OER in disciplines such as math, psychology, economics and chemistry.
OpenStax estimates that Harper is on track to affect 4,000 students each semester beginning this fall, saving them $450,000 in textbook costs. One of Braunschweig’s courses is used by Google: Internet Fundamentals, and another, IT Fundamentals, is prominent when searching Google. Those links average 2,800 views per month, allowing Braunschweig’s work to have a national impact.
Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership
In spring 2016, Sundt Construction approached Central Arizona College (CAC) to explore an apprenticeship partnership in heavy equipment operations. To meet the growing needs of commercial construction, CAC worked with Sundt to develop four craft trade pathways in structural welding, heavy equipment operation, pipefitting and industrial construction technology.
The unique attribute of this partnership is the fact that Sundt and CAC designed every aspect of the courses and programs jointly in less than three months. Specific craft competencies and skills needed by Sundt were identified and customized. Tailored academic pathways were offered to students beginning in 2017.
The partnership between Sundt and CAC continues to grow. Sundt hired an industrial carpentry instructor and now has three adjunct instructors at CAC. The college furnishes on-site lab and instruction space, and it has added another professor and a full-time recruiter.
Prior to the partnership, CAC’s program dwindled with fewer than 10 students enrolled annually. This fall, the program reported 328 students enrolled. Since the beginning of the partnership, 50 students have completed associate of applied science degrees and 244 received certificates.
Wayne Community College in North Carolina (WCC) has used its planning and governance structure to redesign all academic programs and student support services through its Clearing a Path to Student Success (CAPSS) initiative. The campus-wide effort embraces the guided pathways model and has resulted in significant, measurable improvements to student completion and increased employability skills.
WCC’s comparison data for 2012-2019 indicate that duplicated student completions have increased by 164 percent (809 completions in 2012; 2,136 completions in 2019), and unduplicated completions have increased by 79.4 percent (632 completions in 2012; 1,134 completions in 2019), even while student headcount decreased by 14.8 percent (5,176 students in 2012; 4,412 students in 2019) for the same time period.
The implementation of CAPSS created intentional change, such as restructuring academic programs to reduce electives, lowering program semester hour requirements for degrees, providing diplomas and certificates within degree programs for stackable credentials, and offering industry-recognized certifications. The college’s Academic and Student Services Committee implemented processes to automatically enroll new students into diplomas and certificates within their degree plan, allowing students to earn these credentials without administrative barriers. All students receive their credentials upon completion of required coursework and no longer pay a graduation fee.