President's Monthly Reports
“With the adoption of a new mission statement and core themes, opportunities exist for strengthening assessment, resource allocation, institutional collaboration across units, and planning. The team lauds efforts at LBCC to work together for the good of those it serves and to leverage exceptional partnerships that support mission fulfillment. Clearly, articulated, measurable, and appropriate evaluation metrics will serve to ensure mission fulfillment and the engagement of all parties in appropriate performance improvement efforts.”
- Summary paragraph from the DRAFT October 2016 NWCCU Accreditation Team Report
While we will not receive the FINAL Report from the NWCCU Accreditation Team that visited us last month until January 2017, we have had a chance to review a DRAFT version of that Report and in it we find much for which to commend ourselves in work done and progress made, as well as some inputs that will serve to guide us as we strive for even better work to come.
Serving as the culmination of a yearlong process of self-evaluation, led by Ann Buchele and contributed to by so many others, the nine member accreditation visiting team from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) spent three days on our campus, meeting with hundreds of us and assessing the extent to which we are fulfilling our Mission. And their resulting Report is, in the broadest and deepest sense, an affirmation of our efforts and a recognition of our successes. With six “commendations,” we are praised for the extent to which we believe in and put into practice our commitment to student success. In my individual meetings with Dr. Tana Hasart, Chair of the NWCCU visiting team, she spoke of – and I could sense the genuineness of her words – her admiration for our Mission, our Goals, and the extent to which we are serving them. She noted that, while we have set a high bar for ourselves, focusing not just on our efforts but even more so on the differences these efforts make in the lives of our students and our communities, we seem well on our way to realizing these purposes. In other words, she and her team got a good look at us, and liked what they saw.
At the same time, the Report from the NWCCU team also notes a few areas for continued effort and improvement, doing so in three “recommendations” that will be ours to address in this next 7-year accreditation cycle. It should be noted that these recommendations are not of any real surprise to us and, in fact, address areas in which we are already working to improve and only serve to corroborate the focus of these current efforts.
Here are the Commendations and Recommendations provided us in the NWCCU Accreditation Team Report (actual quotes), together with my annotations.
- LBCC staff and faculty are commended for their broadly-evidenced, clearly articulated commitment to student success. This focus creates a strong collegial atmosphere, enhancing the institution’s opportunity to support mission fulfillment.
- Over and over, Dr. Hasart and the visiting team commented on the extent to which we seem to be unified in our commitment to our students and their success. Perhaps, at times, we at LBCC take this for granted, but the visitation team assured us that our commitment is exceptional, and is to be commended.
- The Mentoring and Assessment Coordination Team (MAC), faculty, and academic leadership are commended for the creation and dissemination of course-level outcomes that provide tools and processes for robust faculty engagement in efforts to monitor and improve teaching and learning.
- The development and utilization of learning outcomes is an ongoing challenge for many of our community colleges and the visiting team was very impressed with the faculty led and focused approach we have developed for addressing this work. We are to be commended for our progress to date on course-level outcomes (even as their “recommendations” draw attention to our need to make more progress on program-level outcomes).
- LBCC staff and faculty are commended for the collaborative creation of robust open educational resources, thereby encouraging the use of information technology while also supporting student success and retention efforts.
- We at LBCC have been quick to see the advantages that OERs provide our students, recognizing and then working to mitigate the impediment to success that the cost of traditional educational resources often represents for them. We have more to do here but the visiting team was quite impressed with our progress to date.
- The LBCC Board of Education is commended for their active engagement in the use of data and input to guide and inform their decisions.
- The Board’s commitment to using good data and a deep understanding of our college to guide its policy-level decision-making was evident to the visiting team. We are very fortunate to have a Board that understands and actively serves its role in the success of our students.
- LBCC is commended for their commitment to the creation of an innovations fund that offers resources in support of creativity and improvement.
- Seems like a small thing – just 1% - and it is a part of our Budget that could easily disappear amidst all of the other good purposes to which we commit our limited resources, but it hasn’t disappeared and the visiting team was impressed that we continue to commit these resources to testing new ideas and innovations that can continue to move our college forward.
- LBCC is commended for their strong engagement with external partners that leverages resources and results in opportunities for greater student programming, access, and success. Of special note are efforts to reach beyond the Albany campus to serve and provide access and high-quality programming across the service region.
- In so many ways, we at LBCC recognize and then act on the fact that our students’ success requires an effort and impact beyond that which we can provide ourselves. This is perhaps one of the ways in which we as a college most excel, and it did not go unnoticed by the visiting team. Early Learning Hubs, High School Partnerships, Pipeline, Degree Partnership Program, satellite campuses, business partnerships, one of the larger community education programs in the state, and myriads of other programs and relationships are manifestations of this understanding and this work.
- LBCC has taken steps to define and assess learning outcomes at the course level successfully. What has not occurred is the development of an effective and appropriate means for identifying and measuring program-level outcomes, and to then tie the results to core theme objectives and verification of mission fulfillment. It is strongly recommended that the institution defines and articulates institutional accomplishments or outcomes at the program and core theme level that represent an acceptable threshold of mission fulfillment. The committee recommends that this work is identified as a major priority given the recurring nature of these concerns (Eligibility Requirement 12; Standards 1.A.2, 2.C, 3.B.3, and 4.A.2).
- As noted in the “commendations”, we are making great progress in identifying and incorporating learning outcomes into our teaching at the classroom level, but we need to extend this work “upwards” and “outwards” into the design and delivery of our programs. Again, this is not a surprise to us and our current strategic focus on Guided Pathways provides for us an ideal vehicle for this work.
- LBCC has developed core themes that are assessable and verifiable. The committee recommends that current indicators be reviewed and revised to ensure they are meaningful and provide the necessary framework and elements for effectively evaluating accomplishment of the objectives of its core themes (Standard 1.B.2 and 4.A.1).
- (This is my favorite “recommendation” – if there can be such a thing)
- Many community colleges, when developing their “Core Themes”, resort to a listing of the key programmatic areas – developmental, transfer, career-technical, community – and thereby find it relatively easy to identify their EFFORTS in pursuit of these “themes.” But at LBCC, we have instead chosen to focus our Mission and Core Themes (and Strategic Goals) around outcomes, and not just our outcomes but those of our students, and our communities. While the visiting team noted the challenges of such a focus – and this recommendation reflects this understanding – Dr. Hasart also praised us for the vision and courage we have in developing and now pursuing these “Core Themes.”
- While there are some examples of short-term planning activities at LBCC, the committee recommends that institutional planning reflect a systematic, integrated, and comprehensive approach that defines, supports, and guides mission fulfillment efforts and reflects all aspects of college operations to include, at a minimum, student services, academic programs, library, financial forecasting, master facilities goals, emergency preparedness, and technology (Standard 3.A)
- (If #2 is my favorite, this is my least favorite)
- In my individual closing meeting with Dr. Hasart, I wanted to challenge this “recommendation” but was kindly reminded that this was not the purpose of her meeting with me, nor a provision of the visitation process. At the same time, Dr. Hasart did offer some explanation (….and with a knowing smile). She told me that there is much evidence of planning going on almost everywhere at LBCC; that our Budget Development Model, our dual organizational model of planning Councils and operational Committees, the Board’s commendable data-driven guidance, our annual iterations of Strategic Objectives, and our recent completion of both Facilities and Technology Master Plans all represent and reflect this planning. But, she went on to share that it was the team’s perspective that there currently exists no one place or document in which all of this planning is brought together in a comprehensive and easily comprehensible form…… and I could not disagree. With that in mind, I agreed to bring together the leaders of each of these planning efforts to help us develop a campus-wide planning document that helps make our already extensive planning efforts more cohesive and effective.
There you have it. As the DRAFT Report from the NWCCU accreditation visiting documents, we at LBCC have much for which to be proud. We have set for ourselves a Mission, Core Themes, and Strategic Goals that are focused on making a “real world” difference right here at home, and we are making real strides in turning these aspirations into reality for us, for our students, and for our communities. As such, we accept these Commendations with unpretentious pride, and we accept these Recommendations with a mission-driven commitment to always doing better.
Thanks to all of you for a “job well done.”