The Year Ahead
As we approach the start of the 2017-18 academic year, I am excited about the coming year and eager to tackle the work that’s in front of us.
This is a momentous time for the college. In the coming year we will host a team from the Higher Learning Commission for our Comprehensive Quality Review. That will be the priority this fall, as we demonstrate to the team the breadth and depth of our work at East Central. We’ll begin the commemoration of the college’s 50th anniversary. Moreover, we will redouble our efforts to serve our students and other stakeholders in exemplary fashion. I think often about the vision and foresight of those who brought the college to life in the 1960s, and I want to make sure we are both fulfilling that vision and providing the foundation for the college’s next 50 years. While there is plenty of work to do, I am confident and optimistic about the future of our institution.
I want to outline a number of things that will be further addressed during the Welcome Session this Tuesday morning in the theatre. I would like you to be thinking about these initiatives and plans so that together we can work to bring them to fruition.
First, allow me to share the goals I’ve set for myself with the Board of Trustees. While I am obviously accountable to the board, I feel strongly that I am accountable to you as colleagues and stakeholders. The goals listed here are not only mine, but I think they reflect the goals that should guide the institution in the coming year. They include:
- Prepare for the Comprehensive Quality Review by the Higher Learning Commission, successfully host that visit, and achieve reaffirmation of accreditation.
- Continue work related to recruitment and retention of students (enrollment management), with a goal of achieving head count and credit hour growth.
- Continue work that has occurred with high school partners to expand and enhance the college opportunities available to students via dual credit, dual enrollment, and other offerings.
- Develop a new strategic plan that is more succinct, cohesive, and reflective of the institutional priorities as they have evolved since the adoption of the current strategic plan.
- Develop a plan to enhance employee salaries, with a long-term goal of being competitive locally and within the St. Louis market.
- Expand and enhance the visibility and engagement of faculty and staff as representatives of the college.
- Enhance the quality, modes and flow of communication with the board, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders.
- Enhance opportunities for faculty and staff to be meaningfully involved in institutional decision-making.
- Kickoff the 50th anniversary celebration of East Central College, beginning in April, 2018 with the anniversary of the district’s formation.
This is an ambitious list, but one that is important for East Central College. The goals listed here represent the immediate priorities for the coming year. Allow me to elaborate on a couple of these goals, in preparation for Tuesday.
One of the priorities (Goal 8 above) is to ensure that we have broad and robust input on institutional decision-making. Beginning this fall, I will be forming a Leadership Council to serve as the primary body for this purpose. Comprising the leadership of administration, faculty, and staff, the Leadership Council will provide a venue for identifying and solving the various issues and challenges facing the institution, and ensure that there is a platform not only for communication, but more importantly for good and thorough deliberation and decision-making for ECC. I am excited about this initiative and look forward to the value it will bring to the college.
As listed in Goal 4 above, it is time to develop a new Strategic Plan for ECC. I’ve come to believe that the current plan is too cumbersome and not focused on key strategic priorities. In addition, since the plan was developed we have seen the landscape of higher education change, the local challenges shift, and we have had changes in key institutional personnel. I think we would benefit from a tightly focused plan that articulates the key strategic initiatives over the next 3-5 years. This will involve both internal and external input, and meaningful assessments of where we are today, and where we would like to be in the future.
As part of Goal 7, over the summer I have worked with External Relations to develop a link on the web page which will house weekly communication from me that will focus on issues, discussions, decision making, planning, and other matters pertinent to East Central. While only one element of effective communication, I do think it will serve as a useful tool for keeping all of us informed about matters at the college. This letter will actually serve as the first entry for the blog, but only the first. There will be times it will be focused entirely on ECC issues. At other times, it will deal with larger issues and how they affect ECC. In all cases, the purpose will be to provide a tool by which information can be widely shared.
In addition, changes in the course schedule will make it possible throughout the year to hold all-staff meetings to further enhance the flow of information across campus. These meetings, at least two each semester in addition to in-service week, will allow us to focus on key issues in a more interactive way than the blog described above.
As you know, action on salary increases was deferred until fall. This will enable us to assess all sources of revenue before making a recommendation to the board regarding increases for 2017-18. I remain hopeful we will be able to develop a recommendation to recognize the work of our faculty and staff. As noted above (Goal 5), the longer view on this matter is developing a plan to bring our salaries in line with our peers, especially within the St. Louis region. I look forward to working with the employee leadership and the administrative team to tackle this issue and develop a plan to better recruit and retain the faculty and staff needed to serve our students and other stakeholders.
The goals listed above provide a framework for the year, and obviously some will take priority at different times. The final prep for the HLC visit is the most obvious example this fall. But they are all important, for both the near- and long-term. Many are interrelated, even dependent on each other. Addressing each of them in a meaningful and effective way will serve to put the institution on the path toward the next 50 years and beyond.
As always, I’m interested in your feedback and perspective and encourage you to reach out as you prepare for the work ahead in 2017-18.
See you next week!