Update – October 2, 2011

on October 2, 2011 in Weekly Update

Happy October San Jacinto College Community!

I don’t know what happened to September, but October and fall have arrived! And we have actually cooled off a bit! I hope you enjoyed some of the great Chamber of Commerce weather this weekend!

This past week we kicked off our 12-week courses (Take 2), so you may see a few more students around the campuses. I don’t have official enrollment on the Take 2 classes, but the initial numbers look quite promising. Just so you know, these Take 2 courses are reflected in the spring contact hours reported to the State (anything after the official census date, which is the twelfth class day for fall, goes into the next reporting period). Our contact hours for fall were down slightly (.4%), so these enrollments are important for us in maintaining our overall state funding for the second year of the biennium.

Speaking of enrollment, Monday night (October 3rd), we will present data highlights about the fall 2011 enrollment in comparison to fall 2010.  One of the data points to be reviewed is fall to fall persistence, which is defined as the first-time-in-college (FTIC) students who started at San Jac during the fall semester and returned the following fall semester. For fall 2010, there were 5,605 FTIC students, and 3,015 of those students, or 53.8%, persisted or returned fall 2011.  This rate is 2% higher than the persistence rate for fall 2009 students who returned in fall 2010, and it equates to 241 more students closer to the completion of their educational goals.  It is promising to see improvement in this rate; however, we can’t lose sight of the fact that over 1,500 students did not return. Some earned a certificate, some went to transfer institutions, and some went to work.  Our task is to try and find out why others left without earning a certificate or degree or achieving their goals, so that we can use that information to try and develop instruction and support systems that will promote more learning and success among those students. Our challenge will always be to find the best ways of helping our students persist until they reach their goals, and we will do this without compromising our standards of excellence.  But it is a challenge we must face.

A couple of weeks ago I received notice that San Jacinto College has been named an “Achieving the Dream Leader College.” In order to achieve this status, Achieving the Dream (AtD) institutions must meet high standards of practice and performance, including demonstrating commitment to and progress on the four AtD principles: committed leadership, use of evidence to improve programs and services, broad engagement, and systemic institutional improvement. Additionally, there must be a demonstration of sustained improvement on at least one of the AtD measures of student success (course completion, advancement from remedial to credit-bearing courses, completion of gatekeeper courses, term-to-term retention, and completion of certificates or degrees). We were told that San Jacinto College met the practice and performance requirements, and they referenced the increase in our fall to spring persistence from 72.7% in 2007 to 77.6% in 2010 as the measure that was demonstrating progress. Additionally, AtD highlighted several of our interventions including the First Year Experience calling program, mandatory orientation, the student success course (GUST 0305), free tutoring, and the Men of Honor Program. These interventions have been scaled to reach 27.18% of total students.

When I received the College’s official notice of Leader College status, I gave a little yell and did a little dance in my office. I was thrilled for all of us and our students! I know each of you realize the day-to-day power of your work here at San Jacinto College.  And I understand that recognitions like this shouldn’t matter in the big scheme of things…but it is great to get that statement of support periodically. To each of you—faculty members, staff, and administrators—I thank you for your continued commitment to our students and to our student success agenda.

A national press release was distributed last week and I am attaching it for your review.[2011LCPPAnnouncementFinal] I have been asked what this status really does for San Jacinto College, so let me give you the highlights. As a leader college, we will be

  • given priority when opportunities for competitive grants occur within AtD,
  • recognized as a source of expert advice at the AtD Strategy Institute,
  • featured in AtD promotional and technical assistance materials, and
  • encouraged to use the AtD Leader College logo.

As a Leader College, San Jacinto College will stay active in national and state policy work, and we will continue to support the four principles of AtD. To maintain the status, we will be reviewed every three years. At Monday night’s Board of Trustees meeting, Bill Raffetto, Vice President of Enrollment Services, who serves as the College’s AtD liaison, will give an overview of our AtD work and those efforts that have contributed to this recognition. I will post those slides with my next update.

By this time, you have probably received a few highlights from the kick-off of our 50th Anniversary year of celebrations held on September 19th in conjunction with our monthly Board meeting. We received 16 proclamations declaring September 19, 2011, “San Jacinto College Day.”  Proclamations came from Governor Rick Perry, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate, U.S. Congressmen Pete Olson and Gene Green, Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and many of our local elected officials and our municipalities. Four of our elected officials (Senator Mike Jackson, Representatives Wayne Smith and Larry Taylor, and Harris County Commissioner Jack Morman) provided congratulatory remarks. We also conducted interviews with three former students from those early years and with three of our current students. These interviews provided unique perspectives of San Jac in the past and today. The Steel Band and the Calypso Band (both from Central Campus), the South Campus Community Choir, and the North Campus Jazz Ensemble provided entertainment. Some Board business was accomplished, and then we adjourned to enjoy a wonderful cake made and decorated with our 50th Anniversary logo by the North Campus Culinary program. Here is a link to a photo library of the event: Board Meeting Photo Gallery 9-19-2011

I encourage you to take part in the 50th anniversary activities throughout this year. The next one will be held on Tuesday, October 4th; join us and be part of history by participating in the giant human “50” photo. It will take approximately 600 people to create the number 50 (this does not take acrobatic moves, but just standing in the appropriate spot to create the number 50).  In order to participate, you need to be at the Central Campus track at 4 p.m. We are on a tight schedule, so please arrive on time to help us keep this down to a minimum timeframe. When you walk in through one of the gates facing Anders Gymnasium, you will be greeted by a line leader and will immediately be taken out to your spot in our giant “50.” This will be a treasured photo for our next 50 years, and it will be featured in many of our online and print publications this year!

This past week I was in Washington, D. C., to meet with several federal agencies and four members of our congressional delegation. The agenda for each of these visits was to provide an overview of San Jacinto College and our service region, highlight selected programs, discuss funding opportunities, and express concerns about several federal legislative items, including Pell grant funding. The federal agency meetings included the United States Coast Guard, the Maritime Administration which is part of the Department of Transportation, the Research and Innovative Technology Administration within the United States Department of Transportation, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Additionally, I met with the president of the American Association of Community Colleges. It was a very busy schedule, but we made good progress with our Washington relationships. There is a great deal of excitement about the work that we at San Jacinto College are doing, and there is a strong commitment for community colleges in general.

San Jacinto College is also working on a national project with the Center for Houston’s Future. The Center is a regional think tank, leading the efforts for Houston to participate in a national competition with 56 other major cities. The competition is sponsored by CEOs for Cities and is called the Talent Dividend. Each of the cities is challenged to increase the number of associate’s and bachelor’s degrees awarded by higher education institutions in that respective region by at least 1% (from baseline 2009 to 2013). On September 22nd, I participated with over 130 attendees to discuss how we should tackle this challenge on a short-term and long-term basis. The meeting was productive and ended with several assignments and follow-up questions for the sponsors and organizers. When I first joined this group over the summer, I was concerned about their understanding of the work, both in breadth and in scope, of the Gulf Coast community colleges. As we continue to meet, I see progress and a greater understanding of the role that community colleges play in the region, state, and nation. I still have concerns that the measurement for this initiative does not include counting technical certificates, but I see the opportunity for greater education and discussion around this topic.

I have been asked about the timing of my updates. I had heard that weekly was a little too often for some of you, so I have revised my distribution to every other week unless there is important information that needs distributed sooner. I hope these communications are still helpful to you, and if you would like something else addressed, please let me know.

As I end this update, I want to express sympathies and condolences for the families, friends, and colleagues of two of our faculty members who passed away last week. I attended services for both Justin Springer and Sheleigh Carmichael, and I was overwhelmed by how each of these educators affected so many lives, both at San Jacinto College and through the many personal activities in which they participated. I know it will be difficult for many of you over these next weeks and months, and I encourage you to take the time to be sad, to remember, and to begin to heal.

To each of you, have a good week!



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