Weekly Update – April 11, 2010

on April 11, 2010 in Weekly Update

Good morning —

Last week was a busy one with Monday starting out in Austin with Marie Flickinger, Chair of the Board of Trustees. We presented our student success agenda to the University of Texas Community College Leadership Program, including the development of our strategic plan, mission, vision, goals, and initiatives. It was great to have so many wonderful and exciting initiatives to discuss, and it is clear that we are trying to focus our resources on areas that can make a difference in student success.

Speaking of the college’s strategic plan, the Planning Council is wrapping up their work. They plan to have a summary of recommendations to me on approximately April 21st.  This group, consisting of a diverse group of faculty, staff, and administrators, has been analyzing your feedback from College Community Day.  Their recommendations will be based on that feedback, supplemented by additional information they received from select councils that are working on the current 2009-2010 annual priority list.  The Planning Council’s recommendations will provide a strong foundation for the strategic plan and that information will be shared with you in the near future.  

The monthly Board Meeting was held on Monday evening, and the agenda was packed. During the meeting, Larry Wilson and Marie Flickinger discussed the Achieving the Dream Trustees Institute, which we attended earlier in the month. They highlighted several initiatives that they would like the College to consider over the next few months. Several are already in process, including an analysis of the impact of late registration (registration after classes begin) on student success. For college prep courses, research and data indicate that students are more successful if they are in class on the first day.  Therefore, beginning with the fall 2010 semester, students will not be able to register late for college preparatory courses. This change was approved by the Board with the adoption of the academic calendar for 2010-2011.  Each campus vice president of instruction is working on courses that can be offered as a late start for students who want to register after regular term classes have started.  Our goal is to not lose these students but, rather, offer them an option to take the class in a manner that will allow them a greater chance for success.

Also on Monday evening, the Board approved an increase in several lab and incidental fees recommended through the fall 2009 curriculum approval process.  The lab fees were requested to offset rising lab costs, and several fees were established for new courses.  We also eliminated or reduced several fees for fall 2010. In addition, this action included removing the $10 graduation fee, as well as the transcription fee for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and CLEP courses for students who have completed at least one course at San Jacinto College. The goal with the elimination of these fees is to remove student barriers and encourage students to graduate, even if they have transferred to a four-year institution.  Earning a certificate or an associate’s degree is an important and valuable milestone for our students. A certificate or a degree opens doors for the next step – whether that is a job or transferring to a university or a combination of both.  We need to encourage that completion (graduation and certification) and remove barriers accordingly.

On Tuesday evening, each campus hosted a Veterans’ Reception, and I attended the event at the North Campus. These receptions are designed to be personal and inviting, and the activities outlined at the receptions serve as resource centers for our current veteran students and for those veterans who are looking for the next step in their lives. Thanks to all of you who participated in these events!

This week we also held a master planning meeting with the senior leadership team. Since the $295 million bond measure was passed and the planning leading up to it occurred while our leadership team was in transition, I thought it was very important to stop for a moment and review. We discussed where we started, how we got to this point, and brainstormed on next steps that we think should be addressed as we continue looking at the college’s strategic plan and what San Jacinto College should look like in the next 10, 20, and 30 years. 

We also got an update on the building program at all three campuses. For now, we are seeing many changes to the infrastructure as we prepare for several ground breakings coming up over the next two to three months on all three campuses. The transportation center on the Central campus, as well as the student success centers on the North and South campuses, are the first projects on the docket from the 2008 bond measure to break ground.  The science and allied health facilities on all three campuses are the next scheduled facilities to break ground, and we anticipate those facilities will break ground fall 2010.  Each building will be constructed according to LEED certification guidelines in an effort to protect our environment.  With the cost of applying for the certification, we will decide later whether or not to apply but will construct these facilities with the environment in mind.   

Included in the bond construction will be graphics on each campus to provide signage (or wayfinding) to help students, guests, and employees find our facilities and rooms easier.  We will also be taking a hard look at repurposing the space that is vacated as these facilities come online and we begin moving employees into the new space. We are working on the process of how to address this now, so we are not scrambling at the last minute. 

Every employee has received an email from your leader, from your campus president, and from me asking for your participation in the 2010 Organizational Climate Assessment.  The deadline for this has been extended to April 16th and I am asking each and every employee to participate.  It is an important tool to recognize how we are doing as a college and to help identify how you view your immediate work environment.  Please take the 20 minutes necessary to complete this survey and please complete it from the perspective of your immediate work group.  Thanks to all of you who have already taken the assessment and thank you in advance to all of you who will make it a priority to complete it this week.

Lastly, I want to talk with you about the Higher One Card.  I talked about this in January as the college-wide team began working to bring all this to fruition.  As a quick reminder, this is a new process for providing refunds to students and disbursing financial aid. Higher One is a third-party vendor with whom we have developed a partnership to offer a debit card for our students for direct deposit of their student financial aid disbursements and college refunds to their financial institution. 

The debit MasterCards (not a credit card) are currently in the mail to students.  The Higher One team has been corresponding with the students via e-mail and promotional materials, reminding them to hold on to their cards and not to throw them away. Please take a moment to help us remind students to check their San Jacinto College e-mail accounts frequently to avoid overlooking new updates about their San Jac Card and also updates about their classes and other college happenings as well. It is very important that students do not throw away their cards even if they currently are not using financial aid.  If they receive a refund from the college at any time during their time as a student, they will need to use the San Jac card. For all of you and for students, more information can be found at http://www.sanjac.edu/future-students/paying-for-college/financial-aid/higher-one.

I hope you enjoyed the weekend.  I know this is a tough time in the semester with the stress level getting high for our students and probably for many of you. Hang in there!!  And encourage our students to hang in there!!

Best,

BH

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