Weekly Update – December 12, 2010

on December 12, 2010 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

I began my week with several others from San Jacinto College at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The conference theme, “The Race for Quality in the 21st Century,” fit not only the horse racing theme of Kentucky but also the recurring national educational agenda of quality, excellence, student success, and completion. The keynote speakers focused on confronting the challenges facing education (and the country), engaging all levels of the educational institution in solutions and new approaches, and addressing issues with a sense of urgency.

Dr. Mark Milliron, Deputy Director of Postsecondary Improvement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed critical conversations that need to occur within educational institutions; such conversations include academic catch-up, learning innovations, course and program redesign, new teaching and learning models, credentials that count, and learning for a lifetime. He also discussed developmental education as the “Bermuda Triangle of higher education…the number one loss point in higher education”; he pointed out that elimination, innovation, and acceleration are required methods for tackling developmental education success and completion. Elimination because we need to go back and work more closely with our independent school district (ISD) partners to greatly reduce and eventually eliminate the gap between high school completion and college readiness. Innovation because different assessments, intervention experiences, technologies, and supplemental instruction methods are needed in order to address the diverse needs of our students. Acceleration because we have to help students move as fast as feasibly possible in order to move them back to the mainstream quickly. He made references to student learning outcomes, curriculum resource strategies, and redefining the new normal. Dr. Milliron acknowledged that these are uncomfortable conversations to have, but he challenged the audience to think differently in order to create new models in higher education that are laser focused on how our students connect, enter, progress, and complete.

On Tuesday, we received a letter from Governor Perry, increasing the earlier five percent reduction in State appropriations by an additional two and a half percent. The Strategic Leadership Team (SLT) met Wednesday to discuss how we will address this additional loss of $972,087; Monday evening (12/13/10), I will be discussing our plan with the Board of Trustees. I am comfortable that we can cover this shortfall by monitoring reserves, reducing supply accounts, and taking a more strategic approach on travel and professional development. I encourage all of our employees to take a more conservative approach on expenditures and ask yourself if “this a true need versus a ‘nice to have.’”

 On Thursday, the Economic Alliance of the Houston Port Region hosted its 2011 Legislative Kickoff luncheon at our North Campus. Five of our area State representatives (John Davis, Ana Hernández, Dan Huberty, Ken Legler, and Wayne Smith) discussed the upcoming session and the key anticipated issues. The top two were redistricting and budget. It was clear from their discussions that the 82nd Session will be quite difficult and that all areas will experience reductions. No area, including higher education and community college funding, will be protected. As we head into 2011, all members of the San Jacinto College community will be asked to participate in helping us identify ways to address the budget concerns. We have a challenge ahead of us, but at this point, we don’t know how great of a challenge it will be. We will go into this budget process not in reactive mode, but with thoughtfulness and with an emphasis on ensuring that we keep our strategic goals (student success, P-16 pipeline, workforce and economic development, and people) as our focus 

The culmination of the week and the semester was graduation ceremonies for our Central and North campuses. Dr. Arnold Adair, Superintendent of Deer Park ISD, was the keynote speaker for Central Campus. He spoke about his reasons for choosing a postsecondary education, beginning with the first reason—his parents wanted and expected it. He compared this reason with his most recent reason for going back to earn his doctorate (which he just completed and will graduate next week), and that reason was for himself—a personal goal. He also talked about his challenge with math and the realization and determination that he needed to tackle this challenge early in his college career. He attributed his success with college algebra to persistence and a very good instructor. He closed by challenging the graduates to be ready for additional learning and change. He stated, “Change is inevitable.” He stressed that we must continue learning throughout our lifetime in order to be ready to address that impending change successfully.

The keynote speaker at the North Campus graduation was Tachina May, San Jacinto College employee and December 2010 graduate. Tachina’s comments were powerful, and I asked her if I could share them in this weekly update. She addressed her fellow graduates with the following comments:

 …today, we have finished something special. But this time, the opportunity exists for us to just keep climbing, like it is an endless mountain, because up until this point in many of our lives, most things have been decided for us.  From now on, it is up to us to choose.  I say make a choice when you are fully awake, a choice that is informed by your heart; and not by what others say, think or believe….  Our contribution to the world will not be measured by the money we make or the awards we receive, but rather by the way in which we share our unique gifts with the world.  And the only place to find those gifts is within you.  We do not just acquire education to better ourselves. We acquire education to contribute to our families and our community.

No matter how different our life paths will be, we are all the graduates of San Jacinto College, and we share the common values of our College: 

Excellence in everything we do.

Accountability: It’s up to us.  “We take responsibility for our commitments and outcomes.”

Integrity: Ethical and Professional.  “We act in ways which instill confidence and trust.”

So with that being said, let me wish you luck and perseverance. I wish you all success on your life’s path.  Good luck, and go forth class of 2010, and make your unique contribution to the world!

To hear a student cite the college value statements in her commencement address tells me that we are making progress and that we are laying a solid foundation so that we can be change ready.  We, and our students, must be prepared to address what lies ahead, which will involve many changes in our educational system and in our institution.  The impetus for all these changes comes from many places: the State legislature, the National government, the community, business and industry, our students, and our own commitment to excellence and accountability.  As Tachina May said, we each have a unique contribution to make, and I do hope that each of you realize how much I appreciate your contributions to San Jacinto College.  

Have a great week!


P.S. Next week, I will prepare a brief weekly update before the holiday break.  The weekly updates will start up again on January 10th (the Monday of College Community Week).

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