Weekly Update – December 5, 2010

on December 5, 2010 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

Do you feel a sense of excitement in the air?  No, I am not talking about shopping and holidays, but, rather, the impending conclusion of another fall semester. I hope you can find time to enjoy the many activities on our campuses, and I know through it all that you are staying focused on helping our students as they finish their classes.  They feel the intense pressure of upcoming finals and those end-of-the-semester assignments that sneaked up on them. Be sure you offer that extra encouragement and motivation to get them through this last week.

Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was covering the actions or annual priorities of Strategy #3 under our Student Success Goal.  The strategy is to “Ensure a supportive and rigorous teaching and learning environment from the classroom experience to an effective array of student support services, including personalized academic and career planning.” I previously addressed the first four actions which focus on the development of a comprehensive learning program for students, the redesign of advising and counseling support areas, the assessment of the appropriateness of our current academic and technical degree plan structures, and the development of retention and support strategies for veterans. In addition, I discussed action #6 on the creation of a professional development platform focused on all employees understanding their roles in student success. On Course has been established as the platform that we will utilize, and the next training sessions for faculty and staff and administrators have been scheduled for the spring semester.

The remaining eight annual priorities related to strategy #3 are as follows: 

  1. Assess results and implement changes to the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), including expanding the number of faculty involved in the QEP to 170 by the end of 2011 and to 250 by the end of 2012. Our QEP, “It’s in the Book,” is progressing well, but we need to expand involvement from the nearly 100 faculty participants to 170 by the end of fiscal year 2011. Additionally, the assessment process is being refined, based on qualitative and quantitative factors.
  2. Review current functionality and operating processes of Banner and its related supporting systems compared to desired capabilities. It has been over ten years since the College implemented Banner as our enterprise resource planning system, and we have completed a multitude of upgrades and package enhancements. With this review, we want to understand what areas are working effectively, which need enhancements, which are duplicating efforts, and where there are gaps. Our ultimate goal is to optimize the system capabilities. We anticipate that recommendations for consideration will be brought forward in May 2011.
  3. Improve performance of the call center and improve alignment between the call center, advising, and other student retention and engagement programs. The College’s call center has been in place for nearly seven years with very few upgrades in software or equipment. At present, the call center handles over 364,000 calls annually. With the installation of the new voice over IP system (this rollout is currently in process and many of you have two phone sets on your desk as the system is being installed), the capabilities of the call center will be greatly enhanced. Additionally, Interactive Voice Response will be implemented by fall 2011.  Base line data from the new systems will be captured from January through late spring and again through the summer and fall registration, with appropriate changes occurring throughout the implementation period. As the new capabilities and features are rolled out, focus groups and work teams will address specific integration and alignment issues related to the call center, advising, and other student retention and engagement programs such as the retention calling program, the early alert systems, and text messaging.
  4. Integrate Student Success Centers into campus operations, including facility needs. In September, the Title V grant which funded the Student Success Centers for the past five years ended. The funding for the Student Success Centers and several other functions of the Title V grant became the College’s responsibility from a fiscal standpoint. While there were many accomplishments with the Student Success Centers, the end of the grant gave each campus the opportunity to take a fresh look at the services being provided, gaps in services, and budget requirements. The centers have been renamed CASA, which stands for Center for Academic Student Achievement, and the Student Success Coordinator position has re-titled to the First Year Experience Coordinator to reflect the emphasis on supporting students within their first year at San Jacinto College.
  5. Analyze functions and student use of campus writing centers, math-tutoring centers, and other tutoring and learning support areas to develop a plan for aligning services for optimum cost effectiveness, faculty participation, and student performance. Each campus has a variety of student tutoring and learning support mechanisms in place to support student success. Campus leadership has been charged with assessing these mechanisms and presenting a plan on how best to optimize these resources for our students.
  6. Revalidate remaining 2008 phase 1 and phase 2 bond project plans; update master facility planning process; develop renovation assessment plan to ensure interim sufficiency of academic and support capacities; and define requirements for a District Support facility and Workforce Training center. Currently, we are working under phase 1 of the 2008 bond program. The next components of this phase (the Science Building at Central and the Science and Allied Health facilities at North and South campuses) will be priced and move into construction during 2011. The plans for the 2008 bond program include various other components and phases that need to be reviewed prior to moving forward with additional planning and costs. This re-assessment period will allow us to confirm and modify assumptions including growth, programmatic changes, additional needs, and priorities. It will also allow us to begin to address a renovation plan for space that is freed up at the campuses due to new facilities becoming operational and to develop a facility plan for district support functions and activities. Finally, dollars were set aside in the 2008 bond for a Workforce Training Center, but considerable work needs to be done in developing programmatic needs and defining facility purpose and requirements. The reassessment and revalidation work is underway, and we anticipate that a plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees in early summer. 
  7. Develop a plan and timeline for the transformation of the library facilities and services to a Learning Resource Center environment. Renovations and upgrades to the library facilities were included as part of the 2008 bond program.  In addition, during the College’s last visit by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the adequacy of learning resources and library facilities was highlighted as a concern. This priority will first be addressed in conjunction with item #6 above, but all members of the Strategic Leadership Team felt it was important to highlight separately our focus on the upcoming renovations to the Learning Resource Centers
  8. Develop a college-wide textbook cost reduction plan addressing the effects of implementing a rental program, expanding eBooks, and increasing used book inventory. This item addresses the development of a three-year plan to reduce textbook costs for students. The first steps of this action will be kicked off spring semester with Barnes and Noble’s introduction of a textbook rental option for San Jac students. The chain has piloted textbook rentals at colleges and universities across the country and several in the Houston area; these rental programs have generated positive responses from students. In January, Barnes and Noble will host sessions to discuss other textbook options and opportunities with faculty. Some of you have shared with me that you are looking at open source materials that are available free to students, rather than adopting costly secondary texts. We have a heavy (and appropriate) emphasis on reading in the discipline because of our QEP, so it is even more important that we take a serious look at reducing the textbook costs that pose such a heavy burden to some students. Student learning is foremost, and students need the appropriate materials to learn. Our plan will involve many faculty members to explore options, share with colleagues, and identify ways to reduce the textbook costs that sometimes exceed tuition costs for our students. 

Well, that wraps up Strategy #3 under our Student Success goal.  As you can see, it is a significant strategy, with 13 annual priorities.  This past week, I reviewed with the SLT the status of our work, and I feel that we are on target and making progress.  Thanks to everyone at the College for the hard work and dedication as we advance our student success agenda and focus on our strategic goals.

Have a great week!

Best,

BH

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