Weekly Update – November 21, 2010

on November 21, 2010 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

What a week!!  San Jacinto College has been in the center of the limelight!!  Let me explain.  On Wednesday in Dallas, the College received the Partners Award from the Texas Workforce Commission, due to the work of the Continuing and Professional Development Division and the over $4.4 million in training grants that are currently under management.

On Thursday evening, the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region (Economic Alliance) held its annual banquet. Our Purchasing Department received the Champions of Small and Minority-Owned Businesses award. This award salutes those entities that partnered with the Economic Alliance in promoting growth and retention of small and minority-owned business commerce in our region. Additionally, the San Jacinto College’s Small Business Development Center was highlighted for providing key professional support for these businesses and this initiative.

Also, at the Economic Alliance banquet, San Jacinto College – South Campus was recognized as the Business of the Year for the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce. This award is selected by the local Chamber of Commerce and is based on the contribution and support that the business has made in the community. This is a tremendous honor for the leadership and all of the employees at our South Campus. 

Finally, on Saturday evening, the Women’s Volleyball Team finished the season second in the nation! They left for West Plains, Missouri (or as I have heard it described “the middle of nowhere near the Arkansas border”), on Monday. They had an aggressive tournament schedule Thursday and Friday and advanced to the championship match Saturday against Western Nebraska Community College. This is the volleyball team’s sixth straight trip to the national tournament!  Be sure to give Coach Sharon Nelson and the team a warm welcome and a pat on the back when they return.  Watch for future announcements about a celebration during the week of November 30th.

So with all of that excitement, what else happened during the week? The College had a two-day visit from our Achieving the Dream (AtD) coaches, Dr. Byron McClenney and Dr. Brad Phillips. We spent a considerable amount of time reviewing our progress since 2006 (our first year in AtD). Let me give you a few highlights:

  1. Our retention (completion of a course with a grade of A to F) increased from 81.1% to 87.9% from fall 2005 to fall 2009.
  2. Our successful completions (completion of a course with a grade of A to C) increased from 63.2% to 66.4% from fall 2005 to fall 2009.
  3. Our first time in college (FTIC) fall to spring persistence (started in fall and returned the following spring) has increased from 72.0% for fall 2005 to 75.3% for fall 2009.
  4. Our FTIC fall to fall persistence (started in fall, persisted to the following spring, and continued to enroll the following fall which is one year later than original start) has increased from 48.0% for the fall 2005 cohort to 52.0% for the fall 2009 cohort.

We also saw that gaps between ethnic groups and by gender were being reduced—slowly—but there was progress. While we are still digging into the data to gain a better understanding of the changes, I am encouraged by the trends. I am most pleased by the progress in items #3 and #4 above. In these measures, we can see that students are returning and continuing to move towards their educational goals. Additionally, while the percentages are increasing, the numbers of people affected are also increasing.  For example, in fall 2005, the FTIC cohort was 4,927 and the fall 2009 FTIC cohort was 5,358. With the increase in persistence rates and the increase in the cohort numbers, 486 more students persisted in fall 2009 than in fall 2005, meaning that 486 more students continued on the path to achieve their educational goals.

The data that were presented at the AtD meeting were a little overwhelming because of the sheer volume and the need to flip between data sheets and graphs. The aSPIRE Office (Institutional Research) is simplifying the information in order to present it to the Board of Trustees on December 13th.  I will plan to distribute this information to all of you after the 13th.

Another part of the discussions at the AtD meetings was around how to simplify the information in order to make it more user friendly and how to get more people engaged with the data. Two faculty members, Clare Zaborowski and Zoya Birring, presented their work on engaging others in AtD and the College’s student success agenda.  Clare has been on the AtD Data Team, and her role has been to serve as an interface with the faculty. She has held discussion groups with faculty, as well as presenting at the New Faculty Orientation. At the AtD meeting, Clare highlighted the information that she presents in these sessions with faculty. These sessions include an overview of AtD, the national challenges and goals around student success, the importance of data-informed decisions, and ways to access data at San Jacinto College. Clare also discussed the importance of all members throughout the College talking about data and asking what it is telling us. Finally, she highlighted the cultural changes that she has experienced at San Jacinto College since our emphasis on AtD and our student success agenda.

Zoya discussed her role as chair for the South Campus Data Team. Each campus has established a data team which is charged with leading conversations with a diverse group of campus constituents about data and what it is telling us. The South Campus Data Team consists of representatives from 10 instructional departments, student development, enrollment services, the business office, and campus administration and a liaison from the aSPIRE Office. The team’s “starter data” included campus demographics, student engagement data (i.e. CCSSE, SENSE, and Noel Levitz), and the comprehensive GPA report. Zoya explained that after the first meeting, the group wanted “more data, different data, and all kinds of data.” If you are interested in hearing about AtD, our student success agenda, and more about data from a faculty perspective, please take a few minutes to talk with Clare and Zoya.

In addition to the above topics, during the Coaches’ visit, we also discussed our progress with the retention calling program, mandatory orientation for new students, student success course, elimination of late registration, and the college preparatory redesign. From my perspective, this AtD meeting was the most powerful of any during the past five years. While our AtD grant will be winding down in May, San Jacinto College is committed to continuing this important agenda of student success—the data show that we are having an impact.  

I am going to end this update with Dr. McClenney’s closing comments at the AtD meeting. First, he read the message that he got in his fortune cookie at lunch that day: “All the efforts you are making will ultimately pay off.” He referred to the message as being prophetic and then closed with these words:  

You have really started working on a fully developed agenda on student success and have started to develop a culture of inquiry and evidence…. What you have is a baseline from which comparisons can be made going forward.  You will have the opportunity to begin to follow the impact of the decisions that you are making now.  I see a big difference in terms of the first core team meeting I attended.  You have come a long way from that first discussion that I heard when I first came to San Jacinto. 

This issue is now getting the attention of the entire nation.  I feel the impact of what I’m now calling the “tsunami” sweeping the land on student success and completion.  I see it every day in the number of phone calls and emails that I personally get and requests for information…. It is an amazing thing that is happening across the country.  As that tsunami sweeps the land, you are positioning yourselves to be riding the wave and not to be swamped by it or overwhelmed.  Every college in America is going to be feeling huge pressure going forward, and as the State of Texas begins to say, as the headlines read a few days ago, that “we are going to start providing funding on the basis of results,” we feel it too. That is going to be a big fight and who knows what the Texas Legislative session will produce, but legislators talk across state lines; and I can tell you that tsunami is sweeping the land. 

The completion word is what is going to continue to be front and center, and it’s not going away anytime soon.  You are doing this kind of work, you are laying the foundation, [and] you are creating the culture that will put you in a good position to do this work. 

I have been delighted with the work that I have been able to do with your Board of Trustees.  Your Board of Trustees has been a part of our Trustee Institute every year since it started, and I have had a couple of opportunities to have board retreats with your Board. I know that your Board wants you to have the kind of engagements that your faculty colleague [Clare] was talking about a few minutes ago.  Your Board wants the College to move the needle on student success.  They are eager to see what they can do to support you.  Your Chancellor is on the case, and she has demonstrated that on a number of occasions. 

So my encouragement to you is that you see your progress as significant and also see that you have a long way to go.  You are on a journey and you are on the right journey.   I’m pleased to see the progress and to be a part of this data sharing today.   That wasn’t happening two years ago

It is a perfect time to close on that positive and encouraging note from Dr. McClenney.

Happy Thanksgiving!!  Even though the stores and all of my neighbors have already decorated for the red and green holiday that occurs in December—I am not going there yet.  I am staying focused on Thanksgiving, and I hope that each of you has a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving. I am thankful for this College and for each one of you who contributes to the success of our students.  Thank you and have a great one!!


P.S.  There won’t be an update next week so I will catch you again on December 5th.

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