Weekly Update – November 7, 2010

on November 8, 2010 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community – 

Did you enjoy the “fall back” this weekend? Even though I slept in, I felt like I accomplished more than on a “normal” day and had a little extra spunk! Let’s see how long it lasts!

On Monday, we had our monthly Board workshop and meeting. At the workshop, the focus was on strategic goal #3, Workforce and Economic Development. We reviewed a detailed report completed by the Workforce and Economic Development Council which included a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) assessment, review of major workforce sectors in our region, and recommendations for enhancing our efforts in the workforce training area. Additionally, we reviewed the institutional monitoring report on our Continuing Professional Development division; our non-credit offerings cover such areas as leisure/lifelong learning, workforce training, and business and professions. As part of this report, we reviewed various key performance indicators related to industry partnerships, workforce grant activities, new program developments, and small business support activities. If you are interested in reviewing the reports, they can be viewed here:

Workforce and Economic Development Report

CPD Institutional Monitoring Report

You will hear more about strategies around this area in a few weeks.

At the Board meeting, two significant bond construction projects were approved. Soon, we’ll break ground for the Student Success Center at our North Campus, and major paving and drainage work at South Campus will begin. This South Campus project required significant changes from what was anticipated when the master plan was developed and when the 36-acre expansion property was bought back in 2002. This project will require us to dip into our bond contingency, but it addresses the anticipated capacity needs for the future and several drainage and detentions issues that had been discussed for some time. 

While we had a full agenda at the Board meeting, I’ll only highlight two of the action items, which are directly tied to our student success agenda. First, the Board approved the organizational and personnel changes that I discussed with you on October 12th. These changes are effective November 1st and will provide much-needed support for our initiatives and align our work more strategically. Additionally, the Board of Trustees approved the “Democracy’s Colleges Call to Action” thus joining national organizations and other higher education institutions in showing San Jacinto College’s support and commitment to student success and advancing the “College Completion Challenge.” In April 2010, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) joined the Center for Community College Student Engagement, the League for Innovation in the Community College, the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society in an unprecedented joint-signing ceremony, committing these organizations to assist their members to produce 50% more students with high-quality degrees and certificates by 2020. AACC and ACCT expanded this commitment and asked college campuses to join the national call.  Approval of the Call to Action by our Board of Trustees publicly states San Jacinto College’s position and commitment to actively improving student success and increasing the number of students who complete degrees, certificates, and other credentials valued in the work place.

The focal point of my week was the three-day On Course I Workshop: Innovative Strategies For Empowering Your Students To Become Active, Responsible Learners that I participated in with 40 others on Wednesday thru Friday.  The College has held several training sessions during the past spring and summer semesters, and I heard such great reviews from previous attendees that I decided to find out what the excitement was all about first hand.  The On Course workshop is based on the work of Dr. Skip Downing (see details at http://www.oncourseworkshop.com/Skip%20Downing.htm).    

On Course is the backbone of our mandatory student success course that rolled out this semester for all students testing into two college preparatory areas.  Our plan is that for fall 201l, students testing into any college preparatory area will be required to take the student success course, and for fall 2012, all first-time-in-college students will be required to take a student success course (see more details under Strategy 1 of the Student Success Strategic Goal which was highlighted on October 24th).

 The two-fold purpose of the On Course Workshop is to provide educators with the following:

  1. learner-centered structures for helping students learn more deeply and
  2. empowerment strategies for helping students become active, responsible learners who can thrive in a learner-centered environment.

The ultimate measure or outcome from the On Course approach is improved student academic success and retention—which are the same ultimate outcomes that we at San Jacinto College are striving to achieve.

The On Course materials pose a key question that we as educators have to ask ourselves: “What causes our students to struggle?” While it is common to attribute this struggle to lack of effective student skills and that our students don’t thoroughly use the many campus resources we make available, the foundation for the On Course Model is that many students, even those who are academically capable, have not yet developed the inner qualities and outer behaviors that will empower them to make wise choices necessary for success in college and in life (p. 74 of On Course I Workshop: Innovative Strategies For Empowering Your Student To Become Active, Responsible Learners).

The specific inner qualities required by successful students and successful people are personal responsibility, self-motivation, self-management, interdependence, self-awareness, lifelong learning, emotional intelligence, and high self-esteem. During the workshop, the participants discussed each of these eight inner qualities and worked through case studies and concrete examples and strategies of how we can guide our students to understanding and practicing these qualities. While I participated in the exercises, I wanted to hear what the other participants were saying about the activities, concepts, and the entire workshop. Overall, most people said that this was one of the best professional development activities they had ever experienced.  Here is a quote from one of our faculty members who emailed me this weekend about his experience:

On Course is absolutely some the best training I have ever attended.  The three days I spent in the training is wonderful, pragmatic, and of great value.  There are multiple things I brought away from the training that I will use in my classes next semester!  The course applies to all areas and disciplines.  Every faculty member should take this course as soon as possible!  I think it will contribute directly to student success at the college.

This response is very similar to what I heard from participants throughout the session. But I also heard that On Course shouldn’t be just for faculty, that it should be required for all faculty, staff, and administrators because each of us plays a role in the success of our students. This leads me to Strategy #3 under our Student Success Goal. This 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.”

This strategy has 13 specific actions for 2010-2011. One of those actions is to “create a professional development platform focused on all employees understanding their roles in student success.” Our plan for this action is to continue with two sessions of On Course training for spring 2011.  One will be the three-day session, and one will be a two-day session designed especially for staff who may or may not be interested in teaching the student success course (GUST 0305). By February 2011, we will develop a training plan, so that all employees can complete the On Course Workshop within the next three years. However, after completing the workshop this past week, I sure would like us to find a way to accomplish this goal in a shorter timeline. The increased understanding gained by all of our employees could be that important for the College’s student success agenda.

At the On Course Workshop, participants discussed how powerful it would be for these skills to be integrated into an intensive student success course for all first-time-in-college students and then for the skills to be built into the college culture and throughout the curriculum. As I listened to the other participants, it was clear that many thought this intensive and integrated approach would have the most impact on our students.

Next week, you will hear more about the other 12 actions under Strategy #3. Until then I encourage each of you to read the On Course materials at www.OnCourseWorkshop.com and to talk with someone who has already participated in the one of the three workshops. Also remember that our students are at a high stress time of the semester, so spend some time encouraging and offering some guidance. 

Have a great week!


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