Weekly Update – March 6, 2011

on March 6, 2011 in Weekly Update

Hello San Jacinto College Community –

It’s the week before spring break and one can feel the excitement in the air.  For me, I am looking forward to a few days where I can work with no meetings and very few interruptions plus have a few days’ break from work!  I hope each of you will enjoy your time off!

This past week was jam packed with the On Course workshop and program review. First, let me talk about On Course.  There has been some confusion about this training and its role with the College’s student success course. 

The On Course workshop is based on the work of Dr. Skip Downing (see more details at http://www.oncourseworkshop.com/Skip%20Downing.htm). On Course is the backbone of our mandatory student success course that rolled out this past fall semester for all students testing into two college preparatory areas.  Beginning 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 (FTIC) students will be required to take a student success course. We are also looking at a specific student success course designed for our Honors students.

The student success course for students testing into college preparatory classes is what we call the GUST course (Guided Studies 0305).  The student success course for college-ready FTIC students in fall 2012 will be a course within the Academic Course Guide Manual (ACGM) and will be designed so that it qualifies for our degree programs and state funding. GUST 0305, for college prep students, is funded in the same way all of our college prep courses are funded.  When we have a college-level student success course, which will probably be EDUC 1300, it will be funded as all college-level courses are funded.  It will not be part of the core (general education requirements), but it will count as elective credit and will transfer to our public state universities. 

The original two-fold purpose of the On Course Workshop was to provide educators in the classroom and outside of the classroom 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.

However, we found that the On Course strategies are also beneficial for employees’ personal growth and for providing a foundation for faculty and staff to improve their working relationships across the campuses and within work teams. What makes a student successful in the classroom is often the same strategy that makes someone a better employee.  Lessons about how to create a positive classroom are also lessons about creating a positive workplace. 

One of our multi-year strategies and annual priorities is for ALL employees to participate in the On Course workshops.  Faculty and those teaching the courses will participate in the three-day workshop, and all others will participate in the two-day workshop. On Course provides important information about and understanding of our students that all employees, regardless of position, need to know and embrace. By asking that all employees attend On Course, we hope to promote a common awareness and understanding throughout the College that will assist each employee and department in understanding their roles in student success, enable them to design their work and processes to better serve our students, and take the strategies into their everyday work environment and personal lives. Some of the faculty who participated in the workshop told me that this was one of the best trainings they have ever been attended, and they saw immediate ways to use the techniques in their classes.  Many commented that they reached a better self-understanding and better understanding of those with whom they worked.

One of the questions that I have heard deals with whether or not we are planning to have everyone who participates in the workshop teach the student success course.  That is not the intention. We are using On Course to help us understand and support student learning and to provide employees with an opportunity for personal growth.  Faculty and instructional leaders actually looked at several programs and texts when we were planning the implementation of a student success course for college prep; On Course was overwhelmingly the choice of all those who looked at the programs. 

I have also heard questions about our plan for the On Course training and the rollout of the mandatory student success course in light of budget challenges. The costs of this program, along with the potential returns, are being reviewed as are all of our priorities and initiatives. It is important that we stay focused on the bigger picture and not cut programs that could have a significant impact on our student success agenda. We are also looking at trade-offs that could be considered as we contemplate the best way of scaling this program. 

Now onto the second topic for the week – program review. On Thursday and Friday, I participated with the vice chancellors, presidents, vice presidents for learning, librarians, deans, department chairs, and faculty members in program review. The leadership of each campus reviews the cost/benefit analysis of programs on an annual basis, and the College has a formal four-year program review cycle whereby program viability is assessed from a variety of avenues including enrollment, student success, and cost/benefit. This formal process requires that programs offered at multiple campuses are reviewed on a college-wide departmental basis, and that an external reviewer (usually an advisory committee for technical programs and a university faculty member on academic and transfer programs) assess the strength of the student learning outcomes and relevance of the program. This year the program review areas included aeronautical technology, anthropology, auto collision repair, cosmetology, criminal justice, culinary arts, dietetics, diesel technology, fire protection, geography, government, history, paralegal, philosophy, physical education, psychology, and sociology. What a variety!!

I was quite impressed with the presentations and the use of data, inquiry, and analysis to inform past performance and future considerations. I appreciated the dialogue around hard topics including budget concerns, necessary programmatic changes, distance learning versus face-to-face modalities, and core curriculum considerations. We also heard of resource and facility needs, with all presenters indicating an understanding of the budget challenges facing the College.  Many times I heard references to the College’s values, strategic goals, and annual priorities.

Several of the presenters indicated that they had been working on their presentations for months and making changes up to the last minute, and the amount of work that went into each presentation definitely showed. The program review process is part of the College’s continuous improvement cycle of plan, do, check, act. It is also an important process for accreditation and reporting to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on program viability and accountability.  The College recently received a list of programs with low graduation rates from THECB. This list will need to be reviewed, and a formal response prepared. We will assess these programs over the next few months and reporting back to THECB by June with recommendations. 

To all the program review presenters, VERY NICE JOB!!  Each of you should be proud of your work and that of all of your colleagues!

Our monthly Board of Trustees workshop and meeting will be held tomorrow evening (Monday, March 7th).  During the workshop, the Board members and I will be discussing budget steps and several legislative issues, including the proposed concealed handgun legislation (this legislation would allow students and faculty meeting certain requirements to carry handguns on campus). I have heard from many of you regarding these two issues, and I thank you for your input.

At the Board meeting, we will ask for approval for the guaranteed maximum price for the Science and Allied Health Building on the North Campus. This approval will allow the appropriate contracts to be finalized in order to begin construction on this much needed facility. We will also seek approval for audio video equipment and installation services for all new buildings. This approval comes after an extensive planning process, including review of best practices, which has resulted in standardized guidelines based on the needs of users for each particular instructional and non-instructional area. The new standards provide more flexibility at more reasonable pricing. Both of these approvals will be funded by the 2008 bond program. 

Additionally, at the Board meeting, there will be two real estate requests. The first requests the Board’s approval to move forward (dependent on acceptable appraisal, inspection, and other due diligence processes) with the purchase of the building and land at 4620 Fairmont Parkway (many times referred to as the Annex). The College has leased significant space in this facility for at least the past 12 years, and after long negotiations with the owner, we have reached agreement for the College to purchase the facility. This purchase will be made from non-operating sources (thus, it will not have an effect on our budget situation for 2011-2012).  In fact, with this purchase, it is anticipated that operating expenses will be reduced due to the elimination of lease costs.  This purchase also allows the College to better utilize the current building and real estate at 4624 Fairmont, which was greatly enhanced after Ike-related repairs. This purchase provides more flexibility as we plan and manage space at the campuses and throughout the entire college footprint in the years to come.

The second action item on real estate will be to declare approximately five acres of raw land at Fairmont and Federal streets as surplus. This land was purchased in 1984 with the intention of building administrative offices. Over the years, the use of the property has been reconsidered and at one point the property was advertised for sale with very limited interest. Recently, multiple perspective buyers have expressed interest in the land, so the request to the Board will declare it surplus in order to accept fair market offers.

The intent is that both of these real estate items will move forward, and the Board of Trustees will take actions to finalize in April.

I do not intend to send out another weekly update prior to or during Spring Break, but I am planning to send out an email regarding the budget later this next week. Also, depending on what I find out from my trip to Austin this week, I may have a legislative update to send as well.

Have a good week!!  And a good break!!


P.S.  Congratulations to our men’s basketball team!!! They have had a long week-end of playing and winning in Tyler. On Sunday evening, they overpowered Paris Community College to advance to finals which will be played on Monday. Their record is now 29-3!!  After they win on Monday evening, the team will advance to nationals in Hutchison, Kansas!!  Join me in congratulating Coach Scott Gernander, Assistant Coach Jacob Wonders, Volunteer Assistant Coach Scott Robert Gernander, and all the players!! We know Monday night will be an exciting game!!

Leave a Reply