Interim president lays out agenda for college in coming months
By Lee Rasizer, CCA Public Relations Coordinator
Interim President Dr. Betsy Oudenhoven made it clear at an Aug. 19 All-College Meeting that it’s time to look ahead to the college’s future and begin plotting a course on how to get Community College of Aurora to where it aspires, beginning in Year 31.
“One of the things that’s important to me as we go into this next year is that everyone at the college has information and input into the things that we’re doing that affect the college and our students – all of you,” she told staff, administration and faculty.
Dr. Oudenhoven discussed performance indicators relating to completion, increasing retention rates and closing the attainment gap.
But she mainly touched upon the core philosophies moving forward that will encompass overall strategic planning – one of two areas of concern in the recent Higher Learning Commission re-accreditation report. Assessment of student learning and nailing down the formula that’s integrated with the college’s mission is another aspect HLC mentioned and will be addressed quickly.
External factors in the community such as the economy, politics, technology, lifestyles and labor force will help guide the eventual answers that allow CCA to not only meet its goals, but be a strong community partner, as well.
“All the pieces are there. We just have to capture them and bring them together. That’s one of the things we have to do this year,” she said.
One of the guiding principals as CCA moves forward with its strategic vision will relate to upcoming legislation in Colorado that soon transfers performance measures, rather than enrollment figures, directly into the college’s funding.
“The news for higher education is now we’re expected to measure what we do and for us, and for all our peer institutions, to improve our success rates,” Dr. Oudenhoven said. “Community colleges have always had an access mission but as many of you are aware, that conversation has been moving over the years from access to success to completion. Just bringing students in isn’t sufficient. We need them to complete their goals, whatever they may be.
“And the interesting thing about community colleges, there are all different goals. And some of those goals aren’t always about degree completion, and measurements have always been based on four-year college model. ‘It’s about first-time full-time students and degree completion.’ That’s not always our students. So what the community college system is trying to do is help us figure out. What matters to us? What matters to our students? And how we measure it.”
Some of the hallmarks at CCA now and expanding in the near future will relate to ongoing developmental education redesign in Academic Enrichment, Math and English.
More recent is the introduction of a new “Equity in Excellence” project whose overarching mission is to examine the college through a different prism while transforming the college into an “equity-minded” endeavor. That component will touch on the relative success and failures of students within various academic settings and examine how to create individual experiences that engender success.
“How can we transform this institution to help close gaps for our students?” Oudenhoven asked. “It’s not about changing the student. It’s about trying to understand how different students experience this college differently and what we can do to help impact their experience so that they’re successful.”
Dr. Oudenhoven also stressed that questions regarding the diversity at CCA and how it relates to goal attainment must be asked and the college must be open to the uncomfortable answers that could emanate from that inquisitive process.
Professional development, faculty and staff hiring and other moves will continue to be addressed as they relate to the eclectic student population, she added.
“I need to be explicit about it: one of our goals is to diversify our faculty and staff. And we will talk about strategies to do that.”
Overall, Dr. Oudenhoven noted that the job of all CCA employees is to work together as a college via communication, collaboration and cooperation. Keeping students at the center and focusing on their success, retention and completion remains paramount but new avenues must be examined, whether in teaching methodology, use of space, or the expansion or contraction of programs.
The issue of enrollment and whether the college should grow not only in numbers, but scrutinizing its makeup to see where and if gains are needed to match local demographics are important conversations for the coming months, too.
“CCA is an incredibly unique and wonderful college and different in many ways from other colleges,” Dr. Oudenhoven said. “We need to capture that.”