ABOUT THE STUDY
This study was first commissioned by NISOD and Diverse: Issues In Higher Education in 2014. The national survey is administered by the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) at The Ohio State University, which is directed by professor Terrell Stayhorn.
The purpose of this commissioned study was to examine the extent to which diversity and inclusion permeates aspects (e.g., administrative structures, commitments, work environments, staffing practices) of the campuses of participating community and technical colleges, which are NISOD-member institutions, around the country.
ABOUT THE CENTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION ENTERPRISE
The Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) is an interdisciplinary research and policy center that promotes the important role postsecondary education plays in global society, especially the vital roles and responsibilities of public higher education. CHEE is committed to improving student success by conducting distinctive research, policy analysis and outreach that will help make higher education more accessible, affordable, engaged and all-around excellent.
CHEE’s mission is to become the country’s preeminent higher education research and policy center, solving issues of national significance. In terms of vision, CHEE exists to advance the higher education enterprise through the creation and dissemination of distinctive research that informs policy, strengthens communities and enables student success. For more, go to http://chee.osu.edu.
CHEE CORE GOALS
Educational Excellence: to ensure student access and success.
Research and Innovation: to make high-quality, distinctive contributions
Outreach and Engagement:to cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships.
Initial planning and development of this national study of community colleges began in summer 2014. The survey was adapted from the Most Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs survey. Given the project’s focus on workplace diversity, staffing practices and work environment, six initial categories guided the study, including family friendliness, salary/benefits, and professional development opportunities, to name a few.
The final web survey was mounted to a secure server managed by the Center for Higher Education Enterprise via Qualtrics, an online survey software. Using a list provided by NISOD, CHEE staff sent electronic invitations to institutional representatives at hundreds of campuses; electronic invitations included a hyperlink to the website on which the survey was placed.
Participants responded to the survey online, typically requiring 60 minutes to complete the instrument once data were assembled. No incentives were offered to encourage participation and respondents understood that their institutional identity might be released in a special edition of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.
The survey launched in late fall 2014 with release of the initial invitations to all NISOD-member institutions; follow-up reminders were sent at two-week intervals, and CHEE staff placed calls to campus presidents/chancellors and NISOD liaisons to call attention to the invitation and encourage their response. Accounting for bouncebacks and undeliverables, the estimated response rate is 20 percent.
PROMISING PRACTICES AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES
Promising Practice #1: Demonstrated Commitment to Access and Student Success
Community colleges are known collectively for providing people in their local communities with access to higher education. This year’s list of Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges are also celebrated by the faculty, staff and communities for their demonstrated commitment to enabling access to higher education and subsequently ensuring that their students succeed at the college and in life. In addition to continuing to admit all students seeking postsecondary education, community college practitioners noted how their institutions used data to uncover gaps in performance and then fiscal and human capital toward initiatives designed to close those gaps.
For example, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) was praised by staff for its investment in the Minority Male Mentoring Program and TRiO Upward Bound after college leaders found large gaps in male student success and desired to better prepare local students for college.
In addition, faculty and staff found that most members of the faculty, staff and senior leadership are striving to achieve the same goal. At Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC), this was proclaimed on a former billboard that read, “We’re here for you!” A staff member shared, “It was not mere propaganda. … As long as the college remains true to that mission, I am happy to contribute as much as I can.”
Similarly, a staff member at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology shared that faculty, staff and administrators all have the same goal of “serving, educating, training and graduating our students with the confidence that they are prepared. This is true from custodial services to the president’s office.” As a result, faculty-to-student ratios are managed to allow for increased student engagement and interaction and to ensure appropriate attention is paid to students. Commitment to access and student success is not just found in the mission statement of this year’s Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges, but instead is enacted daily from custodial services up to the president’s office.
Promising Practice #2: Recognition of Good Work
It is essential to recognize the good work of faculty and staff at the nation’s community colleges. Like many institutions of higher education, this year’s list of Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges hosted formal ceremonies to recognize various members of their college community; these activities were one of the promising practices individuals noted as a positive attribute of the institutional culture that was beneficial to their and their colleagues’ retention.
Whether it’s the Mustang Awards, end-of-the-year staff picnic or the awarding of the president’s golden glove award for superior grant leadership, faculty and staff know that their institutional leaders notice and value their work. One staff member from SWCC said, “Most of all, I stay here because I believe my efforts are both needed and worthwhile.”
In addition to the institutional awards and ceremonies, many faculty and staff noted that their campus leadership also nominated them for regional and national awards, honors and recognitions.
For example, a staff member at MCCC recalled being nominated by the college’s president for the YWCA Tribute for Exceptional Women. The intentional gesture by the college’s president undoubtedly shaped the way she understood her place in and value to the MCCC community. It is clear that institutions should continue to invest in institutional recognition opportunities as well as those external to their organization to ensure that their college student educators know that the institution and senior leadership value the #GoodWork they do!
Promising Practice #3: Intentional Focus on Meeting the Needs of Local Community and Region
Inherent in the name and mission of community colleges is an unapologetic focus on the local community. It is then no surprise that employees of this year’s Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges take to heart the ways in which their institution lives up to this responsibility. By and large, faculty and staff who shared insights in the promising practices of their institutions noted their college’s connection to, service of and appreciation by the communities in which they are located.
One Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC) educator said, “The community values us as ‘their college,’ knowing that, without DSCC, Northwest Tennessee would miss the culture and education we provide.” Another DSCC staff member shared, “we take pride in what we are able to accomplish for all of our stakeholders and we strive to be the true meaning of a ‘community’ college” by being a part of the local community whether they live close to campus or not.
Those at SWCC identified several institutional investments that allow the college to provide “support to the business community through ‘rapid responses’ when there are training needs for new or expanding businesses,” namely through the Small Business Development Centers and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. As they indicated, “If new needs arise in our service area, the community never doubts SWCC’s ability to provide education and training.” This year’s Most Promising Places are truly committed to being colleges that are members of their communities.
Promising Practice #4: Institutional Support for Continuous Imporovment and Innovation
In addition to their focus on access, student success and serving the needs of its local communities, this year’s group of Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges also provide substantial institutional support for continuous improvement and innovation. Whether it’s a reliance on data in the way that made a senior staff member at DSCC suggest that “continuous improvement is not just a phrase,” but a way of life for President Karen Bowyer, or the awarding of innovation and innovator of the year awards at MCCC, this year’s Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges are invested in better serving students and their local communities.
Several staff members at SWCC found that college leadership encouraged collaboration and the sharing of data and information to support innovative efforts for solving students’ problems and prepared faculty and staff to work across departments and divisions to continuously improve the institution collectively. At MCCC, this has resulted in the freedom to experiment to enhance student learning through refined math courses and support services as well as more intentional efforts at cost reduction such as efforts to incorporate more open textbooks.
Promising Practice #5: Professional Investment in the Development of Faculty and Staff
In connection with their support of continuous improvement and innovation of the colleges, the Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges also prioritized their investment in the development of faculty and staff to better prepare them for leadership within the organization and broader community. As noted previously, some faculty and staff members have worked at their institution for as many as 32 years, averaging 10. This is not by accident. Faculty and staff alike noted numerous occasions in which they felt the institution and their senior leaders invested in their professional development.
As MCCC, faulty and staff noted the numerous ways in which the college demonstrated a commitment to them that suggested they desired for them to be an active contributor to the MCCC community. Two such programs were the Faculty Diversity Fellows program for junior minority faculty and the President’s Leadership Academy for staff members who were seen as rising leaders within the organization.
n addition, DSCC staff members discussed being attracted to the college because of the opportunities for advancement and recounting the numerous ways they were allowed to contribute more and more to the development of the college, while Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology staff members found that there were always resources available to support their pursuit of professional development on and off campus.
Regardless of their length of tenure, faculty and staff appreciated their institution’s commitment to their individual and collective professional development, asserting that their work, continuous improvement and innovation are in part possible because of their leadership’s investment in formal professional development activities.
Promising Practice #6: Institutional and Practical Support for Work-Life Balance
In addition to being recognized for their good work and being invested in professionally, a number of faculty and staff lauded their institutions, senior leaders and colleagues for valuing work-life balance, which included inclusion of family, partners and children as well as the modification of work hours to meet the increased or decreased demand from students.
For example, several members of the MCCC staff noted that the institution operates on four-day workweeks during the summer sessions. In addition, given the institution’s commitment to serving its community, a number of staff members shared that the leadership of MCCC provides flexible work schedules that allow faculty and staff to engage with the local community in ways that may seem to be unconventional.
Dr. Terrell Lamont Strayhorn (principal investigator) is a professor of higher education at The Ohio State University, where he is also serves as director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE). Author of 8 books, more than 100 journal articles and book chapters, more than 150 papers at international and national conferences and over 200 keynotes, Strayhorn is a prolific scholar, internationally known student success expert, highly sought public speaker, who was named one of the top scholars in his field by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education in 2011.
Dr. Derrick L. Tillman-Kelly (project coordinator) is University Innovation Alliance (UIA) Fellow at The Ohio State Univeristy, where he also formerly served as special assistant to the director in CHEE. Author of several journal articles and book chapters, his research interests consider three primary aspects of higher education: (a) leadership and organizational socialization of administrators; (b) minority-serving institutions; and (c) college students with specific consideration of race, gender, sexuality and spirituality as social identities.