August 2010

Community College Experience Shapes Student Success

Community colleges help an amazingly diverse group of people realize their dreams.  Our students are committed to building better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.  As a community college president, I have the privilege of working to create a teaching and learning organization that is centered on student success.  As a part of this work, every year I develop a Presidential Action Initiative (PAI) for Waubonsee Community College.  The PAI provides clear direction for the college community on emerging issues — setting the tone for the college.  In today’s global and competitive economy, helping students succeed is more crucial than ever.  As a result, Waubonsee’s 2010-2011 PAI is “Shaping Student Success: Opportunity, Community and Accountability.”

Waubonsee’s 44-year history is filled with rich examples of student success.  We have a strong foundation upon which to build.  While examining factors that contribute to student success today, I believe that opportunity, community and accountability are all essential.

Opportunity

Having access to college is a critical component for student success -- eventually leading to fulfilling employment and career achievement.  Last year, Waubonsee launched “Brighter Futures,” a successful program aimed at helping individuals negatively impacted by the recession. We are continuing “Brighter Futures” this year with numerous events, job fairs, services and scholarships. Unemployed residents of Waubonsee’s district can apply for a “Brighter Futures” scholarship, which provides $500 toward one of our Workforce Development classes.  These accelerated classes offer a quick way to learn essential job-related skills or earn a certification.  Also, Waubonsee will host the Working for the Fox Valley Job Fair on Friday, September 17 at our Sugar Grove Campus.

When Waubonsee’s new Plano Campus opens this November, the college will be literally opening new doors to opportunity.  Students will be able to complete an associate degree entirely in Plano, significantly increasing access for college district residents in the southwestern portion of our service area.  The grand opening celebration takes place November 12 and 13 with classes starting in January.  You can explore all the programs the new Plano Campus will offer at waubonsee.edu/plano.

Community

Waubonsee strongly believes in creating dynamic linkages with our community to leverage resources for student success.  Partnerships and collaborations are fundamental to our mission.  The new Plano Campus and the building of a new, comprehensive campus in downtown Aurora, are visible commitments to our communities.  Waubonsee serves a diverse area that encompasses portions of five counties and more than 600 square miles.  Whether a Waubonsee student comes from a rural, suburban or urban environment, we are committed to providing access to college.  Internal community building is also essential, and great work is taking place within the college to embrace our diversity.  We continue to leverage this wonderful asset to enhance the educational experience of our students, as well as the workplace for our faculty and staff.

Sustainability is also a priority for Waubonsee.  The college seeks to model environmental stewardship and to assist in shaping a sustainable future for our community.  We remain at the leading edge of developing and teaching new courses and programs so our students can enter the “green collar” economy of tomorrow.

Accountability

As a public, taxpayer-supported institution, we are accountable to our community.  Strong financial stewardship is a top priority, as is clearly demonstrating the positive outcomes gained by our students.  For the 11th consecutive year, the college received the prestigious Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA).  We also take pride in presenting a balanced budget for approval by our board of trustees. Given the financial challenges facing Illinois, transparency and fiscal conservatism are vital.

Another aspect of accountability is demonstrating student completion.  Community colleges nationwide are focused on making sure students earn degrees and certificates.  Waubonsee has been a leader in this effort, encouraging student completion through our Project Graduation initiative.  This continues to be an important emphasis for us in the 2010-2011 academic year through numerous new programs, services and educational opportunities.

Shaping Student Success

These three elements — opportunity, community and accountability — all combine to form a foundation for shaping student success.  Our board of trustees, faculty and staff eagerly await the beginning of a new academic year, and the opportunities we will have to nurture the achievement and the future promise of our students.