Friday, March 16, 2012

Engagement is key to strategic priorities in 2012/2013

I came away from our March 7 and 14 strategic planning Town Halls feeling inspired by the ideas, energy and passion of the 80 or so faculty and staff who attended one of those events.

Even if you couldn't attend a Town Hall discussion, we still need your ideas!

Especially, I want to know what you think of the proposed 3 areas of strategic focus for 2012/2013:
  • Learner Pathways
  • Teaching Quality
  • Student and Employee Engagement
Do you agree with these strategic priorities? Are we on the right track? How can we best achieve these strategic goals?

And as you reflect on the past two years of implementation of Pathways to Success, Strategic Plan 2010 - 2015 [summary plan, PDF], how do you feel about our accomplishments?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment to this blog post. I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

Summary of strategic planning Town Hall discussions
Now, for those of you who couldn't attend one of our Town Halls, here is a fairly brief summary of the proceedings.

At both events, I reviewed highlights from the Interim Report published last month, but with a little more detail on our external environment and our accomplishments. I also touched on some of the feedback from December's employee survey.

The challenges and opportunities in our external environment haven't shifted much over the past two years. Canada urgently needs to increase the education and skill level of its workforce. That remains our challenge, our opportunity, and the social mission that fuels our commitment to our strategic goals. It's the reason we need to keep growing enrollment, the reason we need to develop new programs, and the reason we need to improve our pathways as well as the quality of our instruction.

Change isn't easy, but I'm impressed by how much we've accomplished in the past two years, thanks to the dedication and hard work of our faculty and staff. In order to keep adapting, we need to improve the level of engagement with our students and with each other. Our success actually depends on our ability to communicate, collaborate, share our knowledge and experience, and support each other.

The Town Hall events were wonderful examples of engagement.

Key themes of Coquitlam discussion on March 7
At Coquitlam, two employees shared personal stories of life- and career-changing transformation that resulted from working and studying in a college. Those stories sparked a passionate discussion that reminded everyone that our goals and actions are grounded in a meaningful mission and heartfelt values.

Discussion topics included older students (are we losing sight of them?) as well as high school students (can we do more to help them transition into post-secondary?).

We also had a good discussion about how best to link formative evaluation of instructors with professional development.

Collaboration was another strong theme—ideas emerged about team teaching, colloquia to facilitate sharing across disciplines, and mentoring (including "reverse mentoring", where newer faculty and staff share knowledge with experienced employees).

Clearly, this group supported the proposed focus on Engagement in 2012/2013.

And in fact the proposed areas of strategic focus—Engagement, Learner Pathways and Quality Teaching—seemed to resonate with everyone at both Town Halls.

Key themes of New West discussion on March 14
Access issues were on the minds of faculty and staff who met at New West. We talked about online offerings, and wondered about the best way to leverage provincial resources for online services.

We discussed the challenges of serving Aboriginal and multicultural populations. We talked about reverse transfer students from universities, and about factors that affect applicant quality and demand levels, including shifting GPA entrance requirements at other institutions.

Another theme concerned how we provide for the diversity of our student population. A single class often includes students with a wide range of abilities, backgrounds and goals. This diversity is challenging for instructors, and they need supports throughout the College. The Foundation Year promises to help.

Someone emphasized the importance of ensuring that students not only know about services such as the Learning Centre but actually use them.

What else can we do to ensure the supports are there?

One suggestion was to do more tactical planning to help operationalize our strategic plan. [And this will definitely happen as we move forward.] Some see a need for more professional development. Others want to define what "engagement" means for different faculties and programs.

Overall, at our Town Hall events, I sensed an appetite to act, and not simply to talk.

What about you? Please share your thoughts on the proposed immediate priorities of Learner Pathways, Quality Teaching, and Student and Employee Engagement. Agree with those priorities? How can we move forward in those areas? Leave your thoughts in a comment to this blog post. I look forward to reading them!



  1. When can we expect the results of the Deloitte Touche review of the Chinese grades scandal?

  2. Maureen,

    These are all interesting ideas and many have been talked about in the context of the current strategic plan. I wonder if others have additional ideas or would like to comment on yours (support, add on to, etc.)?

    On advising, while your idea is more than incremental, what I can say in particular is that we are proposing this budget year to add an advisor. The idea of embedded advisors is interesting and one that has been talked about. Do other faculties feel that this would be beneficial?

    On evening (and part-time) supports including weekends, there are obviously cost implications. Yet as we continue to attract either a different demographic of student (as well as the traditional full time student), we are going to have to think this through. Are there other thoughts people have on this?

    On jobs for students on campus, we are adding a number in this year's budget but we perhaps could do a better job communicating that to people. We could also do more perhaps to publicize more widely what is available. This links to the comment about career placement and a career centre. I just read a report on best practices at US institutions on this topic and we are actively looking into it. The question is what is the objective to be achieved? Additional thoughts on this would be most welcome.

    The writing promise and the emphasis on learning outcomes as opposed to "superior teaching quality" both deserve fuller discussion and we will try to engage that discussion (at least in part) in the coming months. I do, nonetheless, like your idea on a conference on pathways. I have also been considering an educational futures or, indeed, a general futures conference. Input is solicited.

    Thank you again for your ideas. I hope your thoughts stimulate others.