Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – August 1, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

With COVID-19 hitting closer and closer to our own homes, please, please, please remember to be sensitive to the unique situations of others.  The uncertainty and fear can be as toxic as the disease but with obviously different results.  I believe the best way to impact the behaviors of others is to provide an example through our own actions.  Unfortunately we are experiencing a particularly bitter divide regarding the best solutions.  Debates rage about recommended behavioral solutions.  I am not smart enough to know the answers to the complex issues we are facing but I do feel we need greater doses of empathy and more kindness.  As a college we will focus on teaching students the skills they need to be successful in their careers while also providing essential support services.  Please join me in continuing to be willing to make a few sacrifices in order to help our students be successful.

Here is an update from around the college:

  1. Inclusivity, Equity, and Unity
    1. It is important to continue our efforts to learn about cultures, beliefs, and experiences of others.  Last year we welcomed Native American singers and dancers to campus and enjoyed a meal of their traditional food.  It would have been good if we had formally programmed more time for thought, reflection, and dialog.  As you set goals through your coaching sessions, please remember to include the opportunity to learn about others.  I know from personal experience there are areas of our personal lives that cause varying levels of comfort/discomfort to share with professional colleagues.  We will be incorporating opportunities to learn and share recognizing the need for increased levels of trust, respect, and integrity as we experience the resulting range of emotions and unique methods of intellectual processing – all while responding to a worsening pandemic, increasingly contentious election season, and concerning unrest across the country and throughout the world.  Please see the attached Diversity, Unity, Inclusion document which represents the collective commitment of all 16 technical colleges in Wisconsin.  It is important to me that you know we will accelerate our efforts in this area.  Next week we will announce our staffing model plans.  Our most important outcome in this effort is to let each of you know we care deeply about your personal well-being and we want more people to experience that same type of attention.
  2. Accreditation
    1. As we start the new academic year, please note our comprehensive visit from the Higher Learning Commission is scheduled for April 2022.  The outcomes we generate this year will be included in our report.  A small team will be serving as “Accreditation Leaders” including Barb Tucker, Derek Dachelet, Mandy Henkel, and Karen Campbell.  Please stay tuned for updates regarding co-leads and membership for work groups for each of the criterion.
    2. IVP – Instructional and Institutional Vitality Process
      1. We look forward to everyone completing their Team Action Plans by participating in the IVP process during the week of in-service. 🙂
  3. Program Spotlight
    1. We are exploring the possibility of a Data Analytics Program.  The process begins August 6 with a DACUM (Developing A Curriculum).  Working with industry experts, a profile of job duties for potential careers is developed to be utilized in creating competencies, student/program learning outcomes, and other program-related logistics.  We anticipate creating exciting partnerships between our College Effectiveness Department and a potential academic program as well as a closer relationship with industry leaders within our service district.  Bringing more data into our culture is positive.
    2. Shout Out to Katie Anderson for her leadership in providing laptops to all students in her Graphic/Web Design program for the past couple of years.  The lessons she learned during the process guide our current efforts to provide all students with laptops.  Please see the Frequently Asked Questions regarding the current laptop for student initiative.  We acknowledge there are still unanswered questions as we work through a very fast implementation.  If you have a question or feedback, please let Heath Ahnen know and we will do our best to address it.  In addition to recognizing Katie Anderson for her good work, I’d like to thank the IT folks for all of their support with the Graphic Web Design project as well as our current efforts.
  4. Services Sharing
    1. The Exec Team is meeting on Monday, August 3 and will be taught more about the mental health services we offer to students and employees during an interactive training.  We hope to gain a better understanding of the current mental health environment and learn how we can provide better access and service to our college community.  Please visit the webpage for an overview of our current services available to students and others.
    2. As presented during the budget process, we are experimenting with a new model for campus safety.  Tom Kretschman, public safety instructor, will serve as a campus safety lead responding to situations.  Tom will also develop a mentoring and training program for current public safety students so they can learn about interacting with people in real situations while under his guidance.  This is not a campus police program, nor are we going in that direction.  We will still maintain a positive partnership with local professionals.  We anticipate a high-level of interest, and probably increased scrutiny, of how this program operates.  In an effort to be transparent, Tom will provide more information at in-service.  We will strive to keep you informed about expectations, training, mentoring, and outcomes.  Somewhat related, I have accepted an invitation from Gary Roberts, public safety instructor, to attend some of the hands-on instruction they provide to students.  I am grateful our program emphasizes outreach to the local communities through service-learning projects.  These types of efforts help our current students learn more about other people they will serve after they graduate.
  5. Financial Monitoring
    1. Our enrollment (most recent spreadsheet is attached) is slipping slightly as we are down just over 1% compared to the same point in time last year.  While not nearly as low as the enrollment deficits seen at other colleges right now, we were down significantly last year at this same point in time.  The “More Students Learning More” team has continued to meet and work over the summer.  There are, however, no quick and easy fixes.  I share so you can be aware and, if the opportunity presents itself, encourage someone to take classes.  (I am proud to share one of my daughters is completing a course this summer. :-)) We are working on ways to offer more personal interactions with potential students, possibly including campus tours at some point.  If you don’t know of a potential student, a kind note to a graduate or industry partner may yield a referral. 🙂
  6. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) implementation is underway!
    1. We are excited to start the two year process of converting to Anthology – formerly Campus Management.  Thank you to the many, many people who contributed to the selection process.  We anticipate many more of you will be involved at varying levels as we move forward.  Please see the attached slides (entitled Leadership Update) for an outline of the roles key people will play in the process.  A more detailed update will be provided during in-service on August 11.  This is a tremendous opportunity to build on our excellence and create a world-class experience for our students.
  7. Succession Planning and Leadership Development
    1. Over the past few years we have had several successful transitions of key positions due to more purposeful planning.  While we still do not have a comprehensive succession plan, we continue to provide real and meaningful opportunities for leadership development.  We will implement succession plans for specific scenarios as possible.  Printed with permission – Congratulations to Katie Glass who is expecting her second child!  We anticipate an extended leave at some point shortly after the new year.  Katie serves as the Executive Director for Marketing and we are planning a temporary leadership opportunity as we explore the possibility of filling her role while she is on leave.  We are only considering current benefited employees.  We may elect to appoint someone from within the department or someone from another area of the college.  If a supervisor from another area is chosen, that will also create another short-term leadership opportunity.  We anticipate there will be an investment of time prior to the appointment to learn about the responsibilities as well as an opportunity to reflect on the experience after the assignment is completed.  We do strive to select people who have chosen to participate in the Leadership Development professional training offerings we have provided.  We anticipate making a decision prior to the end of August.  Stay tuned for further updates on this opportunity as well as additional succession plans specific to other identified transitions.
  8. Service Culture during a Pandemic
    1. We want people to feel welcomed to our college and I am grateful so many people strive to smile, greet people, and offer to be helpful.  Customer service extends beyond the first interactions and is most important during difficult times.  Faculty know full well to expect students to have emergency situations during finals week.  The vast majority of situations are real and impede the progress of our students.  There are also times when people overstate or manipulate a situation for a variety of reasons.  The Academic Deans/Directors have wrestled with this topic and are working with our Emergency Operations Team to develop our approach as the scenario will play out frequently during fall term especially as cold/flu season begins.  It is more important to overcome the pandemic by creating incentives to report and do self-care than possibly have a small percentage of cases involve “excuse abuse”.  As an initial insight into the current thinking, please reference an email from Derek Dachelet regarding our “Academic Statement” which will be provided to students so they are aware of the reporting expectations.  Please feel free to provide your thoughts and feedback to one of the deans as we continue to hone our approach.
  9. Councils, Project Teams, and Work Groups 2020-2021
    1. We are finalizing the membership for the Councils, Project Teams, and Work Groups.  Please note we have fewer than half as many teams as last year as we recognize the incredible workload and uncertainty created by COVID-19.  We strive for broad representation from across the college as well as providing different people with a chance to serve.  We anticipate sharing more during in-service regarding specific information like membership, goals, and possible activities.  Please understand your service-to-college responsibilities may shift this year.  We appreciate your patience and are grateful for the many achievements we attain through our shared internal governance structure.
  10. Kudos
    1. Annetta Smith – thank you for your excellent work coordinating several searches over the last couple of weeks.  You have done a great job of keeping people informed and involved. 🙂
    2. Matthew Baute – thank you for the hard work you are putting in to establish the foundation for a successful ERP implementation.  Your communication and project management skills are very much appreciated. 🙂
    3. Paul Cutting – kudos for being selected as the Outstanding Post-Secondary Instructor Award from the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators.  You have touched the lives of many, many students during your 30 years of service. 🙂
    4. Cindy Rasmussen – kudos for recently helping not one, but two, students complete their 5.08 High School Equivalency Diplomas.  For those who do not know, the 5.08 diploma is issued by the Department of Public Instruction to students who complete some of their high school in another country, finish up requirements with us, pass a civics exam, and demonstrate reading, writing, and speaking English competencies.  Thank you, Cynde, for helping these two students, and many others, be successful. 🙂
    5. Melissa Klinkhammer – on a personal note, congratulations on your recent engagement. 🙂

In conclusion, I look forward to in-service which is approaching all too quickly.  Please feel free to reach out with any questions, comments, or feedback.  May you each be well.


Posted in COVID-19, Update