Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – Oct 31, 2020
With the pandemic raging around us, I plead for people to find ways to make safe and meaningful connections with other people through service or simple acts of kindness. It may not be as easy as it used to be to inspire a friend or neighbor, but it sure does make a bigger difference than ever before. In fact just today I was the recipient of a homemade thank you card from our very own Margie Billings. Prior to retiring earlier this year, Margie served as a custodian on the night shift for many years. I am grateful for the times I was able to work alongside her as we cleaned toilets, vacuumed floors, and emptied garbage. Margie did amazing work mentoring students. We shared numerous meals during the late shifts and I always appreciated the stories of her providing food to hungry students, teaching them to write thank you cards to people who helped, and even helping a homeless student with clothing and blankets so they could complete their program. Margie was a custodian all right…she is a person who looked after and was responsible for our facilities AND the people who learn here. She made her job title more meaningful than my job title. I miss seeing her in the halls dearly.
If you don’t mind, please share how someone else has positively impacted our students, faculty, or staff so I can reach out and thank them for their thoughtful kindness. This is the month of gratitude and I hope to meaningfully and personally thank 100 people for their efforts to help our students.
Here is an update:
- Covid-19: As cases surge locally and across the state, we remain vigilant in monitoring the impact on our ability to offer students the necessary hands-on learning to prepare them for jobs. We are experiencing increased exposures to our faculty, staff, and students and remind everyone to strive to limit the impact of the virus. It feels like I have run out of things to say about this mess…I simply implore everyone to be increasingly mindful of ways they can do more to be safe and keep others healthy as well.
- Board Retreat/Meeting Summary:
- Respect Pledge: Students, faculty, and staff joined the Board to share their observations about our Charger Respect Pledge. I really appreciated their perspective on the four main areas of the Pledge. As an historical reminder, we started pledging in January of 2020…who knew it would be so important this year? Each member of the Board shared their thoughts and signed the Pledge. Crystal Wallin, one of our newest Board members and an alumna of Southwest Tech, complimented the students on their presentation and said, “While the four tenets of the Pledge stand on their own, they are stronger when combined together through our actions.” She indicated this is also true for our work across the college noting our strength when bringing our unique talents together to solve complex issues.
- Special Population Data: College Health Indicators are Board-level metrics to determine the overall health of the college. We are working on adding two new indicators, Equity in Learning and Economic Impact. We receive some of our state monies through Outcomes Based Funding. One category, Special Populations, provides a glimpse into student enrollments over a 3-year period. Our College Effectiveness team has recently undertaken a significant research project to identify gaps in learning outcomes. The attached presentation provides more details about both of the new proposed metrics. I encourage you to review it, discuss it in your teams, and send me your feedback. We intend to refine the College Health Indicators, conduct more in-depth research, and use the analysis of the data, combined with our lived experiences and perspectives, to plan ways to help more students be successful.
- Charge Forward Student Cohort, Campus Safety Student Officers, and Blue Line Club: Thank you to the faculty, staff, and students who participated in this session. The Board heard updates regarding the Charge Forward program which provides scholarships and mentoring. Students in this year’s cohort are all people of color. Tom Kretschman outlined the elements of the new Campus Safety program staffed by students under his guidance and mentoring. Gary Roberts provided insights into the community outreach efforts of the Blue Line Club which serve public safety students. After reviewing the data of our Special Populations, it was important to hear from people, students, in order to understand their hopes and needs. We closed this session listening to Police Chief Tony Ruesga talk about the importance of community building, not only in public safety/law enforcement, but for all of us. As we strive to provide service and get to know people as people, de-escalation strategies become the priority and option of choice. In summarizing this session of the retreat, Chuck Bolstad, Board Chair, wrote, “What an amazing presentation from the police chief and our two instructors. They all seem to be the exact people future protective service professionals need to be exposed to early and often in their education. Again I wish I could find a much louder manner to sing the praises of our Charge Forward program!” I am proud we are discussing both law enforcement and racial issues in a respectful way with meaningful action to support progress on both fronts.
- Foundation and Real Estate Foundation: The Board received the quarterly report which you can find in the Board packet. Student housing is not full but the available rooms have provided access to places for quarantine, if needed. We are on track for our ambitious fundraising goals, but there is a lot of uncertainty. I am most proud of our exceptionally high percentage of faculty and staff who donate to the Foundation – for the fourth year in a row, over 90% of our employees were donors! Because we measure percentage and not total amount, we could, conceivably, reach perfection in this measure. I hope we each consider the impact a donation makes for a student who is in need. Please note we are trying to develop a way for your financial contribution to have a significantly increased impact on the recipients. Stay tuned! In the meantime, please see the chart included as a post-script depicting the amount of scholarships awarded to students each year. Your generosity is so very welcome. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
- Financial Update: We are carefully monitoring the signals from state government leaders and officials. Earlier this year the Governor announced a lapse in funding for 2019/20 for state agencies but the Wisconsin Technical College System thankfully covered the shortfall without impact to individual colleges. The Governor has since announced a lapse of about $250 million for state agencies for the current year. The current amount of impact to the technical colleges is being negotiated and options explored to cover the liability. We will know more during the month of November. Our intention is to be prepared to cover our portion of the lapse with reserve funds, if necessary, but we have also taken precautionary steps by allowing a few vacant positions to go unfilled, maintaining a travel restriction, and limiting professional development expenditures. Needless to say, the funds we saved last year and the steps we have taken now ensure we can fulfill our commitment of maintaining current staffing levels through June 30, 2020 barring a budget repair bill by the legislature. Enrollment growth remains our most viable option to insulate us from staffing reductions which I think would be detrimental given we are very likely to see a lagging boon to enrollments pending the status of economic volatility.
- President’s Goals: The goals the Board has for me are frequent topics of discussion as we evaluate success and I receive guidance on ways to improve. Please note I believe I need to become a better person and leader if I am to help guide the college to successes in these areas and overall. The Board is diligent in providing me an accountability framework to learn, grow, and develop. The Board has prioritized the following five categories which will be a portion of my performance evaluation in the spring.
- Student Learning: increase the number of learners, improve their success, and create a public plan for program vitality.
- Equity and Inclusion lead to Diversity: establish College Heath Indicator goals and align the college to achieve benchmarks while developing a college-wide plan for increased Awareness, Action, and Accountability to enhance hiring and promotion trends.
- Fiscal Responsibility: annual financial performance of the college including clean audit, low student loan default rate, and ensuring balanced funding for personnel, facilities, and academic plans.
- Fundraising Stewardship: long-term financial health of the college through support for students including growth of funds identified in Board-approved priorities for the 2020’s.
- Leadership Development and Succession Planning: revisiting the Acting President policy with appropriate updates, establishing “Succession Plans” for all chief officers, and then creating plans for difficult-to-fill positions or as part of known employment transitions.
- Kudos to…
- Camille Chappell for her work in researching, analyzing, and presenting the Special Populations data to the Board. Camille demonstrated a high level of excellence and made vast amounts of data accessible to people with a wide range of experience with college information. I hope and trust this same presentation will lead to requests for more data AND a desire to get to know the people represented by the numbers, understand their stories, and commit to new ways of helping them be successful. Thank you, Camille, for your enthusiasm with your work!
- Emily McBee, Gina Kartman, Paula Timmerman, and the many other people working in the Child Care Center. We are grateful for their resiliency in reopening on October 26 and note that his week went by without incident. Our child care folks are among the very best in the business and strive to keep the kiddos safe and healthy. They do awesome work! Thank you, Emily, Gina, and Paula for your efforts!
- Danielle Seippel for her great work on Project RiSE (the Enterprise Resource Planning implementation). Not only is Danielle carrying an exceptional work load right now, she is doing it with a mind towards excellence. Please see the attached Shout Out and Lisa Riley’s recognition of Danielle’s intelligence, willingness to speak up, and expertise. Nice job!
- Michael Madsen for once again going above and beyond to help students learn math. Chris Bowers, Disabilities Services Director, recognized Michael in the attached Shout Out for taking extra time to help a student who had a scheduling conflict. It is this type of service that benefits our most at-risk students and makes it possible for all people to succeed. Well done!
If there is a topic you would like addressed, or something you would like me to know, please send me a note. Questions and feedback are always welcome. In the meantime, please know we care deeply about your well-being. We acknowledge your continued dedication to doing your job well during difficult circumstances. We constantly hope for you to be well.
Jason S. Wood, Ph.D.
President of the College