Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – December 18, 2021

Dear Friends at the College,

First of all, thank you to the many people who have reached out to Denise Janssen with love and support as we all mourn with her during this difficult time.  Faculty and staff have sat with her to keep her company, delivered meals, cleaned her home, dropped off cards, made plans to cover her work, and more.  The outpouring of condolences and sympathy is a tender mercy that can warm the hearts of those impacted by tragedy.  We love you, Denise, and hope for your comfort, healing, and peace.

As the year comes to a close, I appreciate this quote by Meg Wheatley, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”  May we each take time individually to reflect on what we have learned, experienced, and felt.  I would greatly appreciate hearing or reading your feedback on your past year and how that influences you moving forward.  Here are three of my top reflections and how a brief intention for the new year:

  1. I am grateful for the people in my life who love me and the chance to love them too.
    1. I want to better show my appreciation for those closest to me by spending more quality time with them.
  2. It is a privilege and honor for me to work with so many people who care about our students and are willing to help them be successful.
    1. I am renewed in my commitment to be of service to those who strive to learn and improve.
  3. Spirituality and faith have helped me find peace, hope, comfort, and joy in good times and bad.
    1. I appreciate the opportunity to correct my mistakes and will focus on using my talents and privileges to bless others.

Please note the Board of Directors is also engaged in a process of reflection and self-assessment.  Between now and their semi-annual retreat in April, they will engage in a series of reflection and assessment exercises related to their service to the college and interactions with each other.  Between May and their October retreat they will conduct a series of team-building activities to strengthen their trust and teamwork.  I admire, respect, and appreciate their thoughtful and purposeful example and hope we will follow their lead.

Here’s an update from around the college:

  1. Improving our Focus on What Matters Most:  We are here to help students be successful.  Simply and specifically, it matters that we:
    1. Recruit more students
    2. Help them complete learning experiences
    3. Support them in finding good jobs

    When we do these three things well we improve the lives of our students and employers benefit.  In order to focus our efforts, we will update our academic, facilities, and financing plans to clearly identify the intended direct benefit to students.  We will place greater emphasis on using data analysis, both of the hard numbers as well as the wisdom gleaned from truly knowing our students, to better serve the underrepresented and at-risk populations.  The results of our updates to these plans will be presented to the Board during their semi-annual retreat in April.  More importantly, I hope you each know the ways you help students be successful.  I am very grateful for your efforts to care for every student, especially those who benefit from diverse and unique approaches.  Remember our students report they are successful when they:

    1. Know someone cares and is willing to help
    2. Engage in quality learning experiences
    3. Get paid (by getting good jobs after graduation)
  1. Sustainability and Renewable Energies: We will be releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) to complete a feasibility plan for our campus sustainability efforts.  The ideal outcome of the plan will include investments using one-time funds to reduce our operational costs which are ongoing expenses.  We will reap the benefits with additional financial flexibility to the degree we are successful at prioritizing renewable energies.
  2. Remodel Project: The third phase of the event space remodel project is scheduled to go to RFP soon.  This specific area to be remodeled includes the Lenz Center, cafeteria, restrooms, and possibly two classrooms.  Key elements of this project include mandatory installation of fire suppression systems and updates to meet ADA requirements.  It is important to look for ways to better serve students who experience our spaces differently – and I’m curious what this means to you.  Expectations for improved functionality of the space include acoustics, technology, visibility, privacy, and flexibility.  If the Board approves a bid from the RFP, we anticipate the space will be offline around the time of May graduation and we hope the work concludes prior to the start of classes in August.
  3. FTE and Finances: Our FTE are trending towards flat for the current year.  If you know someone who might want to be a student, please send a referral to Kyle Bennett, Kaye Woodke, or Bri Williamson for follow up.  They do great work and they are happy to provide a tour and lunch for potential students.  Thank you to Ryan Weigel who recently visited high school classes to talk about his program.  I am certainly willing to contact prospective students and invite them to campus.  We are also starting to prioritize investments through the budget process.  Please remember the next 18 months to three years will be particularly challenging due more to the circumstances (fluid and unpredictable) than our financial position (relatively healthy).  Specific challenges include:
    1. Recent history of declining enrollments
    2. Pandemic relief funds are ending
    3. Inflation will impact salary and operations
    4. Project Rise (ERP) is in process
    5. Declining demographics amidst increased competition for workers – both our graduates and our employees

We are more than up to the challenge because we have healthy reserves, the courage to prioritize, and creative people who can help create solutions with integrity.  With such a strong and unwavering commitment to helping all of our students be more successful, especially those who need extra or alternative support, we will thrive despite the chaos.

  1. Pandemic Response
    1. The COVID-Ops Team provided an updated to the Board of Directors regarding the vaccine requirements at clinical sites for our students.  We are working through the implications of the shifting landscape, both of the pandemic as well as the political environment but no decisions have been made.  We will continue to emphasize offering the necessary in-person learning and services for as many people as we can as safely as possible.
    2. We are evaluating our protocol and watching the burden on our local hospitals.  We don’t like the more contagious variants but are hopeful the symptoms remain milder.  Our campus plan represents our best efforts to help keep people safe and continue learning opportunities for students.  If you have thoughts on our efforts in the current environment, please let me know.
  2. Personal Care and Well-Being
    1. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP info attached) is designed to be a confidential way to access professional care.  If you feel like you could use support to improve your well-being, please access the EAP or seek help from your family physician.  There are many people who care about you and we hope you will care for yourself.
  3. Kudos to…
    1. Ed Anderson!  Christina Winch, lead for our assessment efforts, thanked Ed in the attached Shout Out for his work with other faculty.  Ed goes above and beyond to help instructors with their assessment of student learning which is an important part of better serving students.  Nice job, Ed!
    2. Amy Seeboth-Wilson! Mandy Henkel wrote a Shot Out for Amy’s great work on completing a mandatory state report.  As new employee, Amy jumped right in and did an excellent job on a substantial project.  Thank you, Amy, for joining our college and making a positive impact!
    3. Camille Chappell!  I am grateful for Camille’s relentless and enthusiastic emphasis on data quality.  Camille has a lot on her plate and works hard to deliver excellent analysis and perspective.  She is working on a master’s degree in data analytics but is already a master at regularly exceeding expectations.  Well done, Camille!

In closing, I want to wish each of you the very best.  Thank you, sincerely, for your service to students and each other.  Please take a break from work while the college is closed.  In fact, I trust we will support each other by encouraging everyone to step away from work as much as absolutely possible.  In the meantime, please send me any questions or thoughts you may have.  I care about you and appreciate hearing from you when you have time.

As we go into the New Year, I am reminded of the words of Shel Silverstein, “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”  I hope we will be ambitious in our new year’s goals and resolutions.

May you enjoy the holidays with your family, friends, and loved ones.  May the New Year be full of amazing accomplishments for our students, you, your family, and your loved ones.  May peace, comfort, and joy touch your hearts and enlighten your souls.



Posted in COVID-19, General, Update