Wow! I have just completed my first academic year at St. Louis Community College! What feels like only a couple of weeks in reality is turning out to have been a wonderful year, and I continue to be thankful to have the opportunity to serve the people of the St. Louis region.
During this initial year, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the College and the community, and have already established many meaningful partnerships and friendships with leaders of area employers and organizations. In addition, all of us at the College have been very impressed with the generosity of the people of this area, as the St. Louis Community College Foundation has been the recipient of several gifts from companies and foundations that will provide substantial scholarship opportunities for our students.Over the past year, many people have stopped me to ask about my vision for the College. While I certainly have been excited about the question and am full of ideas regarding what a vision could be, I have been very careful to pace myself and wait for the College to work through its current Strategic Planning Process and to listen to what all of our stakeholders are telling us regarding their expectations and needs from a comprehensive community college.
I am pleased to report that we are closing in on the completion of a new and comprehensive strategic plan for the College. During the process, we engaged an external facilitator from the community to assist in obtaining information from a wide variety of stakeholder groups including businesses, civic organizations, students and their parents, faculty, and staff. Information was collected via survey to assist in defining what our focus should be going forward and by conducting over 20 face-to-face forums with various stakeholder groups.
The result of these efforts is the development of six strategic initiatives for the College to focus on in the next three to five years. Although we are working to finalize wordsmithing and goals and metrics that align with the initiatives, the below depicts the general idea and a sneak peek of the focus for the College for the future:
- Provide a Premier Student Experience (from the time the student walks through the door to the time they walk across the commencement stage)
- Foster Student Success (defining clear pathways that lead to the completion of a postsecondary degree or credential that leads to high wage employment and/or further higher education opportunities)
- Strengthen Community Awareness and Connections (to articulate to the community the programming and value we provide to the St. Louis Region, to expand partnerships with area schools and businesses, and to expand efforts targeted at diversity and inclusion)
- Align with Workforce (to ensure programming and curricula aligns with area employers and university partners, and to focus on incumbent worker training and continuing education opportunities for the region)
- Promote Accountability, Excellence, Innovation and Continuous Improvement (moving toward a continuous improvement culture and environment for all aspects of the College)
- Secure an Adequate Resource Base (to work to ensure that state and local funding is in place to support community needs in academic programming and short-term training)
In examining the workforce and education needs illustrated by state and local agencies and in listening to local business leaders, there is more of a need for a strong community college than ever before in the history of the St. Louis region! In fact, I see St. Louis Community College as the primary institution with the ability to address key workforce needs. A tightening of the labor market due to low unemployment rates, rapidly aging workforce and the State of Missouri’s identified need to increase the proportion of working-age adults with high quality, affordable postsecondary credentials to 60 percent by 2025 are just a few examples of evidence that reflects the absolute need for the College to fulfill its mission and enable the St. Louis economy to continue to move forward in the years to come.
The College’s new Strategic Plan will soon be finalized and will be widely shared with the St. Louis region. I truly believe it is well aligned with what the community has articulated in regards to what the needs are and how best St. Louis Community College can fulfill its mission. My heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of individuals that participated in its development and in assisting the College to align with the communities that it serves.
Be sure to stay tuned for my next quarterly report, where I will be sharing the highly anticipated outcomes of the College’s 2016 State of the St. Louis Workforce Report!
Jeff L. Pittman, Ph.D.
Jeff is the Chancellor of St. Louis Community College, an Adjunct Professor at Indiana State University in Higher Education Leadership and Vice-Chair of the Missouri Community College Association’s Presidents/Chancellors Council.