Imagine this scenario: Three years ago, you started
in a leadership position at a large multi-campus
community college recently placed on probation
by its accrediting agency. You have several issues
to address, but there’s a central challenge. In the
last 10 years, there has not been a comprehensive
review of the mission and you have no key perfor-
mance indicators through which you can monitor
progress on institutional priorities.
While you have a strategic plan, it is not data-informed and lacks structures for accountability.
Further, while the strategic plan sets relatively
high-level goals, there’s no operational planning
process to support success. And for data? Reports
run against your operational database and you
are lagging behind best practices in business
intelligence. You participate in national benchmarking efforts such as the American Association
of Community Colleges’ Voluntary Framework of
Accountability (VFA) and the Community College
Survey of Student Engagement, but those data are
not embedded into college effectiveness systems.
What do you do?
This was the challenge facing Arizona’s Pima
Community College in 2014. We needed to carry
out a comprehensive review of the mission,
establish meaningful mission key performance
indicators (KPIs), establish a strategic and operational
planning process, use national benchmarking
data to drive improvement, and update data and
analytic approaches to meet leading practices
in the country. Today, we have completed these
items, and our mission and planning landscape
looks very different.
As a college emerging from a challenging period,
aligning institutional efforts with the mission
of the college was a critical first step. Therefore,
starting in summer 2014, we embarked on a
comprehensive review of the mission. We took
multiple steps to ensure engagement of internal
and external stakeholders. The process included
multiple open discussions across each major
college site, public events to gather input from the
community and review and approval by our governing board. It was a long and detailed process.
There were challenges along the way and setbacks
were encountered. Ultimately, however, the process yielded a comprehensively reviewed mission
fulfillment framework that included KPIs from
both national systems and local measures.
At the same time, we initiated two other key
activities: Pima established an operational effectiveness and planning process, and we engaged with a
business intelligence consultant to establish a data
warehouse. Both projects were large in scope. To
establish an operational effectiveness and planning
system, first we had to identify operational units
across the college, and work with those areas to identify mission statements, objectives, plan strategies
Community members discuss possible
strategic directions for Pima Community
College during a large community event
held by the college in March.
by Nicola C. Richmond