November 21, 2008

Greetings all,

Welcome to issue number seven of “What’s On My Mind?” This week I’d like to reflect on a number of sights and sounds from around the College that are indicative of our continued commitment to student success, community building, bringing learning alive and positive social change. First though, let me comment on the historical presidential election of Barack Obama and what this might mean to students and learning.

Over the last several weeks, I have been trying to understand – through the eyes of students – the significance of the U.S. electorate choosing Obama decisively by popular vote as our first African-American President. It has been reported that young voters (ages 18 – 29, many who are students) overwhelmingly supported Obama – 68 percent to 30 percent for McCain. I talked with a student while waiting in line for fry bread during a Native American dance exhibition. She shared how pleased she was that Barack had been elected, but found that many of her friends seemed to discount the importance of the election and were hesitant to talk openly about an African-American being elected president. She was disappointed that at least among her peer group, there seemed to be lack of engaging conversation. Later that week, I visited with a PVCC faculty member who shared that one of her students – as evidenced by a pre-class impassioned discussion with other students – was now empowered and engaged because in his words “everything is possible now.” Lastly, I was thumbing through a high school newspaper of one of our feeder high schools and ran across a student written editorial reflecting on post election racist mal-behavior – tiny hanging nooses being waved towards African-American students during an in class discussion of the election results. Are these behaviors representative of the larger student population and society in general? Perhaps – I don’t know. We know that learning occurs best when done in the context of a compelling situation and the election of an African-American is a historically compelling situation. Take the time and talk with students about the election – you will be surprised what you’ll learn and how much more we all need to learn.

Sights and sounds around the college…

The Business/IT Division is “double-dog daring” all other divisions and departments to join in on the fun with Relay for Life. There has got to be other groups that will compete with the folks in Business/IT. BTW – ask Gary Smith what he is doing to raise money for Relay – it is impressive. I hear that faculty members Brett Reed in music and Catherin Snyder in psychology are doing some amazing engaging activities in class – ask them about their approaches!

Stop by the reception for the PVCC Men’s NJCAA National Cross Country Champions on Tuesday, November 25 – what a success story for coach Dave Barney and his student-athletes.

Have a great week.

Regards,

Paul Dale, Ed.D.
Interim President

November 13, 2008

Greetings all,

Welcome to issue number six of “What’s On My Mind?” This week in particular, there are a number of PVCC issues and challenges weighing heavy on my mind. It has become abundantly clear to me given the state of the economy and our systemic reliance on local and state market forces for our financial survival, that our organizational decision-making must become critically more insightful. PVCC is currently facing a number of significant decisions including: operational budget, capital (construction and technology) allocations, and student success strategies that will directly impact the state of this college for the next three to five years. So let me see if I can tie our college themes of leadership for: student success, community building, bringing learning alive and positive social change- to this stream of thought on insightful decision making.

Let me start by making several operating assumptions: 1) the district funding formula will continue to be based on a FTSE allocation model; 2) under the current model, the single biggest financial lever is to recruit and retain students; 3) in an environment where active and engaged student learning is a systemic norm, retention measures simply become a footnote; and 4) active and engaged student learning results in student success measures that can be framed by the common factors of successful course completion, course sequence completion, and certificate and degree completion – knowing that the lowest success denominator will be driven by student goals and personal intent.

You have read that we are in the process of making operational budget decisions over the next two fiscal years that will at minimum reduce our current operating budget by $470,000 this year and $300,000 next year. This does not include the $540,000 loss in state capital funds. In addition, the Capital Development Committee is wrestling with aligning the remaining bond funds to project budgets that far exceed the existing dollars.

The sole purpose of operating and capital funds are to create environments where students have the greatest probability of learning and at minimum successfully completing their current goals – if not increasing their aspirations to loftier sights. If we don’t exercise insightful decision-making over the next several months, we could actually be setting the operational stage for decreasing student success which will in turn, over the long run, decrease our funds thus creating a spiral in the wrong direction.

Simply stated insightful decision making is achieved by: bringing the best college thinkers to the table; engaging in genuine conversation and inquiry using valid and meaningful information; and having the courage to critically measure and apply decisions leading to disciplined innovation and risk taking.

While these thoughts weigh heavy on my mind, I am optimistic that PVCC has the right processes in place and the right people at the table. We need to get better at marrying inquiry (use of meaningful information) with decisions that lead to disciplined innovation. PVCC has always been able to turn challenges into opportunities and I am confident that we are on the verge of making some very good decisions that will in turn lead to greater student success. After all, our enrollment growth this fall is an indication of a series of good college decisions that has increased student access.

All burdens associated with making difficult budget decisions are lessened when we tie back into the notion that exemplary teaching and learning leads to greater student success that in turns leads to higher levels of course and program completion. Under the current fiscal model we are rewarded for higher levels of student success. More importantly, increased student success resulting in students leaving PVCC capable and willing to solve some of our very complex business, social, health care, educational, and community issues is the real reason why we will get our budget decisions right.

Have a great week.

Regards,

Paul Dale, Ed.D.
Interim President