Message from Dr. Belinda S. Miles – Serving Students with Excellence – March 3, 2017
Less than a week after two votes of no confidence within the college, I received significant input from several members of the college community endorsing the work we’ve done together to remove numerous barriers to student success. The messages laud the progression of our collective work and raise doubt that last week’s votes represent the opinions of the majority. These views, in stark contrast with each other, show the complexity that exists when seeking understanding within an intricate organization of numerous different and sometimes opposing viewpoints. As we seek and accept input and perspective from all sources, our diversity converges on our mission and commitment to student success and academic excellence. Our mission binds us and our issues—and their innovative solutions—belong to all of us.
Our mission critical work remains as urgent as it was in January 2015 when we began to prepare for our Middle States self-study visit. This visit and subsequent Monitoring Report acted like a mirror reflecting both our shortcomings and our vast potential. Just 25 months ago, we were an institution at a pivotal point in fulfilling our purpose. More than half our students were not completing a degree or transferring within three years. Many viable institutional plans had been shelved and initiatives had lost momentum while the college prepared for new leadership. At that time, we faced many fundamental issues revealed through our self-study process and other reviews including:
- Numerous course offerings with students not receiving syllabi or course outlines
- Thousands of students unsuccessful in remedial courses and making insufficient progress in credit attainment
- Sporadic academic quality program reviews
- Unwritten and decentralized policies, inconsistent academic procedures, and general lack of standard operational policies and procedures college-wide
- Men’s basketball program ravaged by scandal
- Cursory use of evidence based practice in curricular and operational delivery of services
- Faculty and staff contracts that were ignored with no real advocates
- No systematic professional development for faculty and staff and very little cross-area training
- No strategic enrollment or marketing plan including an assessment of program demand and competitive analysis
- Inefficient space utilization and inadequate lab upgrades in key science and health career programs
Through our collective work—YOUR WORK—we have already transcended most of these issues. The voices expressed last week from concerned faculty, staff, and others acknowledge many of the corrections taken and advancements that are now evidence of our positive momentum. We have not slowed our efforts to make improvements including a whopping five percentage point increase in three-year degree completion since that time. And yet, with a new focus on making student-centered decisions and ensuring institutional effectiveness, relevance, and longevity, there remains so much more to be done. I am confident that we can face what lies ahead because we have already achieved so much together.
Our work includes ensuring the integrity of our systems and programs and sustaining the college for future generations. As reflected in our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Forum, which occurred today, all voices matter at Westchester Community College where we are committed to creating a positive environment for shared governance and continuous improvement. I thank the cross-functional team that worked earnestly to produce this event and all who participated. This was one among many discussions on this and other topics that will focus our attention on our joint purpose of serving our students with excellence.
Thank you for your continued commitment to our transformative endeavors.
Dr. Belinda S. Miles