Friday, September 13, 2013

Developing Priorities at Vol State

You're going to be hearing plenty about prioritization at Vol State over the next year or so. Hopefully, you are already well-acquainted with the process and how Vol State will be setting priorities. Dr. Faulkner held information sessions recently to inform faculty and staff. The process of prioritization comes down to determining:

-What is our purpose at Vol State?

-What is important at Vol State?

-Where do we put our resources moving forward?

That can be a scary idea. No one wants to be on the wrong side of prioritization. But as Dr. Faulkner discussed- it's not just something that we want to do, but something essential that must be done and done quickly. There is simply too much change in higher education to sit back and rely on what we have done in the past. We must prepare for future opportunities. We must meet critical challenges now.

Many people attended the sessions, so if all of this is new to you please see more in depth info below. As far as the sessions go, the feedback was understandably concerned. Those concerns included whether the process being used by the college, as outlined in the Robert Dickeson book "Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services," is the best for community colleges. Dr. Faulkner pointed out that many colleges and universities have used this process, including several community colleges. Another person asked if this would provide a tug-of-war for resources. Dr. Faulkner agreed that that was a possibility and said it's essential that we keep the process from becoming political.

Task Force groups will be formed to look at specific areas for prioritization, such as academics, administration etc. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Research, Planning and Assessment will compile the data used by the Task Force groups to make decision. That data will clearly be an important part of the process. Dr. Faulkner said that the data would be provided on the web for accuracy checks by interested parties. Dr. Faulkner says that transparency is essential to the process.

If you missed the emails, here is the summary of the prioritization process from Tami Wallace:

Volunteer State Community College’s mission focuses on improving individual lives and enhancing economic and community development in middle Tennessee through engaged learning opportunities in our academic programs, strengthening community and workforce partnerships, promoting diversity and cultural and economic development; inspiring lifelong learning, and preparing students for successful careers, university transfer, and meaningful civic participation in a global society.  To sharpen our focus on our mission, Vol State will begin a campus-wide prioritization process over the next seven months to assess the quality, productivity and centrality of all our programs and activities, with the goal of better aligning our resources with strategic priorities and opportunities. 

The prioritization process will allow us to make best use of our existing resources to serve our students and to assure the growth, vitality and excellence of  Vol State.  We are undertaking this initiative not under the imminent threat of looming budget cuts, but rather with a resolve to take a proactive and long-term view of how we can invest in distinctive programs and student success initiatives for the future. Simultaneously, it is undeniable that budget constraints, declining federal and state funding, and limits on future tuition increases, as well as broader changes within the landscape of higher education, have affected our operation as an institution. Prioritization will ensure that we have the capability to be responsive during challenging times. We will be successful as we work together and transcend our own divisional perspectives to take a broad perspective of our college as a whole. This process will ensure that the college is functioning to its highest capacity at all levels.    

It must be emphasized that the prioritization process is not being undertaken with predetermined goals involving elimination or changes to any particular number of programs or with any specific financial goals.  This process is designed to rely on consistent and comprehensive data-driven conclusions, with the integration of qualitative and quantitative data that is available that can be assessed reliably, according to selected parameters. 

Our overall goals include the discovery of:

•Investment in programs that will advance Vol State’s vision and programs with a high potential for success;
•Identification of successful programs that should continue their current course;
•Increasing the effectiveness or efficiency in programs that may lack focus in offerings or current structure;
•Developing collaborative programs within the college or with external partners;
•Phasing out some programs and reinvesting resources in those programs that offer more promise with respect to our core values and mission. We recognize that if programs are discontinued it will take time to honor our commitments to students already enrolled in the program as well as to seek alternate assignments for staff or tenured faculty members.

A web presence for the prioritization process will be established.  Here, faculty, staff and students will be invited to provide feedback throughout the process, via email, feedback forms on the prioritization website, open forums and other means. Information about the criteria, process, timeline, and data sources will be posted on the web site.  We hope that throughout the process and going forward we can preserve the collegial culture of Vol State and provide the transparency that this process demands.  While not all may agree with the recommendations at the conclusion of this process, we hope that all members of the campus community will feel that the process was fair, open and transparent.

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