Vision Speech to Faculty Staff Students

Versailles, Ky. | November 18, 2014

Good morning. I want to tell you how honored and humbled I am to have reached this point in the KCTCS presidential search process.

I’ve been asked by the KCTCS Board of Regents to conduct this Forum today to give you an opportunity to ask me questions about how I would lead KCTCS as its next president. But first, I want to speak to you about my VISION for the future of KCTCS. Very simply put, my vision is all about fulfilling DREAMS.

I think all of you would agree that fulfilling our students’ dreams is at the core of everything we do. But what exactly are our students’ dreams? And what must we do to help these dreams come true?

The dreams of our students fall into three major categories. We know that more than half of our students dream of completing an Associates degree and transferring to a four-year institution. Many others dream of earning a credential that leads to a good paying job, while a few thousand more dream of simply taking customized training courses that will help them advance in their career.

You, as our faculty and staff, are committed to helping our students realize their dreams. You know that their dreams can’t come true by them simply “walking in our doors.” Thus, you help the students TAKE RESPONSIBILITY in their college career by reminding them to file all paperwork and to make sure their tuition is paid on time; and by reinforcing to them that they must commit to the learning process, show up for classes, complete all class assignments, and ultimately pass the course. You also hold up your side of the bargain by providing a welcoming learning environment that enables students to be successful.

So what are the reasons students might not reach their dreams? We know that approximately 65% of our incoming students are deficient in one or more foundational areas—math, reading or writing. We also know that 90% of our students qualify for financial aid. A high majority of our students work either part time or even full time. And add to all of that the fact that many of our students have family responsibilities that tug at them on a daily basis. Simply put, our students have complicated lives that can cause them to DOUBT that they can ever succeed in college.

I want us to remove that doubt for our students. So my vision is for KCTCS to be the students’ “DREAMCATCHER”.

  • I want us to work with our public schools and adult education providers so that our students come to us better prepared for college.
  • I want us to increase access to and quality of our dual credit programs so that high school students get a head start on a college degree.
  • I want us to be there for our students when they first come in our doors, reinforcing that they can and will be successful.
  • I want us to advise students that their goal is NOT to “GO to college” but rather to COMPLETE college.
  • I want us to be there to help them better understand the financial aid and student loan process.
  • I want us to design and implement retention strategies so that every student who wants to obtain a college credential can reach that goal.
  • I want us to provide career counseling that lays out a clear pathway, through the educational maze and all the way to employment.

I want us to strengthen our relationship with Kentucky’s universities so that no coursework aligned with their major is lost for our graduates who transfer to another institution.
I want our faculty to develop the most up-to-date curriculum, to apply national best practices, and to continue to innovate in content delivery so as to improve the learning outcomes of ALL students.
And I want our staff to have the necessary training and time needed to serve all students who walk through our doors while we also provide virtual services for those students whose complicated lives limit their access to our campus services during our regular hours of operation.

Yes, faculty and staff work hard to help our students realize their dreams. That’s because you have a PASSION for the work that you do, and you strive to do it to the best of your ability. You realize that for KCTCS to be a “premier” system, recognized as the nation’s best, that each of our colleges has to be premier. That only happens when faculty and staff are engaged in the planning and decision making process. You want your voices to be heard. You know that the outcomes of any good plan should further student success. But you also understand that our students’ accomplishments are directly related to the daily efforts of the faculty and staff. That is why as your new System president I will want your input from the very beginning of the development of the 2016-2022 KCTCS Strategic Plan. Furthermore, as we plan for our future, I will work with the college presidents to determine whether we have enough faculty and staff to accomplish our goals, if you are compensated sufficiently, and if you are well prepared to carry out the work that you do.

Higher education is constantly evolving. New initiatives or advances in technology require faculty and staff to conduct business differently. I am an advocate for targeted professional development. As KCTCS president, I want to continue to invest in employee professional development including providing regional specialized workshops for all employees, allowing faculty and staff participation in state and national conferences, and arranging short-term appointments within business and industry for our technical faculty. I also want to continue the highly successful KCTCS President’s Leadership Seminar that has gained national recognition for its efforts in preparing future leaders within our system.

And for the staff here in the System Office, I believe it is very important for you to better understand how your work helps the students succeed. Your defined role at the System Office is to provide Leadership, Support, and Service to our colleges. That is a considerable charge. But for you to have a better understanding of the challenges our faculty, staff, and students face, you need to experience the college environment and “walk in the shoes” of our college staff. Thus, I will be directing the Cabinet to arrange for “field trips” for system office staff to our colleges so that you can interact with your college counterparts and see first hand the role college staff plays in student success.

I understand that there is sometimes tension between the System Office and the local colleges. Some in our state believe we should be a System like Ivy Tech with the System being accredited as one institution. Others believe that our colleges should have total independence to do whatever they desire. I don’t believe in either of those scenarios. There is proven strength in being a statewide system. In the last 16 years, our unified approach to developing and implementing Systemwide policies, processes, and programming has led to increased access and success for Kentucky’s community college students. But our System initiatives must be BALANCED with the ability for the colleges to develop local initiatives that are beneficial to the communities they serve. Thus, I will engage our presidents in a discussion on how to better identify and advance System priorities while allowing maximum management flexibility for the individual college.

I have talked about our students’ dreams and your passion for helping students realize their dreams. But who will benefit the most if those dreams come to fruition. I will argue that our local communities and our Commonwealth as a whole will be the ultimate beneficiaries. I envision a future where all of our communities have a college-educated workforce, ready and able to fill the needs of local business and industry. Communities where our graduates not only are employed in good-paying jobs, but also where they are active contributors to the viability of their communities. Most of our students want to stay in their community and make it a better place to live and raise a family. A college education gives them a better chance of doing that.

A college-educated workforce also gives community and state leaders the ability to better attract new businesses and industries. As your president, I will work with state leaders in the recruitment of new companies to the Commonwealth. I will also be highly involved with the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board and will meet regularly with key business and industry leaders across the state to hear their concerns for needed training and program enhancements.

Finally, my vision is that Kentucky’s citizens and policy makers will acknowledge that KCTCS is deserving of their investment. I will work along side your college president to help raise private dollars to support local college needs including the BuildSmart campaign for new or renovated buildings and additional scholarships to help those students in the most need. I will also meet frequently with members of the General Assembly to make our case for additional state funding to support KCTCS.

As I conclude my remarks this morning, I wanted to share one more dream—my dream of becoming your next president. I KNOW AND LOVE COMMUNITY COLLEGES. I am a community college graduate. I understand the financial limitations that make the local community college the only choice for access to higher education for most of our students. I have personally experienced the caring, student-focused approach of community college faculty and staff. I am also a former community college faculty member. Getting to know students in my classes who had to juggle college, work, and home life, led me to develop an innovative course delivery system that allowed my students to attend class around their busy life. Furthermore, I am a former community college administrator, having served as a director of institutional research, chief academic officer, and college president. In those roles, I championed an inclusive campus environment that invited the participation of all faculty, staff, and students in the visioning, planning, and decision-making process. And most recently as your Chancellor, I have led with the end goal in mind—challenging our colleges to expand dual credit opportunities, enhance student success strategies, build bridges to transfer, and align workforce training and technical programs with business and industry needs—so that our students graduate in the shortest time feasible, with the least amount of indebtedness, and with a credential that leads to transfer to a university or to employment in a high wage/high demand job that will drive the economy of the local community and the state.

I KNOW AND LOVE KCTCS. I am passionate about the KCTCS mission and am committed to our role in advancing a more educated and trained workforce for Kentucky. I know that much of the success within KCTCS over the last 16 years has been due to the hard work of all of you. Your commitment to excellence has truly made KCTCS a premier community and technical college system. But our work is not done. As you know, the future will demand more of all of us. It will require the unified efforts of the faculty, staff, and administration at the colleges and all of you here at the System Office. If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed as your next System president, I will need your help in designing our future. I look forward to spending the spring semester getting to know all of you better and spending time listening to your dreams for our colleges and our System.

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