I’ve finally ventured further inside the world of social media by launching my Facebook page. Although I’ve had a Twitter account for nearly a year, I’ve been wary of getting on Facebook for a number of reasons. Among those are the comments from others about how time consuming (or time addicting) it can be, the type of posts that people may place on your “wall”, and the issues of privacy that may be lost through posting and messages. However, with the help of JR Doney, our director of marketing, I decided to launch my page and it’s been remarkable to have students, former students, employees, and personal friends connect almost instantly.

My page is listed under my name but also as SewardPres. I’m hoping to use the SewardPres page as a means of connecting with alumni and college supporters to promote the many great things in which our college is involved. I’m learning the nuances of being on Facebook and I’m pretty confident I’ll never get the total skill of using it that so many of my “Facebook Friends” seem to manage. My purpose will not be to promote the everyday aspects of my life nor even those social aspects I’ve seen posted on some pages, but rather to promote our college, share insight into what’s happening from my position as president, hopefully promote our college activities, and certainly keep our alumni informed.

I often joke about my lack of desire to be fully “technologically connected” but I’m quickly learning it is a reality of communication. I have business associates who are connected through LinkedIn. I have personal friends who are connected through Facebook. I follow some former students and business associates through Twitter. All of these connections truly result in a shrinking world – and that is one common aspect of higher education – a realization and appreciation of our world.

During the past several weeks our administrative team and information technology leaders have been working on revisions to our college’s computing resource use policy. That policy didn’t address social media and we realized that those who use the college’s resources for social media use may place the college in jeopardy. Issues have arisen across the nation in relation to the use of corporate and college/university resources for social media – and some of those cases have placed that company or institution in a negative situation. It’s typically been the result of someone who implies he or she is representing that company or institution, but other issues of liability have been brought to the forefront as well. The rapid use and expansion of social media has escalated faster than institutions were prepared with policies and procedures which protect that institution.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@SewardPres) or Facebook (SewardPres). I may not check in hourly but I do try to get on at least daily. I’ll soon be posting photos and hopefully videos about SCCC/ATS. We have several SCCC/ATS related pages on Facebook including Saints Bookstore, Fine Arts, Drama, Crusader, SGA, and CIS to name a few. Check in on those pages, like them, friend them, post on their walls, and add them to your own page – and recognize that college social media sites are established to encourage, promote, and strengthen our college.

I remain a little cautious but I’m making that transition, so please be patient with me as I venture further inside this brave new world of social media.
Another academic year comes to a close and it’s a time of reflection and then planning for the future. In my February blog I noted a “top 10” list of aspects of SCCC/ATS, so I thought I’d use that same concept in reflecting and planning.

During the 2010-2011 academic year we were recognized as one of the top 50 community colleges in the nation; we received a $3.25M federal grant to establish new technical programs; we had the largest graduating class in college history (nearly 380 students); our baseball and tennis teams made it to the national tournament; Darin Workman was named national tennis coach of the year; we completed a long range college land and facility use plan; Kelsey Cook was selected as a Frank Newman national award recipient for her work as a student involved in service learning; Elva Morales was selected as one of four recipients as an American Association of Community College outstanding alumni; and Gary Damron and Janette Vargas were named outstanding faculty and graduating student respectively. These and other accomplishments (individual and college wide) truly reflect a year of significant reward for diligence and commitment to our college mission of improving the life of each individual.

The 2011-2012 academic year will be upon on soon and with that new year we will be facing new challenges and recognizing new achievements. Our Board and representatives of faculty, staff, and administration recently held a planning retreat to establish annual goals for the upcoming year. Those goals are in the refinement process as we finalize the strategies, responsibilities, and resource needs to attain those annual goals and progress toward our college strategic plan. The goals that were identified for the next year will address strengthening alumni relations; improving the perception of community colleges and technical education; improving the effectiveness of our website; improving student advising and recruitment; and strengthening industry partnerships. We are well on our way toward addressing these concepts and I am confident that next year I can write about great achievements once again here at SCCC/ATS. So, as the old saying states, “stay tuned”!
One of the great aspects of SCCC/ATS is the opportunity for students to be involved in the decisions, initiatives, activities, and improvement aspects of the college. Students are being provided with another opportunity for their “voice” to be heard as we seek to improve student learning opportunities here at Seward.

One of the methods in which students can participate is through the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). Soon, students in randomly selected classes at Seward and many other community colleges across the nation will have the chance to share their views by completing this survey. Questions focus on how students spend their time, the nature and quality of students’ interactions with faculty members and peers, and what students have gained from their classes and other aspects of their college experience.

If you are a student in a class that is selected to participate in the survey, I encourage you to respond candidly. Your individual responses will remain confidential, but the results of this national survey will be important in helping SCCC/ATS as we examine our educational practices and identify ways that we can improve programs and services for students.

If you are a faculty member whose class has been selected, please encourage your students to respond with their honest input as to how they are engaged in your class, the college services, and learning initiatives.

Thank you for your involvement in another improvement process here at Seward.
Once in awhile I watch the David Letterman Show and enjoy many of his “top 10 lists” of something that has occurred. Most recently the local newspaper ran a special section on the Top 10 events in Liberal in 2010. After reading the articles and watching one of Letterman’s shows the other night I thought it might be appropriate to identify a few of the “top 10” aspects of SCCC/ATS for 2010. (I know we’re well into 2011 but that only makes reminiscing about 2010 achievements even better.
So here goes no real ranking of importance or significance (I apologize in advance for leaving off something that may be in your top 10 SCCC/ATS list):
• Washington Monthly magazine recognizing us as one of the top 50 community colleges in the nation;
• Receiving a 5-year, $3.25million federal grant to establish new instructional programs;
• Lady Saints softball team placing 9th in the NJCAA national tournament
• Saints tennis team finished #1 in the nation in student academic performance (women’s tennis team finished #3);
• 100% passage rate of our practical nursing students on their licensing exams;
• Donna Fisher and Janice Williams recognized by the National Institute on Staff and Organizational Development;
• Our first “poetry night” with readings and performances to a full house;
• Automotive and diesel technology programs receiving NATEF certification;
• Our first graduates in Surgical Technology and Medical Lab Technician programs through our partnership with Manhattan Area Technical College;
• Katy Redd and Carlos Souza being recognized as Outstanding Faculty and Outstanding Graduating Student respectively.
There are a lot of other accomplishments – large and small – like getting the phone-a-thon re-established; completing building/grounds improvements; graduating the largest class in college history; Saints Baseball winning 13th conference title; Lady Saints Basketball winning 11th conference title; Fanny Benincasa named NJCAA freshman tennis player of the year; first graduates in health information management; TRIO student visits to universities; transition of on-line courses from WebCT to eCollege; and the list truly could go on and on. Maybe that’s why David Letterman does a new list for each of his shows.
It can be a challenge to narrow achievements to a list of 10 but it’s a great way to remember all of the many things that we do get accomplished. Take a moment and reflect on the impact we have on the many students that come to SCCC/ATS, the professional growth and development we as employees are provided, and the positive impact we provide to the community and region. I’m sure your list will be much longer than just the “top 10”.
The New Year always brings with it the daunting effort of keeping New Year’s resolutions. Most of us make those and they typically involve an improvement in health, relationships, removing clutter, etc. I am one of those who establish a resolution but after a period of time I lose the motivation to keep it as a focus. However, a few years ago I resolved to learn how to make a bowl in our ceramics lab. I finally enrolled in Dustin Farmer’s class and found I really enjoyed working with the clay and I particularly enjoyed throwing on the wheel. What I also learned was that Dustin has incredible patience with a novice and that he has great knowledge and passion about the art of ceramics. He knows the types of clays, where they originated, and their best use; he knows who developed different glazes and why they were developed; he knows the history of ancient ceramics and the most recent develops in the styles of ceramics that are the latest trend – yes he is quite knowledgeable and a very good teacher of his craft.

What Dustin didn’t realize (and I learned a little about myself as well) is that I do not like to make mistakes and not finish a project. During my first semester in the class I was able to complete a mask and a small bowl but my teapot and other bowls were soon dispatched to the “slip bucket” and trash can. The next session I made another mask and a vase (but I didn’t get the vase glazed before the end of the semester). So another semester started and I did get the vase glazed and tried to make a few more bowls including combining two bowls. Unfortunately, all of my bowls cracked when they were fired and the glaze never fully worked on my vase. So after three semesters of a ceramics class I have two masks and a couple of small bowls to show for my efforts.

I told Dustin last week that I wasn’t enrolling again this semester because it was too frustrating – not being able to come to a complete finished product was just too much of a stress for me and I took the class to enjoy the art of ceramics. I think Dustin understood but he kept telling me that making mistakes and tossing out a broken bowl was part of learning the art.

I learned a lot from that experience – I like throwing clay but not the frustration with the chance the finished product might not turn out as anticipated – and that our faculty do an incredible job of working on a daily basis with students from all perspectives. I learned that I was fortunate to finally get a chance to throw on a wheel and that at some point I want to try it again. I also learned a little “Life Lesson” through that experience – trying something new may not be a perfect experience and yet it can be very rewarding. I was able to meet some students in the class that I may not have met otherwise, and I developed a new found respect for art instructors (and their patience).

Best of luck to you as you work on achieving your new year’s resolutions in 2011.
This is American Education Week with the theme as “Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility”. It truly is a fitting theme as we are nearing the end of another active year of classes, student activities, and accomplishments. However, the concept of the basic mission of community colleges is certainly applicable to the theme as a public responsibility for improving our society, our communities, and our economic vitality. While higher education is not often consider a constitutional right, college level public education is a unique aspect of the United States which has resulted in advancements in science, arts, technology, and social improvements.

I hope you will consider the individuals who have influenced your education and give them a “shout” of thanks (ok, maybe a card, e-mail, phone call or personal visit rather than a “shout”). Their positive influence may have gone unrecognized and your success may have been highly dependent and guided by that influence.

I would also like to express my personal appreciation to the members of the SCCC/ATS faculty and staff who continue to show positive influence and guidance to our students and a positive impact on our community. Often the efforts of our faculty go unnoticed as they provide advising, counseling, tutorial, and additional academic support for our students’ success. They sponsor organizations, they communicate with a student via distance course delivery, they provide encouragement, and they certainly provide instruction and passage of knowledge and skill techniques. Our students do very well here at Seward, and also as they leave Seward – whether as a transfer student to a university or an employee in their chosen career. That success can be directly attributed the quality of instruction and the quality of the faculty providing that instruction.

Sometime during this week express appreciation to someone in higher education who has had a positive influence on your life; and also express appreciation to our faculty and staff for the positive impact they make on the lives of our students each day.
Recently we were recognized by the publication Washington Monthly as one of the top community colleges in the U.S. SCCC/ATS was ranked #33 according to their selection process. The author of the article, Mr. Kevin Carey, used information from a national survey administered by the University of Texas entitled the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and the graduation rates reported to the US Dept. of Education through the IPEDS reporting system. The CCSSE survey provides information from students regarding their level of satisfaction with their academic advising, their academic rigor, their access to support, their interaction with faculty and staff, and their level of self preparation for classes, labs, assignments, and projects. The IPEDS graduation data is based on the percentage of community college graduates who transfer to a four year college/university and graduate with a bachelor’s degree within 2 years after transferring.

It is an honor and a point of pride for us to be recognized for what we sincerely believe is a strength of SCCC/ATS – the personal relationship with our students. It is exactly that relationship that we value and recognize as a significant component to student success. Our faculty and staff are committed to providing support toward student success, and this recognition by a national publication is validation of the impact on our students’ lives that can be provided by SCCC/ATS because of their commitment.

The full article in the Washington Monthly can be found on the web at http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/feature/americas_best_community_colleg_1.php. Mr. Carey provides further information and perspective on the strength of community colleges as an integral aspect of the American education system, and details on his methodology for compiling the “top 50” list of community colleges.
Classes began last week and I was able to briefly participate in welcome day activities with new first-time students. After a short welcome I watched them participate in several activities designed to help them become acquainted with each other and with our college. I enjoyed observing their enthusiasm, energy, and excitement about meeting new people and learning about what it takes to be successful.

I was also invited to participate in the Kansas Board of Regents retreat held at Johnson County Community College last week. It was the first day of classes at JCCC and I was able to see that same level of enthusiasm, energy, and commitment from their students and employees as classes began. Although a much larger college than Seward, the individual student at JCCC was there for the same purpose – improving his/her life and progressing toward educational and career goals.

The semester ahead will present challenges – course work, schedules, committees, reports, deadlines, activities, etc. – all of which can drain our energy and excitement; however, we need to take the occasional moment to reflect on why we are here, and the end result of goal attainment that awaits us as the year progresses.

As our theme for professional development states - “You’ve got what it takes!”, and we all have what it takes to have a great year ahead.
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education provided important news for our college to consider. The article in the Nov. 3 online edition of the Chronicle explained that more young people are pursuing college degrees than ever in US history. According to the U.S. Census data the number of young adults attending college hit an all-time high in October 2008, driven by growth in attendance at community colleges. The Chronicle article, cited information from the Pew Research Center, and stated that approximately 11.5 million 18- to 24-year-olds, or 39.6 percent of that population, were enrolled in a two-year or four-year college. That’s up about 1 percent from two years ago, and the majority of the increase is contributed to enrollment increases at community colleges.

SCCC/ATS recognized an enrollment increase this fall of approximately 17% above fall semester in 2008. We recognize that increase can be attributed to a variety of factors – lower cost compared to universities, changing economic and workforce factors, and concerted efforts by our college to improve the recruiting and awareness of opportunities provided at our college.

Our challenge continues to be to improve the educational opportunities and achievements of our students and for our communities. The data in the Chronicle article certainly supports the interest among young people to receive an education, align that education with potential career advancements, and a recognition that education leads to improved family, social, and civic development.

Our mission statement identifies our primary objective as improving the life of the individual student – and our role in providing quality education which leads to enhanced opportunities will certainly improve our students’ lives.
This semester is off to a fast and wonderful start. Enrollment is up substantially and to a level that is frankly a bit of a surprise. We anticipated an enrollment increase due to a well designed and utilized publicity and information campaign emphasizing the cost benefit of attending SCCC/ATS; and we anticipated an enrollment bump due to the economic situation with more people considering a new career or upgrading their technical skills. However, we have been pleasantly surprised with an enrollment increase exceeding 17% across the college including an enrollment increase exceeding 50% in the industrial technology programs. This enrollment increase comes at a time when state funding has declined to a level comparable with the appropriations our college received in 2006. The enrollment increase is fantastic for our college, our students, and our community – and we’re realizing we can serve those students at a time when state revenues have declined. We are doing that through various budget reductions across all aspects of our college operations – utilities, travel, professional development, reduction in some contracted services, reduction in supply use, etc. We’ve chosen not to lay off or furlough employees but have instead reduced positions due to attrition.

Our situation is not entirely unique as I read articles, visit with peers, and hear stories of similar situations across the nation in the higher education community. While this enrollment increase and revenue decrease is occurring I find that our faculty, staff, administration, and Board leadership continue to strive for the improvement of our college and the experience we provide students. Our industrial technology programs have vastly improved curriculum, seeking national certifications, providing more relevant instruction, and industry expectations for their students. Our fine arts department displayed a new level of excitement and enthusiasm with a recent production of The Wizard of Oz (four sold out performances), expanded performances at our first Sunday brunch for the semester, discussion of hosting an evening “coffee house” of student performances, and expanded courses in jewelry and ceramics. Our allied health department has launched a cooperative distance education program with Manhattan Area Technical College in north-east Kansas to provide medical lab tech and surgical technician courses to that area of the state. Our business division has expanded the programs in computer applications, entrepreneurship (assisting the City of Liberal in hosting a franchise information event) and starting to plan for a rural sustainability conference this spring. Our grounds and maintenance teams have continued to ensure that our campus is a little “oasis” and I continue to receive very positive comments from visitors, students, etc. on the fantastic appearance of our facilities and grounds. They worked tirelessly this summer in doing a facelift to various aspects of the area technical school buildings and working on various concrete and sidewalk projects across the entire campus.

We are in a great time of seeing students attend classes, achieve academic and career skills, and a continued focus on student and college achievement. At the same time we are compiling our institutional systems portfolio as part of our accreditation process and seeking additional external funding through federal grants for improving our buildings, infrastructure and instructional options for students and our role in economic development. It’s truly a great semester with many challenges and also great anticipation of student success.