Community college SEM roundtable pools shared wisdom

by AACRAO

At the AACRAO SEM meeting on Monday, Tara Sprehe*, of Clackamas Community College in Portland, Oregon, facilitated a discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing SEM professionals in community colleges. The focus of the discussion was on sharing ideas, research, and best practices - to call on our collective wisdom and experiences to help solve problems.

To begin, participants listed more than a dozen of concerns facing community colleges, some of which reinforced ideas presented in the plenary sessions, such as changing demographics, the pressure to demonstrate value, and the need to remain relevant across the entire education landscape. Other concerns included operational and strategic challenges, as well as how to ensure adequate representation “at the table” with our 4yr colleagues, and how to survive in an era of increased competition from those same colleagues with whom we want to engage with more closely.

Recommendations included:

Restructure where feasible. Consider your current workforce and future needs. Where can you cross-train, restructure a position/office, or revise job descriptions to ensure you have staff with the right competencies and experiences? Also consider physical restructuring to meet student and institutional needs

Partner and collaborate. Externally, look to business partnerships and economic developers to create more win-win-win opportunities for students, institutions, and industry. Also consider partnering with other institutions, including other community colleges to help solve problems.

Don’t give up! Dealing with declining enrollments, reduced funding, mental health issues, lack of SEM data/technology tools, an a reputation of being all things to all people can cause any community college SEM professional to worry. But the message of hope and inspiration from participants was clear - the work we’re doing is impactful. Build allies, build momentum, celebrate wins, and solve inefficiencies. Just Don’t. Give. Up!

*Tara Sprehe is Dean of Academic Foundations and Connections at Clackamas Community College.

by Kimberly McNair, EdD, Director of College Access and Enrollment at Montgomery College in Maryland

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