Focus on Faculty/Staff
State of the College

Chesapeake President Barbara Viniar outlines challenges and opportunities for the new academic year.

Posted on Monday, August 17, 2009


Good morning and welcome. It is nice to see everyone gathered again, and I hope you all had a wonderful summer. Before I begin, I would like to introduce the Chesapeake College Board members who are here today: Vice Chair, Margaret Myers, Thomas Groce and Vicki Neal. And I would especially like to welcome three new board members, Jennifer Doege from Queen Anne’s County, Vaughn Evans from Dorchester County, and M. Catherine Poe from Talbot County.

When I stood before you last year I looked out into a group of strangers. Now I see colleagues and friends.

My challenge last year was to talk about the state of the college after only being here one month. My challenge this year is to find the right balance between the economic realities that constrain us and the optimism I feel about our work together based on a year of getting to know your passions and strengths.

Last year when I mentioned "hard times" I was referring primarily to rising gas prices. Today, gas prices are lower, but we are in the midst of a global recession. One of the things we learned through our appreciative inquiry strategic planning process was not to dwell on our weaknesses or external threats; we knew what they were and they would divert the energy we needed to move forward. And I won’t dwell on them today either. But it is important to review what is going on nationally and in the state of Maryland in order to best understand the state of the college.

There is a lot of good news for community colleges on the national scene. At a meeting of the board of the American Association of Community Colleges two weeks ago, members were briefed by the Secretary of Education and the Under Secretary, who is a former community college chancellor, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Education and Training, the Under Secretary of Energy, and the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development. Community colleges are the place to be!

In an Op Ed piece in The Washington Post on July 12, "Rebuilding Something Better," President Obama said that community colleges "can serve as 21st- century job training centers" and called for reallocating resources to "modernize facilities, increase the quality of on-line courses and ultimately meet the goal of graduating 5 million more Americans from community colleges by 2020." His proposal is now embodied in HR 3221, also known as "Obama’s’ American Graduation Initiative."

To achieve higher graduation rates the bill supports a round of competitive grants for "innovative projects" over a period of 4 years. These grants would most likely go to larger colleges. The second round of funding, which presumes a second term for this administration, would be distributed to states by formula, and would be more likely to benefit Chesapeake.

The key word to the President’s funding proposal is completion. With increased national attention will come increased national scrutiny, making assessment of student learning and improving retention and graduation rates more important than ever. It also makes developmental education more important than ever. We know that students who place into developmental education are far less likely to complete a degree. What can we do to change that at Chesapeake? The faculty and administrators involved here are willing and able of improving our programs. Perhaps we need to think less in terms of small changes and experiments and more in terms of completely rethinking our approach.

The second part of HR 3221 addresses community college modernization and construction. Funding would come in the form of grants to states to reduce financing costs, to match capital campaigns or to create revolving loan funds. We are hoping to have language inserted that would ensure that federal funds are in addition to state funds and do not simply relieve state obligations.

This bill has not yet been taken up by the Senate. You may have noticed a slight preoccupation with health care reform, so it is hard to predict how quickly we can expect action. So, no one is even claiming "the check is in the mail." There is no stimulus money for higher education. There is no $12 billion from the President. But, we are finally getting the respect and recognition we deserve.

Respect is becoming less of a problem in the State of Maryland as we gain outstanding advocates in the House of Delegates, the Senate and the Administration. But there is no money.

As of last week, community colleges across Maryland were averaging 9% growth. Some were as high as 27%. Growth might have been higher, but many, like Chesapeake, are out of seats in required classes. Our numbers as of the end of Friday were a 7.1% increase in headcount and 9.7% increase in FTE’s. Last fall we enrolled with 2,620 students. We will almost certainly eclipse 2700 this year, perhaps even 2800. State-wide, this enrollment surge is equivalent to 11,774 students, or opening up another college the size of Prince Georges –with no new money!

The Board of Public Works will meet on August 27 to issue further cuts to the state’s budget. They have already cut $280 million, but are faced with an additional $470 million to make up the projected $750 million shortfall for this fiscal year. According to reports of Governor O’Malley’s speech on Saturday, community colleges are on the list to be cut

We will probably lose some or all the 4.9% increase in state funding at some time during this fiscal year, especially since there will almost certainly be more bad news in September when the next state revenue projections are announced.

We held the line on tuition based on an increase in state funds. If they are cut, I may be forced to propose a mid-year tuition increase to the board. Another common misperception in the community (in addition to we’re rolling in federal dollars) is that our increase in enrollment gives us excess revenues. Students pay only about 1/3 of the cost of their education. As you can imagine, we have had to hire many more adjuncts than we anticipated to meet the increased need for class sections. I often quote Bob McCabe, the former president of Miami Dade Community College, who said "You can’t do more with less. You can only do more with enough." We simply will not have enough and, unfortunately, students may bear the burden.

That is the bad news for this year. The projected shortfall for the State of Maryland in FY 2011 is $1.5 billion. Is there any good news? The only thing I heard from State officials was "At least we’re not California."

Clearly, the national and state economies have a direct impact on our support counties. The June unemployment rate for Maryland was 7.5%. Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne’s Counties were slightly lower, but Caroline County was at 9% and Dorchester was at 10.5%, which was second only to Baltimore City. Governor O’Malley says he will try not to shift the burden to counties, but moving the responsibility for teacher pensions from the state to local counties is high on the legislative agenda.

As you know, in spite of our enrollment growth we received no increase from our five support counties this fiscal year. Although the funding for the Kent Humanities building has been committed, they have discussed asking us to wait out a year on our next capital project. If we were to do that it might actually cost us several years, as other colleges with large, multi-year projects move up the queue.

These are some of specifics, but I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know. Times are hard. "Green shoots" may be appearing, but they aren’t enough to feed anyone yet. At a speech last Wednesday before the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce, Comptroller Franchot said it’s like we’ve just had a blizzard that dumped 8 feet of snow. It may have stopped snowing, but we still have to dig out. But let me extend his metaphor. I have spent most of my life in snowy climates. And there is something magical that happens when it stops snowing. People emerge, liberated from being shut in, into a world that looks new. They help each other dig out.

I am not trying to minimize the suffering that surrounds us. But at community colleges, we know how to bend our shoulders to the task. We are ready to dig out.

Last year we came together to engage in strategic planning. We reached consensus on five strategic directions: sustainability; community collaborations; becoming the college of first choice; appreciation; and individual excellence. We wrote 3-5 goals for each direction. The plan, "Journey to the Peake, 2009-2013," was approved by the Board of Trustees on June 22. Over the summer, every division met to create measurable goals and objectives both within and across divisions.

Why is it more important now than ever to have these goals? Because, says a recent Lumina Foundation report, "A goal is an emblem. It is a bright badge of confidence, a sure sign that we reject the slavery of circumstance – that we refuse to be victims of the past, or of our problems... It is also a pledge, a promise to strive... to put forth our best effort."

I spent a lot of time last spring reviewing the strategic directions and goals with you. Today I’d like to share just highlights of the additional work we’ve done to identify specific actions. These are not in priority order. They are not comprehensive. They are the ideas that inspire me. And I hope that at least some of them will inspire you, because there is a great deal of work to be done.

Our first strategic direction is sustainability. The sustainability leadership team will be co-chaired by Greg Farley and Doug Gray. Other members are Mike Kilgus, Monte Garrettson, Rohry Flood and Erin Kelley, representing the Student Government Association. One of their first tasks will be to recommend a structure for funding sustainability initiatives. Campuses with successful sustainability programs are usually funded by student fees, college budget line items and grants and private investments. We need to find the mix that’s right for us.

One of the most important goals in this area is to "build on the cultural heritage of the shore as we create new academic and career programs." Community colleges nationally share a common three part mission – universal access, comprehensive programs, and community responsiveness. It is our communities that set us apart. Our location on the Chesapeake Bay, in the middle of a cornfield, makes us unique. We need to do more – much more – to take advantage of this opportunity to create meaningful programs for local residents and even to become a destination for specialized learning.

You may recall from the exercise we did at the summit last February how many windmills appeared on our visionary front pages. It is my goal to install a wind turbine, visible from Rte 50, which can serve as part of a lab and information center. The wind turbine will be a symbol of the college’s sustainability leadership on the mid-shore.

We also have to address fiscal sustainability. Several of you have asked about our budget process. Unfortunately, I expect that any process for building next year’s budget will be about what to cut, not what to add. However, either way, it needs to be driven by our agreed upon priorities, and by health, safety and regulatory considerations. Let me also reiterate our intent to preserve all permanent positions. We were lean before our unprecedented enrollment growth; we cannot cut positions without seriously undermining our ability to serve our students and communities.

If we have to make further cuts this year, and as we prepare for next year, I will ask the vice presidents to work with all the employees in their divisions, and will keep you informed at faculty assembly, StARs and SGA meetings as I did last year. Before the budget comes to a vote in college council we will hold open sessions at which any employee can offer opinions and/or suggestions. Mike Kilgus and Karen Smith will continue to conduct training sessions on the college’s finances, so that everyone has the tools they need to provide input and evaluate decisions.

We have not abandoned the revenue side of the equation. We will conduct grants writing workshops this year in an effort to develop a cadre of faculty and staff able to write proposals. Our foundation board is having a retreat next month to establish its goals for private fundraising. I am pleased to announce that Ed Baker and Jackie Potter have joined the Foundation Board in order to strengthen ties between faculty and staff and our volunteer fundraisers.

Our next strategic direction is community collaborations. One of the obvious areas in which we should leverage partnerships is sustainability. There are a myriad of environmental, agricultural, and educational organizations on the shore devoted to sustainability and I am confident that we can accelerate our progress by working with them.

Over the summer I joined the board of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum so that we can partner on educational activities. Many of you serve on boards that address health and human services needs, education, recreation and the arts throughout our service area. We will rely on you to strengthen these connections and, where there are gaps, solicit your further participation.

Collaboration with the schools continues to be vital to student success. Kathy Barbour is serving on a state-wide task force with Superintendent Grasmick, Secretary Lyons and others to improve alignment between high school and college competencies. Locally, Donna Andrew is working with the math teachers in Queen Anne’s county on a pilot to improve student performance.

One of our goals is to strengthen dual enrollment, which we can only do with additional faculty. We are looking at ways to create adjunct positions specifically for teaching in the high schools, perhaps offering these to current faculty who are ready to transition into retirement. We also need faculty to teach on-line, and I would like to suggest that we consider applicants with proven credentials from outside our service area. Let us take full advantage of the technology to recruit the faculty we need.

Chesapeake College is going to be the college of first choice for the citizens of the mid-shore. We will make better use of the web and social networking media to market our offerings. I am committed to expanding and promoting our honors program. We will enlist students, parents, alumni and employers to present our case to every county commission and council. And finally, in order for us to fulfill the goal of addressing regional needs with "timely and responsive programs," I am going to ask the faculty to implement a "fast track" curriculum approval process.

Our fourth area, Appreciation, is probably embedded in other strategic plans, but has particular significance for us. We are going to build on the Appreciative Inquiry process we used to develop our plan, integrating it throughout the campus. Next April 12-15, continuing education will offer Appreciative Inquiry Training. We will use this opportunity to train several faculty and staff who can then train others.

But it doesn’t take training to "appreciate" people, and I want to take a few moment to thanks some people whose work occurred or came to fruition during the summer.

First, to everyone who participated in the Annual Internal Giving campaign, and especially Lauren Halterman and Joann Hunley and co-chairs David Harper and Marci Leach. In spite of the fact that there were no salary increases and benefit costs went up, employee giving went up this year. The percentage of employees who gave increased from 81% to 84%, and the amount raised increased from $27,025 to $30,397. This is an extraordinary accomplishment.

Second, all the new students coming next week had to be advised, registered, billed, and counseled by someone, or in our case many some ones. This is a long list, but I can’t think of anything more important than taking the time to thank the people who work tirelessly, here and in Easton and Cambridge, without asking for thanks.

Jim Davidson, Donna Pletzer, Debbie Travers, Ann Bishop, Cindy Welzel, Joann Adams, Jackie Blake and Trushay Alston handled registration.

During the summer titles disappear and everyone becomes an advisor: Joan Seitzer, Kathy Petrichenko, Nick Sim, Randy Holliday, Dana Bowser, Richard Potter, Maureen Conlon, Guido DeLuca, Bob Boettger , Janine Gallagher, Jacki McArdle, Debbie Garrett. Our regular part-timers are Juliet Smith, Linda Earls, Don Spiker, and Katrina Johnson.

There are always lines at the financial aid office, where students are served by Mindy Schaffer, Dawn Smith, and Laura Shahan

One day I stopped by the business office and every person there was eating at her desk in order to be available at the window – Tracy Brinckerhoff, Katie Murphy, Kathy Frith, Tanya Butler, Michelle Jennings, and Eileen Bishop.

We have just finished our first year of ABE, Adult Basic Education. Thanks to Elaine Wilson, Jackie Potter and all the instructors and staff, we served 921 students, which was 100 more than our goal. The program generated 195 FTE’s, or 95 more than our goal. In June they held a beautiful graduation ceremony and I know we will be seeing some of those students here this fall.

Finally, somehow the entire summer has gone by and I never managed to get out into the garden to plant, weed, or water the college’s new garden. But I have gotten to eat freshly harvested peppers, squash and zucchini, thanks to the "Mudders": Tracy Brinkerhoff, Rohry Flood, Judy Gordon, Cynthia Gower, Doug Gray, Marian Herb, Nora Jones, Marjorie MacDonald, Billy Reese, Beth Remesch, Michael Rucker, Anita Simpson, and Cindy Zuella. And I know that Bruce and his staff helped them get stated with cold drinks and refreshments.

This is not everyone, but many of the people whose service has not been recognized in campus-wide e-mails. Starting next month I will be sharing more kudos via the president’s newsletter, which will move to an electronic format and be issued 10 times per year. But I will need you to share information with me – please let me know whose accomplishments should be recognized.

To find other, creative ways to appreciate employees, I am going to ask Lauren Halterman and Eileen Bishop, two of our StARs reps, to co-chair a cross divisional team to develop a non-monetary, "fun" way to publicly acknowledge employee service.

We will also conduct an employee satisfaction survey and revise the performance evaluation system to reflect the principles of appreciative inquiry and encourage employees to build on their strengths.

Our final strategic direction is Individual Excellence, which applies to employees and students. As you will hear shortly from Susan Cianchetta, our employee professional development program is in transition this year. In addition to the usual classes and workshops, we will be piloting cross divisional teams, like the employee reward program team I mentioned previously, as vehicles for employee development tied directly to the strategic plan. Another small group, which I will ask Mary Celeste Alexander to lead, will work on creating a video archive of alumni stories, modeled after NPR’s StoryCorps.

We learned from our interviews during the strategic planning process that students appreciate being challenged. Tomorrow Linda Blythe is going to lead the faculty in a discussion of research about teaching and learning. One of the articles she has selected is, "Aligning Faculty Activities and Student Behaviors: Realizing the Promise of Greater Expectations." "On balance," the authors conclude, "Students do pretty much what the teachers expect and require them to do." When, for example, faculty think writing is important and assign writing activities, students report more progress in developing their writing skills. It’s the academic version of "build it and they will come." If you emphasize it, require it, and hold students accountable for it, students will learn it. We – faculty, students services professional, all of us -need to make the challenge to achieve excellence routine for all our students.

These are some of our strategic goals. "A goal is a tool." continues the Lumina report, "With it we can build new opportunities. We can reshape ourselves…we can even remake the world we leave to others. Our plans must be bold, our time frames realistic.

Another thing about being here a year is that I have a lot more to say – but please bear with me as conclude by updating you on some items that are either in the news or will affect you as the semester gets underway.

First, the pool. In May, the Queens Anne’s County Commissioners asked that the college consider letting them take over the pool until the building is scheduled to be renovated in 3 years. An architect’s study completed in July indicated that short term repairs could be undertaken for an estimated $67, 000, although that figure will probably be higher with design costs. Since that time Mike Kilgus and I have been working on an agreement that I hope will be ready to take to the board on August 27. Under the terms of this agreement the county will operate the pool, possibly by subcontracting with another entity. It will be closed for repairs for several months this fall. If at any time the county ends the agreement, the pool will close immediately. This agreement will only be undertaken if it is clear that it falls entirely outside the scope of the County’s contribution to the college’s operating and capital budgets.

Meanwhile, the college is moving forward this fall with a study to reconfigure the Pool/PE building into an Allied Health and Wellness Center that can accommodate Nursing and Allied Health labs, classrooms and offices.

We are also moving forward, albeit more slowly than we had hoped, on relocating our Cambridge Center. It has become apparent that we cannot get sufficient funding for new construction at the site we originally selected. Therefore, we are looking at a possible 10-15 year lease of a renovated manufacturing building until the new center is scheduled as part of our facilities master plan. We are working with several developers interested in the project and I hope to have more news soon.

Third, I’m sure you have all noticed that construction has begun on the Kent Humanities building. This construction has removed part of a parking lot. Add that to the increase in enrollment, and I can only say next week is going to be an adventure. Monte and his staff are going to create a one way traffic pattern out of the campus onto Rte. 662 from the Higher Education Center to allow roadside parking. Weather permitting, we will also allow overflow parking on designated lawn areas. Please plan to arrive early – and remind your students. And remember, about 95 parking spots are being added as part of this project. Next year I’m sure we will be looking back at the inconvenience and saying "it was well worth it."

One of the things I am especially excited about is the renovation of the Cadby Theater. Next month I will be inviting a committee of faculty and staff from across the campus to plan a Cadby Theater series of lectures, poetry readings, films, and other activities that will complement the Peake Players performances and attract wider audiences to the campus.

There is something else we may be talking about next year, and that’s how we survived the H1N1 pandemic. Faculty have been asked to include a paragraph about potential closings, either for the flu or weather related emergencies, in their syllabi. I have asked our new public safety officer, whom you will meet shortly, to take a leadership role in collaborating with area health authorities to make sure we are prepared. And although it will not be completed by this fall, we are working on a comprehensive continuous operations plan.

I know I’ve taken up a lot of your time. I plan to be here for many years, but I do not plan to speak longer every time. These remarks will be posted on-line later today, and I welcome any questions or comments you may have. It has been 40 years since this campus opened – and each year brings new excitement and possibilities. I wish all of us a productive and satisfying year.


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