Dear Colleague:

The founding chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, Dr. Dana Hamel, always says, “It’s a great day to be alive in the Commonwealth of Virginia!” I share his sentiment and I can think of no better way to welcome you to the start of an exciting academic year.

To the new full-time faculty members who are beginning their careers with us this year, congratulations! You are joining a wonderful organization at a pivotal moment.

Did you know that we will serve more than 400,000 Virginians this year?

More students, an increasing call for graduates, challenging finances: these are just some of the reasons why we continue our reengineering work. With your help we are exploring ways to serve more people, more effectively and with better outcomes. These brief email updates are just one of the many ways we strive to engage you in that work.

What’s out there?

You don’t have to go too far to see the need for our reengineering work. It’s emerging in news headlines:

Is American higher education driving, pedal to the metal, toward a fiscal cliff, ponders a Chronicle article.

In the United States, the economic crisis has left the median American family with no more wealth than it had in the early 1990s. With household budgets tight, families are beginning to take another look at the public colleges in their backyard, or trading down even further to less-expensive community colleges, or unfortunately, no college.

Are families ahead of the policy makers on this? Perhaps the rise in postsecondary certifications is a sign that they are, reports Politico.

Certificate holders can move quickly from the classroom to the workforce — which helps explain why more than 1 million certificates were awarded in 2010. Up from 300,000 in 1994.

Why are students, who so easily embrace technology, not jumping on the e-textbook bandwagon? Simple, reports USA Today, HealthGuidance because it’s not saving them any money.

Typically, students don’t save much when opting to buy an e-textbook. For example, an organic chemistry e-textbook costs about $100, while the print version of the same book costs just $15 more.

And do you know what a MOOC and an OER are?

No, they’re not things you hunt in the Great Dismal Swamp. These are innovative attempts to challenge the very format of higher education as we know it. A MOOC is a Massively Open Online Course and an OER is an Open Education Resource.

MOOCs are focused on knocking down classroom walls, allowing anyone who wants to access a course to do so online for free. Some of the nation’s highest profile institutions are experimenting with this, offering a single course section to hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.

OERs are focused on knocking down the expenses of traditional college textbooks by providing greater access to free, or low-cost, instructional materials.

I believe we are ripe at Virginia’s Community Colleges to do more with OERs. In fact, in my next reengineering email, I will share with you an idea to challenge and incentivize our faculty members to create OERs to cover an entire section of their course and which can be shared with their colleagues teaching the same subject area. There will be more to come on this next time.

Technology, as we all know, can create opportunities for those who seek and leverage them. That’s no less true for higher education than any other industry. In fact, Southern New Hampshire University is using technology to grow and redefine itself and it was just named one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies.

Not often do you hear institutions of higher learning referred to as “companies.” SNHU’s Center for Online and Continuing Education has helped push the university ahead, however, with 11,600 students enrolled in 180 graduate and undergraduate programs and specialties, according to SNHU. The school was the only university to make the list, being touted “for relentlessly reinventing higher education online and off.”

What would it take for the VCCS to make that list by the end of this decade?

What’s happening?

We just concluded the 10th Annual Chancellor’s Planning Retreat that included your college’s leadership team. Click on the link there to read about and listen to many of the retreat’s sessions. That includes some wonderful presentations from heavy hitters like U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter; Virginia Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles.

Further, there were powerful breakout sessions that examined ways to better serve veterans as well as the people who need us the most.

I would urge you to spend some time exploring those links.


What’s coming up?

There are now thirty workgroups underway, exploring, enhancing and refining the ideas that will flow from the reengineering taskforce through our governance structure. You can follow their work by visiting this dashboard.

One item in particular that I would like to draw your attention to is the new full-time faculty evaluation system working its way through our governance process toward approval later this fall. By now, all full-time faculty members should have received a message from their Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee (CFAC) member with significant information about this proposal, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of it. We believe this will transform a bureaucratic process into one that ensures our colleges are hiring the best inspiring instructors and focusing on their professional development.

The proposal has been informed by faculty feedback provided through a survey of all VCCS full-time faculty as well as nearly 20 peer group conferences and two New Horizons conferences; has been formally presented to and endorsed by CFAC in terms of the overall framework of the new system; and most recently has been reviewed in detail by CFAC on July 17 with further opportunity for comment and review.

If you haven’t already, please take a look at the full proposal and provide any further comments you might have to your CFAC representative before August ends.

And finally, I would like to congratulate the PSY 200 curriculum committee of the Articulated Learning Outcomes group for reaching a significant milestone and completing its work. The process of reviewing and beginning to implement the committee’s recommendations will occur during the 2012-13 academic year.  Also during this year, curriculum committees will begin to articulate learning outcomes for ACC 211 and BIO 101.


The impact our community colleges have on Virginia is staggering. And you are a big reason for that. Thank you for your hard work and commitment to the people we serve. I wish you all the best for the coming academic year – and remember: Dr. Hamel was right. Today is a great day to be alive in the Commonwealth of Virginia!


Glenn DuBois

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