Episode 17-Strategic Plan
7:37PM May 24, 2021
strategic planning committee
town hall meetings
Hello, hello hello knowledgable listeners. Welcome to out loud in the library a Durham Tech Library podcast. I'm your host Courtney Beasley reference librarian extraordinaire. Today's episode is a special summer episode about the college's strategic plan. I'll be talking to fellow library and Steven Brooks, who is also on the Strategic Planning Committee. I've known Stephen for a while now, we both started at Durham Tech at the same time, although I actually started one day before him, which means I have seniority. So Haha, in your face, Steven, I hope you enjoy our conversation about the strategic plan, what it is, how it's happening, and what it's going to affect going forward. Without further ado, let's get started.
Stephen, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast to talk about the Strategic Planning Committee and the strategic plan for the College Board. I'm very happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me. First question, what is a strategic plan? I know what those words mean individually. But what do they mean, when you're talking about a strategic plan for a college? Why is it important
a strategic plan? What it is in? The most basic answer is it's a document but it's more than just that it's a strategic communications tool that we'll use to articulate the college's purpose that we'll use to identify several key areas that the college is going to focus on over the next five years and hold itself accountable. It will provide a framework for college leadership managers, faculty and staff that they can use to improve their work and make the college more effective. This point, you and I have both worked at Durham Tech for almost seven years. And we know that people at the college have both the spirit and the desire all across the college to support student success and to help our students achieve their goals. This plan is going to help us focus on specific priorities to do just that. And furthermore, with this strategic plan, there will be metrics embedded in the plan that'll support our decision making and that will ensure we're doing the right things to improve continuously as a college
so the accountability is going to be embedded within the plan itself. Exactly. Excellent. When we've been doing these town halls, there have been references made to an anchor document that is guiding the committee. What is this anchor document
this anchor document is titled accelerating student success and community prosperity, Durham Tech at the crossroads. This anchor document is a report it's over 60 pages long with charts and data and case studies and a review of the college's previous strategic plan and measurements of our effectiveness or where we've fallen short of our goals. It's a lot of these things. Ultimately, it's a report that their own tech commissioned from three organizations achieving the dream, the Aspen Institute, and the Belk Center for Community College leadership and research, which is at North Carolina State University.
Why is this the guiding document for the committee.
So something I've learned about strategic planning because this is really my first foray into strategic planning on such a grand scale. One aspect of it that's really valuable is having an outside perspective on your organization. So you can have a fresh take somebody who's not already in the day to day is already wrapped up. And their own way of being is one way to think of it at the college. So having that outside perspective is important. And the three organizations that we commissioned this report from have various areas of expertise that support what the college would like to do. Achieving the Dream, for example, is an organization that guides community colleges. I take this straight from their website, championing evidence based institutional improvement, and helping community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity. the Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free just an equitable society. And the Belk center works with Community College leaders, scholars and practitioners for campus leadership programming, research and survey administration. And those are I'm quoting from the websites of those three organizations, but I can kind of see and I hope you can to how the different pieces relate to working at Durham Tech and helping students succeed and being a force for good in our community and how each of them has sort of a separate piece of the puzzle and they worked on this report together for us. So having the outside perspective on your strategic plan is important. This is also an anchor document because it's data informed. And Durham Tech is in a moment of great challenges and opportunities. And I'd be happy to talk about those challenges and opportunities, if you like,
No, I don't think so. Okay.
I'm just gonna run right over you on this interview. And I'm going to take it over from here. So as you as you know, Courtney, there are challenges to helping students succeed, right. This is if there weren't we wouldn't be having a strategic plan. But compared to other community colleges, Durham Tech has room to improve based on student success outcomes such as completion rates, and economic mobility. Furthermore, you know, we're here we've been in a pandemic for a year now. And we've seen how a pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities. This we see especially working with college students, that more people are struggling with steady income with food security, with having a reliable internet connection and with balancing their own education with their jobs, and lately with having children who are going to school virtually too. So and Durham Tech has tried has done some things in this pandemic to help those areas and I know that you've been involved in some of those as well. We have some opportunities to our new president JB Buxton came in last summer, and he has made economic mobility of our students one of his chief areas of focus, there are new industries coming into our area that are in search of a diverse and highly skilled workforce. Durham Tech has data that show where we can improve. In the report, we were presented with case studies of other community colleges that have succeeded in addressing challenges that are similar to ours on a national level over the past year, I think the increased awareness of and protests against racial inequality provide momentum for the college and the board of trustees to fight the good fight. And as I mentioned before, with our responses to challenges, students are facing the pandemic, we've got some experience at Durham Tech, helping our students with some of these basic needs that are not necessarily academic concerns, and we had the opportunity to build on those, but during Tech has a solid reputation in our community and region. And to quote from the anchor document yet community stakeholders feel that the college can and should play a stronger, more central leadership role in promoting economic development, mobility and opportunity, unquote. Now's our chance to do just that. And the timing couldn't be better given the push from local government, businesses and community organizations to get folks back to work.
That sounds really good. Where is the labor market data that the committee is using coming from since economic mobility is such a big push of the strategic planning committee and of the new president?
That was a great question, Courtney, the college is strengthening its partnerships with local economic development organizations. So for example, along with our county and Chamber of Commerce partners, that's both in Durham and orange counties, Durham Tech's engaged burning glass technologies, which is a software company that provides a labor market data, they enable job seekers, educators and businesses to bridge skills and opportunity gaps for mutual benefit.
Is that labor market data going to be made available to community stakeholders?
I don't know. I mean, I assume I know that it will. I know that the labor market data is going to inform how Darren tech engages with community stakeholders, I don't think that we're having like one labor market data report, I think it's an ongoing and flexible and dynamic service that we in our partners can avail ourselves of cat so that we can all kind of you know, there's so much data, right, this is why it takes a hole. That's why it takes a whole company specializing in this and using artificial intelligence to gather and synthesize the data. So I think it will be at the root of our decisions. But it's not like we just have one labor market report that it's not going to be like an anchor document. It's gonna it's a dynamic service.
So the committee has been really deliberate in providing spaces for feedback from the college community in the town halls, and in the surveys that you've been sending out and blog posts. Why is that so important? I don't recall that being done before at the last strategic planning cycle. So what's the impetus behind that? Why does this committee feel that that's so important,
transparency is a key part of what we're trying to do. That's one of the things that I've embraced in my role on the communications team for the Strategic Planning Committee, and I really value everybody having as much information as they can. So the committee has taken that perspective and provided options Unity's for discourse. And this discourse informs our process, and it communicates the expectations that the committee is going to do its work to that we are on the path to making decisions. Everybody who works at the college needs to know what's going on. So we make these opportunities open at different on different days of the week, different times of day trying to get as much input as we can. But the fact is, with this strategic plan, we're going to make big organizational and cultural changes at the college and it's not going to work if people don't have a chance to participate in it. Everyone has ideas about the strategic plan. And we need to hear those ideas. And likewise, one of the great things about the town hall format that we've been using, in addition to surveys, I mean, we've been doing the surveys, and we're taking email input as well. But one great thing about the town hall format is that everybody can hear everybody else's ideas as well. So they know they're not just maybe they know that they're not the only one with a suggestion, or maybe they have the opportunity here other suggestions that they're like, oh, okay, yeah, I see where that person's going with it. I understand what they're saying. So it's a chance for conversation, not just from people who aren't on the Strategic Planning Committee to the committee, but for everybody to talk to one another.
The town halls have been full of people, which is evidence of a very engaged community with a lot of voices, a lot of opinions, a lot of priorities, some some heartaches, how is the committee boiling all of it down into something actionable?
I was wondering that myself when we started off on this journey together, as you know, as a college, right, so the committee is made up of 19 people. And within that committee, we have a data team, which includes Dr. Margarita, best Dr. Courtney Rainey, Dr. Kurt Lowe to Siena, and the chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, Tina Ruff, who's also the chief of staff. They're collecting the town hall meeting chats, taking notes on the conversations, they're incorporating survey responses and emails. And they're identifying themes and synthesizing the data putting like information together and boiling it down into actionable pieces that the strategic planning committee can then work with. And then the committee is repackaging that information that we get and sharing it back with the college community usually, like, for example, in the form of the survey that just went out asking people to provide their feedback on several mission, vision and core value statements, we got the text of those core mission, vision and core values, statements from many different pieces of feedback that we've received in the town halls in the surveys and the emails and that kind of thing and tried to put it into something that can go into a strategic plan that everybody can read and understand.
So once all of this has been synthesized, what is the plan going to look like when it's done? Is it a set of guidelines? Is it a checklist? Is it policy proposals? What is the document actually going to look like?
Okay, for a very concrete answer, it's going to include a revised statement of the college's mission, vision and values. It will be a list of several priorities that drive us toward our goals that line up with the recommendations that we got from the group of those three organizations whom we're calling the collaborative and what we're calling our anchor document, and it will describe how we're going to use data to assess our effectiveness along the way. And as circumstances change, we'll be able to adjust our plans accordingly.
Once you have the plan. Once you've published it, what happens next, what's the next step? Will the committee be disbanded? And then the college leadership take it from there? Will the committee be reconvening in a year to see how it goes what happens next?
The Strategic Planning Committee is drafting a strategic plan and then that is going to go to the Durham Tech Board of Trustees they are going to look at it this is our first draft are going to look at it. They're going to provide their feedback and give it back to us and that is happening very soon. Then we'll go back through the last steps of our strategic planning process. We'll present that draft of the plan after incorporating the Board of Trustees feedback to the college and that will be the focus of our next discussion coming up pretty soon. Then from that discussion. We'll continue to take the data that we get from those conversations, revise the plan, and then we will submit a final proposal to the Durham Tech Board of Trustees for their vote once they vote on the final plan assuming that they approve it once we get to the plan that the Board of Trustees approves that plan will be posted on the Durham Tech's website and will guide the college for the next five years. From that point the college's Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Christine Kelly Cleese will leave the collagen implementation assessment and effectiveness efforts so she is going to be the one who marshalling the plan forward. Meanwhile, all areas of the college departments, councils and committees, everybody will review the priorities and goals in the plan. And then they'll develop appropriate actions that further the goals of the college. So for example, within a department supervisors and employees develop work plans, and those work plans are going to reflect individual employees commitment to actions within their respective departments that further the plant committees and councils will align their charges with the priorities and goals, then we will continue to engage in strategic planning. And annually, we're going to look at this look at where we are, and ensure that we're assessing everything that we're assessing what we're doing at the college, and that if we need to make any adjustments, if we seem feel like we need to head in a slightly different direction, then we have the opportunity to do that. So this strategic plan is it's going to continue to be a process and we've received feedback and in some of the town hall meetings that we should continue to have strategic planning town hall meetings, even after this report is completed. So I think that's a possibility, too,
is there anything not included in the strategic plan this time that should be included next time in previous strategic plans,
one of the things we learned in the collaboratives report that was pointed out to us was that Durham Tech has embraced too many albeit worthwhile goals at once, and tried to take on too many different things. And it's really hard to maintain focus or get any kind of momentum, we've spread ourselves too thin in the past. So this plan, I don't know that this plan is comprehensive. This plan has some concrete goals, concrete outcomes of things that we're trying to achieve. And we're going to pick a few things to do a few broader priorities to do to get there and how that goes over the next five years is going to set us up for the next strategic plan. But we're really focusing on just a few high value high priority goals right now. And then in five years, we'll see where we are. And we'll assess from there. And I hope that will include the things that should be included five years from now when we get to that, but I think this conversation, whether it is formally called a strategic plan or not over the next five years needs to continue. How do we as a college continue to serve our communities? Well serve our students, well make sure that we're supporting them and achieving their goals and so forth.
What was the last book you read? Well, that's kind of a change of pace. Now you've thrown me a softball question. Just to you know, totally switch tracks here.
Yeah, as a librarian, of course, I'm obligated to participate, but will it softly obligated maybe to participate in the Durham Tech reading challenge, but I embrace it as part of my professional as well as recreational responsibilities. Anyway, the last book I read was March, Book Three, which I finished a couple of weeks ago, I've actually finished books two and three of the march graphic. It's a graphic novel trilogy, although it's weird, why we call it graphic novels, even when they're autobiographical and not completely made out of whole cloth.
The take that I prefer is that graphic novel is a format rather than a genre.
Gotcha. Okay, so I read two volumes of that trilogy earlier this month. And you know, and probably a lot of the audience knows, but this is the autobiography of the late congressman john lewis, who was an icon in the civil rights movement. And it focuses on his participation in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, with flash forwards to the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. I read that in December, and then got distracted by a couple other books and got back to the rest of the series. graphic novels are not my first choice for reading. But they this series, I thought did a really good job of conveying the setting and the action and the violence, the countered the civil rights movement, and really did a good job of capturing the perseverance of people who put their lives on the line to promote equality in the United States. It was it was really, it's a really good series.
So you mentioned the reading challenge, which category Did you read it for?
So that's what's so beautiful about the reading challenge. I'm going to go into a little bit too much detail here, because I haven't decided yet. There are, there are multiple categories that each of these volumes could check off for the reading challenge. And I'm keeping a spreadsheet of what I read since I can use two categories for each book. And at the end of the year, I'll know which categories I need each volume to count it. So off the top of my head, I remember that I think this counts as a microhistory. Meredith is going to let me have that. Push back a little bit on that. And there was one about like civic engagement. I think these books can check off several categories. I have a spreadsheet, it knows the answers,
excellent data driven reading. Thank you for sharing all this great information about the Strategic Planning Committee, the strategic planning process and the future strategic plan. I know that it's been a ton of work for you and for the rest of the committee. So thank you for doing this and trying to make our work more efficient and help us serve our community better.
Thank you, Courtney. I also think it's important to acknowledge the hard work that the individual members of the committee have done, I can't name all 19 of us, but I want to call out Andrew Jones is really been instrumental and working with me to get the communication between the committee and the college to keep it consistent to word everything clearly and to double check each other to make sure that we're including what needs to be included. And Tina Ruff, as the chair of the committee has been extremely responsive and helpful. And I don't know how she manages to keep all of the different pieces together. But she she's guiding this process. And it's just fascinating to watch. I know she's done this before the data team we already mentioned. But in each of the town hall meetings, the work that the facilitators do, who are different facilitators in each meeting, but are members of the Strategic Planning Committee, I've been impressed at how well they've kept the conversation on track and focused and been transparent in there like taking notes on the screen as we're going so that people can see what their takeaway is during those live conversations in the town hall meetings. So I knew it was gonna be a big undertaking when I joined the committee and I didn't know that they were going to ask me to do communications for the committee. But I believe that what we're trying to do is the right thing, and I think it's important and it really has been a lot of work. But it's been so rewarding to work with closely with so many people from across the college that I don't usually get to work with directly. There are so many motivated, caring and brilliant people at the college and I get to work with a handful of them on the committee.
Yeah, we're awesome. Yeah, we are.
Thank you again to Steven Brooks, and the rest of the Strategic Planning Committee. I think I speak for everyone at the college when I say we really appreciate the hard work you're doing Stephen read March the graphic novel series. I'm going to link to book one in the show notes as well as the link to our 2021 reading challenge. If you'd like to read March yourself categories that it might account for are a short book, a book about social justice or equity, an own voices book a choose your own category book, and now that it's on the podcast, a book suggested by a Durham Tech Library and plenty of time left in the year to complete the reading challenge. I hope everybody has a great summer