December 4th, 2018
Midcap, Sisler present on new GC mission development process
Open, inclusive process well received based upon follow-up employee survey
Garrett College officials presented the institution's new approach to refining and affirming the college's mission, vision and values last Thursday at the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) annual conference.
Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College's president, and Institutional Research and Effectiveness Coordinator Kelli Sisler summarized institutional takeaways from the process in a presentation entitled A Small Community College's Holistic Approach to a Mission/Vision/Values Review Process. Midcap said his biggest takeaway was the value in providing every employee an opportunity to be part of the process.
"Everyone needs to embrace a college's mission, vision and values if they are to be effectively implemented," said Midcap. "The chances of that taking place are much greater if everyone has a voice in the process."
Sisler indicated thoughtful planning is critical if so many individual voices are going to be involved in setting an institution's mission, vision and values.
"We wanted to make sure everyone's voice was heard, but that hinged on developing a structured process to ensure that took place," said Sisler.
Jim Allen, GC's dean for instructional and institutional effectiveness, and Sisler proposed the process last fall as an effective strategy to obtain employee review of the college's mission, vision and values prior to beginning the college's MSCHE self-study process.
"The beginning of the self-study process – when colleges are supposed to introspectively review how effectively they are serving their students and their community – is the perfect time for this type of institution-wide review," said Allen.
"The respect given to the employees through the design of the process and the respect shown between the employees during the discussion sessions were encouraging," said Associate Professor of Biology Christa Bowser, who also represented GC at the MSCHE conference. "The mission/vision/values of GC are now understood by all employees in ways they may not have been before."
Colleges undertake an 18-month self-study process prior to MSCHE's accreditation review, which takes place every eight years. For GC, that process will culminate with an MSCHE team visiting the college in spring 2020 with the goal of reaffirming the college's regional accreditation.
The process Allen and Sisler proposed was to divide GC's employees into six teams, with two teams each reviewing GC's mission, vision and values, respectively. The two teams assigned each topic then met to compare their reviews, jointly agreeing to recommendations for changes that were then discussed in an All-College Forum to which all employees were invited.
"The delicate balancing act was providing sufficient opportunity for individual input while still being able to develop consensus recommendations on how to revise Garrett College's mission, vision and values," explained Sisler.
The college undertook that process during a half-day initiative last January. College administrators, along with selected faculty and staff, facilitated the small-group discussions.
The facilitators then reported to the All-College Forum the recommendations that came out of those discussions. Recommendations were finalized, fed back through the facilitators to make sure they were representative of the group discussions, and then sent on to GC's College Council and Board of Trustees for adoption.
Two major changes to the college's mission statement were approved by the Board of Trustees as part of the process, according to Allen.
The mission statement was updated to emphasize the "comprehensive educational experience . . . in both traditional and nontraditional settings" that the college aimed to provide students. A new concluding sentence was also added, stating, "The College respects and cares for students as individuals and as members of diverse groups, and supports their aspirations for a better life."
"The new concluding sentence reinforced and more accurately described Garrett College's commitment to the success and well-being of our students," said Midcap.
The major change to GC's vision for the future was emphasizing the goal of being "the college of choice for students seeking a quality educational experience." GC's commitment to the inherent values of learning and community – the college community, the greater Garrett County community, as well as the global community – were reaffirmed.
Midcap and Sisler also presented survey data on employee feedback from the process, which was overwhelmingly positive. The major employee recommendation was to clarify both the process and desired outcomes for this initiative the next time it is undertaken.
"I thought the employee recommendations were right on point," said Midcap. "We spent a lot of time planning for this initiative, but I think we all feel that this first attempt at a holistic approach to the process can be clarified and strengthened based on lessons learned."
"It would be helpful in the future to know what portion of the mission/vision/values an individual would be working on in all campus sessions, to be able to do a bit of research and be better prepared with their own opinions and supporting information," said Bowser.
The GC presentation was one of 30 selected by MSCHE for inclusion in this year's conference, which took place at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Midcap, Sisler, Allen and Bowser represented GC at the conference.
Allen is GC's liaison to MSCHE while Sisler and Bowser are co-chairs of the GC Self-Study Steering Committee that is guiding development of the college's self-study. The final version of the self-study report is shared with MSCHE several months before the spring 2020 reaccreditation visit.