Big Meeting 2016 – Building Our Strategic Plan, Emphasizing Impact on Learning and the Community

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By Chara Young

Faculty and staff members showed in large numbers to participate in this year’s Strategic Planning Big Meeting on Friday, February 5, 2016. The event drew nearly 200 attendees from the call to participate sent last month from Susan Ledlow, vice president, academic affairs and planning.

Big Meeting is an opportunity for faculty and staff to learn more about the strategic planning process, review the work of the strategic planning steering committee and work teams to date and provide feedback on the drafted goals and objectives.

College President Sandy Shugart kicked off the event with a welcome and a reminder that the work at this level is strategic, not operational. Attendees then went to learn about the working theories, visions, goals and objectives of each of the work teams, round-robin style. Co-facilitators of the work teams presented their work, including an overview of the process, and then opened the sessions for further Q&A and discussion. Participants shared their feedback on a form with three prompts: I learned, I wonder, I suggest. Forms were collected at the conclusion of each session, and baskets were on the perimeter of the general session room to collect feedback for work teams that participants were not able to attend in the time allotted for the round robin.

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After lunch, consultant group C3R presented findings from the community research project, where they surveyed 511 community members on their awareness, knowledge and perception of Valencia College. C3R invited participants who were over 18, from mixed incomes and who had no affiliation with Valencia (not a student, employee or alumnus).

Knowledge (what participants know) and perceptions (what participants think) were explored in nine categories: education; student services and resources; job preparation; community resources; reputation; access, convenience and cost; economic impact; diversity; and modernity and future.

Overall, the feedback was very positive. Valencia tied with the University of Central Florida, leading among respondents in awareness within Orange and Osceola counties. Valencia was “top of mind” most often as an affordable community college, with multiple campus locations, many programs and as a DirectConnect institution.

Following the C3R presentation, Dr. Shugart presented data from the Community Engagement 2.0 research prepared by Michael B. Cooney Strategic Advisors, LLC, and admonished the audience to see the story in the data. The numbers tell the story, and he aptly referred to this as “The Tale of Two Cities,” pointing out the large divide between “the haves and the have-nots” in the Central Florida community.

Tying it all together, Sandy reviewed the emerging themes from the “Year of Reflection” events held last spring, several of which referenced a gap in servicing students, student learning and connecting with the community. The discussion then focused on four main areas for recommendations, including playing a larger role in access, contributing to the economy, raising aspirations and improving quality of life. Participants were then asked to have table discussions centered on three questions:

  1. How can we be more strategic in developing our career, workforce and continuing education programs?
  2. How can we improve our educational partnerships within our ecosystem?
  3. How can we strategically enhance the quality of life in Central Florida?

Feedback was captured on forms and collected following the activity. Information from Big Meeting, along with the data and feedback from the community survey and research will be used to inform the strategic planning process and our work within the community. Next steps include taking a deeper dive into the community survey results, via focus groups and hosting a community town hall meeting in March. The Executive Council will convene in April to review findings.

The event agenda, community research reports and presentations from Big Meeting 2016, can be accessed below:

To stay up-to-date with the latest happenings and to provide your feedback to the strategic plan, visit the Web page for Strategic Planning at Valencia.

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