A Day in the Life of an AVP – the Holiday Edition


This word popped up on my phone yesterday as the word of the day.  Isn’t it charming?  Even without knowing exactly what it means, it has a lovely lilt.


Joyance – as you might expect – means joyous feeling.  Gladness.  Delight. Enjoyment.

As we bring this semester and this year to a close, I wish you joyance.

As I have spent my day today –

  • signing off-cycle pay requests (of course!)
  • working on conference planning around the implementation of corequisites
  • responding to a student complaint
  • taking colleagues to lunch
  • answering questions for a professional reference
  • booking a couple of meetings for early January
  • answering and sending emails
  • trying to figure out some course equivalencies
  • providing additional information to my boss about an international travel request
  • looking at the (too long) list of unsubmitted grades –

I have been reminded – even in the midst of the routine (off-cycle pay requests) and the frustrating (too many unsubmitted grades) – that I find joyance in my work.

What we do matters for our students and our community.  It is meaningful and impactful work that makes the world we live in better.  I hope you take as much delight in our work as I do.  I hope our work at ACC gives you gladness.  I hope the mission and ministry of community colleges give you a joyous feeling.

I wish each of you merriment and gladness this holiday season.

Joyance to you all

Picture Credit:  By Jeangagnon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51252267


Legacies can be cherished or burdensome.  Legacies can be known or hidden.  Legacies can be something to celebrate or something to forget.

I was raised by college-educated parents.  My father was a philosophy professor at a public university until he retired at age 70.  He met my mother when they were both at Baylor, where she graduated with a BA in Spanish while he graduated with a degree in Bible. I am a product of East Texas (my mother) and West Texas (my dad).  Where else would they meet but in Central Texas?

I recently was reminded of something I had forgotten about my roots.  My multi-faceted legacy – my inheritance from my parents – now has another facet.

My mother was a product of Corpus Christi Junior College – now Del Mar College.  In going through papers in my mother’s office recently, I found pictures from her time at Corpus Christi Junior College (CCJC), where she was “Most Representative Sophomore”,  President of Phi Theta Kappa, President of the YWCA, a sophomore class officer, and Secretary-Treasurer of the Student Council.

That’s her, pouring tea, in the YWCA picture.

That’s her, first row on the left, in the PTK picture.

That’s her, second row, second from the left, in the Sophomore Class Officers picture.

My legacy – unbeknownst to me – is grounded in the mission and role of community colleges in a very personal way.  My mother was a teenager during World War II, and she had to work before she could start college.  She was a first-generation community college student who loved her time at CCJC.  It helped shape her, and it was her pathway to a four-year degree, to meeting the love of her life, and to spending the rest of her life connected to higher education, both through my dad and through me.

My passion for community colleges – my missionary zeal, if you will – has its roots in a Texas junior college of the 1940s.  My mother gifted me with this legacy, and I didn’t even know it.  Her legacies are many – she was kind, and gracious, and friendly, and thoughtful.  One of my lifelong friends described her as “a treasure”.  She was all that – and she was also a community college success story.

I’m writing this post because December 7 will be the first anniversary her passing.  So here’s to the many legacies of Doris Jane Jones Scott.  Here’s to our roots, both known and unknown.  Here’s to our past and our futures.  Here’s to my mother.  And here’s to the power of community colleges.


A Day in the Life of an AVP – the November Edition

Thursday, November 29 was a typical day.

Over the course of the day the focus of my attention included dual credit staffing challenges, weekend college, changing the Math calculus sequence, eight-week courses and programs, organizing a conference in Austin in January, off-cycle pay requests, position change and budget approval forms, job postings, our longstanding ROTC/Military Science partnership with UT, a potential engineering partnership with Texas State, appropriate documentation of student complaints and their resolution, Spring Development Day, effective use of data to inform short-term actions, assessments and improvement, communication streams, testing centers, the Ascender program, the content for the new edition of the student success report, the April Texas Pathways Institute on teaching and learning, Friday’s President’s breakfast with area superintendents – and more.

8:30   Arrived at the office and chatted about the day’s schedule with my fabulous executive assistant Rhonda, who keeps me on track and on schedule.

8:50   Went downstairs to the fifth floor to ask (and answer) some questions about a couple of projects and some looming meetings.

9:00   Turned to email.

9:15   Went to visit with Jennifer in HR, who is always helpful and answered my questions.

9:20   Went to visit with Dana in HR, who is also always helpful and answered my additional questions.

9:40  Signed seven Off-Cycle Pay Requests for my colleague Dr. Gretchen Riehl who was home with bronchitis.

9:45   Started writing a letter of recommendation for a faculty member who is applying to a doctoral program.

10:18  Succumbed to temptation and ate a Shipley donut brought to work by my evil (but not really) executive assistant Rhonda.


10:20  Returned to email and spent several minutes trying to figure out where my “trash” folder went in the new Google mail.

10:31  Had a drop-in visit from Dr. Susy Thomason to discuss updates to the faculty handbook, department chair orientation and training, Spring Development Day plans, and other things.

10:45  Read through the notes from Dr. Alison Kadlec, who facilitated the previous day’s deans’ retreat.

11:03  Received the agenda and started prepping for the Provost’s Council meeting scheduled for 2:30.

11:35  Approved two requisitions in Colleague related to the Texas Corequisites Project grant from THECB.

11:37  Finished the letter of recommendation and uploaded it to the candidate’s online file.

11:45  Checked “to do” list to confirm that I had done only one thing on the list, and answered more emails.

11:51  Started crafting an email to select department chairs about a new approach to a longstanding issue.

12:00  Ate some almonds and some cherry tomatoes at my desk while thinking through a plethora of issues related to the Texas Corequisites Project January conference that ACC is organizing.

12:25  Closed my office door to finish reading Lencioni’s Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars.

12:45  Opened my office door, returned to emails to address more questions and problems.

12:55  Turned to drafting an agenda for the Friday afternoon 8-week Program Task Force meeting.

1:05  Look up and saw my boss in my doorway – so I invited him in (of course).

1:22  Returned to drafting the task force agenda.

2:00  Returned to emails and new issues that needed addressing.

2:12  Succumbed to temptation for a second time and had another donut brought work by my evil-but-not-really, fabulous executive assistant Rhonda.

2:29  Left the office to go downstairs for the Provost’s Council meeting.

5:12  Returned to the office after the Provost’s Council meeting and sent emails about some of the decisions/discussions we had there.

5:25  Did some more work on the draft agenda and on the supporting documentation and information that would be needed for the task force meeting Friday afternoon.

6:12  Decided – especially in light of the 7:30 breakfast meeting the next morning – that it was time to close up shop and head home.  Chose not to take any donuts home with me!

Picture #1:  Liz DeCoster [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Picture #2:  Amy from Newburgh, NY [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mind the Gap

If you’ve traveled to England and ridden the London Underground, you are probably familiar with the phrase “mind the gap”.  While that advice is intended to make sure that passengers step over the gap between the platform and the train, it has always made me think about the gaps that we tend to ignore or overlook or think we can’t change.

ACC recently conducted a survey of our students with the help of the Trellis Company, and we found out that our students face a variety of gaps in their financial wellness.  Among the ACC students who participated, some said that they have run out of money three or more times in the past year, that they worry about paying off their student loan debt, that they financially contribute to their families while they are in school, and that they pay for college with credit cards.

Those are gaps for our students that we should be aware of and responsive to.  I attended the Texas Pathways Institute last week and heard from Sara Goldrick-Rab, a sociologist of higher education who reminded us that we are serving many under-resourced students from under-resourced families in under-resourced communities.  She reminded us that scarcity can have cognitive impacts – it can weigh students down in ways that make it difficult to study or make good decisions.  She told us that students enduring poverty spend as much time on college as other students, but more time working and less time sleeping.

Dr. Goldrick-Rab made the following recommendations while also affirming that our students are resilient and capable.  Her advice:

Step 1:  Remember, students are humans first.

Step 2: Commit to a culture of caring that goes beyond charity.  Change systems, policies, and practices where necessary (such as our new syllabus language that alerts students to available resources).

Step 3: Ask questions.  Learn what resources are available so that you can direct students to them.

Step 4: Share what you learn about available resources.

Step 5: Gather and share data (as with our Trellis survey).  But we must also share our students’ stories.  We must remember that a student who falls asleep in class isn’t necessarily being disrespectful – it could be s/he just finished a night shift, or is working two jobs, or was up half the night with a sick child.  We must remember that students are humans first.

So, to get you started on the resource list, here are a few links.

Did you know we have a student emergency fund?

Did you know we have food pantries?

Did you know we have a support center that provides help with childcare or textbooks?

Did you know we have a rainy day savings program for students that matches money saved?

Please take the time to learn about the resources that we make available to help our students.  Let’s all do what we can to mind the gaps that our students face.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and a season of blessings.

Faculty Advising for Students – The Mentoring Role

My goal with this blog and with the webcast Academic Transfer in Focus is to let folks around the college know more about the good work that is embedded in our initiatives.  I am releasing a new webcast called Faculty Advising for Students.  This webcast was filmed several months ago, and some things have changed since then.  Nonetheless, the key ideas are the same.

There is much research out there that tells us students are more likely to persist and succeed when they make an early connection with someone on campus – particularly if that early connection is with a faculty member.  That is the key idea in our faculty mentoring initiative.

Why aren’t we calling it faculty advising?  Because we want this to be about more than what classes to take next semester, or how many classes are left to earn an associate degree.

We want this to be about relationships that matter.

We want this to be about connections around love of a subject and love of the possible career paths that come with studying something you love.

We want this to be about mentoring.

Have you had a mentor?  I expect we all have – someone with more experience, someone who has learned some lessons the hard way, someone whose wisdom made the difference for our choices or successes.  That’s what we want with this initiative.  We want our students to be mentored by faculty who can offer insights into how to navigate college, how to overcome mistakes, and how to focus on the love of learning and the transfer and career goals that can be transformational.

We’ll be providing more information about this initiative in the coming weeks and months, but for now I want you to know that we are moving forward.  In Spring 2019 we will have some designated faculty mentors for declared majors in the Liberal Arts, SEM, and Business.

Send good thoughts their way – and say thank you for the mentors who helped you get where you are today.

Open Education and Our Students

Last week I attended the annual OpenEd Conference that focuses on the work in and around developing open educational resources (OER), offering Z-classes, and crafting Z-degrees.  ACC systematically started down this open education road in the Fall 2016 semester, building on small pockets of OpenStax textbook adoptions.

In the current Fall 2018 semester ACC is offering more than 400 Z-classes with an enrollment approaching 10,000.  As this article and this report indicate,  adapting/curating/developing/remixing openly licensed, high quality course materials supports not only our students but our own interests in refreshed and engaging pedagogy.

The OpenEd conference allowed me to hear updates on both quantitative and qualitative research at particular colleges as well as a meta-analysis and summary of research on OER to date.  While the research designs are not always as rigorous as we might hope, the general results of the research point to multiple benefits for our students and for us as faculty.  The underlying message that supports open education is this:  “One’s learning limit should never hinge on one’s purchasing power.”

The OER “movement” requires support and sustainability.  OER stewards are key to supporting and expanding our ability to use academically appropriate and high quality openly licensed course materials.  Another session I attended at Open Ed discussed the CARE Framework, offering the framework as a compass to provide direction for supporting the growing OER ecosystem.

CARE:  Contribute, Attribute, Release, Empower.

To Contribute means to engage actively in finding and updating course materials under CC-BY licenses.

To Attribute means to always ensure that credit is given where credit is due.  While the beauty of OER is in their adaptability, we must still ensure attributions credit those who came before.

To Release means to craft open educational resources that can be used beyond the individual classroom.  That is, they aren’t hidden behind a learning management system or wrapped up in copyrighted materials.

To Empower means to widen the circle of participation and practice, to broaden the voices that contribute to OER and the topics that are openly licensed, and to share research findings, good practice, and recommendations for improvement.

As community college faculty, we understand and celebrate the diversity of our classrooms.  We celebrate who our students are and the assets they bring to learning.  The best work in the open education world reflects what we already know – that education is reciprocal, and that our students both learn from us and teach us.  The best elements of open education are in the reciprocity of the OER ecosystem.  And ACC will continue to support the development of additional openly licensed course materials and additional Z-degree pathways that we can share with our students, our colleagues, and the wider open education world.

A Day in the Life – the September Edition

“Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.”

Actually, with my curly hair, a comb is ineffective.  But still – you get the idea.

I thought I would pick Friday the 21st to tell you about in the September edition of A Day in the Life of an AVP.  I woke up, I fell out of bed, and I got myself out the door and on the road to our Elgin Campus by 8:00 AM.

Elgin Campus?  Yes. We are holding monthly leadership and management sessions with our newish and new department chairs.  Anyone who is in his or her first or second year as a department chair is included.  Among many other goals, one goal is to help folks get to know our campuses – so the September session was at Elgin, a charming campus approximately 20 miles from HBC.  Our Elgin Campus is home to our sustainable agriculture program, our veterinary technology program, our soon-to-be-launched Ag Science program, and some of our Early College High School programs (Elgin ECHS, Manor ECHS, and Colorado River Collegiate Academy).

I arrived at Elgin at 8:30 and visited with folks as they gathered.  At 9:00 I made some opening remarks and then stayed for a few minutes as the first session began.  About 9:20 I left to head to HBC.

At 10:00 I was in my seat in HBC 301 as co-chair of our college-wide Curriculum & Programs Committee.  This committee is one of my favorites at ACC.  It is composed of smart, dedicated, eagle-eyed, and committed faculty and deans who care about the nuances of curricular updates and revisions, new program or course development, and curriculum innovation.  They care because they understand that curriculum changes are at the heart of our mission and our focus on student access, persistence, and completion.  We had a lively meeting about things both large and small, and we finished around noon.

By 12:20 I was back on the road to our Elgin Campus.

Elgin Campus?  Again?  Yes – because the session with new(ish) department chairs ran from 8:30 to 2:30.  While I was at HBC they heard from HR, Purchasing, and Campus Operations.  They also had a few “seasoned” department chairs join them for lunch so they could pick their brains and learn from their experiences.

After I arrived back at Elgin, I heard the tail end of the Campus Operations and Safety presentation, and then listened to the Library Services presentation.  I was up next, to talk about schedule development (and Ad Astra) and curriculum development (and Curriculum & Programs).  We ended a little after 2:00, and they stayed for a campus tour while I headed back to HBC.

At 3:00 I was in my seat in HBC 507.9 as the convener of a Steering Committee put together to provide strategic vision and support for a grant we received from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.  This THECB grant was awarded to ACC sos that we can develop and provide training, professional development, and information about best practices around co-requisites to all public institutions of higher education in Texas over the next two years.

As  you may know, under HB 2223 all public colleges and universities must have at least 25% of their developmental education students enrolled in a co-requisite course pairing (developmental ed paired with college credit) this Fall.  Next Fall we must have 50% enrolled in co-reqs., and the following Fall we must have 75% enrolled in co-reqs.  The intent is clear – we are to help our students who need to beef up their reading, writing, and math skills in a way that moves them forward and helps them earn college credit thanks to the co-requisite supports that they receive while enrolled in a college credit class.

It’s a big grant with visible and consequential stakes, so we have established a steering committee to provide strategic thinking and serve as a sounding board for the faculty who are leading the implementation.  Our meeting ended around 4:30, at which point I went to my office to catch up on email and cross a couple of things off my “to do” list.

I eventually gathered up my work to take home and headed out to meet friends for happy hour.  Not a bad way to end another day, another week, and (almost) another month of interesting and significant work as an AVP.

SACS Has Left! SACS Has Left!

We did it.

After two plus years of planning, writing, rewriting, conducting surveys, pulling faculty rosters, double- and triple-checking faculty credentials and documentation, pulling data, organizing mock interviews, scheduling visits to five high schools and three campuses, organizing last-minute interview requests from the 5th Year Compliance Report visiting team after they arrived – and a whole lot more – we did it.  In the words of Dr. Cook, “Slam dunk!!”.

The same is true for our level change visiting team – another slam dunk for ACC.

We did it.

Both visiting teams had absolutely no recommendations.  The chairs of both visiting teams said it was extremely rare for a result such as this.  A full written report from the visiting team will likely be reviewed either at the December 2018 meeting or the June 2019 meeting of the SACSCOC Board of Trustees.  That review makes it official.  But in the meantime . . .

We did it.

Kudos to all involved.  The conscientiousness, dedication, and commitment of ACC’s faculty and staff is reflected not only in this result, but in the ongoing opportunities we provide to our students and our community.


SACS Is Coming! SACS Is Coming!

A team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) will be visiting ACC next week (September 17th through the 19th).  The team will be visiting with faculty, staff, and students at our Highland Campus, Hays Campus, and Elgin Campus.  They will also visit five high schools in our service area where we offer dual credit classes to interview faculty and students there.

As you already know, institutions of higher education are accredited by regional accrediting bodies, and we are in the Southern Region, so SACSCOC is our accrediting agency.  Accreditation is a decennial process that ACC went through most recently in 2013.  Mid-way through the decade, colleges in the Southern Association submit a Fifth Year Interim Report and are visited by a representative group of peers (faculty and staff) from other Southern Association colleges and universities.  All colleges and universities in the SACSCOC region must adhere to the same accrediting standards.  A visiting team is essentially tasked with examining whether or not a college is adhering to those standards.

The Fifth Year Report is an abbreviated document in which we respond to select standards and federal regulations.  It is a way for accrediting bodies to continuously monitor institutions to ensure compliance.  It is also a way for our accrediting authority to review any new sites that we opened since 2013 (thus the visits to Elgin, Hays, and Highland).

I attended my first meeting relating to the Fifth Year Report in February 2017 (two months after I was named AVP), but other preliminary meetings date to May of 2016 – so ACC has been working on this visit for more than two years.  I was tasked with writing two elements of the Report.  The first is CR 2.8.  In 2017, Core Requirement 2.8 said this:  “The number of full-time faculty members is adequate to support the mission of the institution and to ensure the quality and integrity of each of its academic programs.”  I wrote approximately 25 pages illustrating our compliance with this requirement, including tables, survey data, and charts provided by OIEA.

In December 2017 SACSCOC adopted updated principles, so now this core expectation is stated this way:

“SECTION 6: Faculty Qualified, effective faculty members are essential to carrying out the mission of the institution and ensuring the quality and integrity of its academic programs. The tradition of shared governance within American higher education recognizes the importance of both faculty and administrative involvement in the approval of educational programs. Because student learning is central to the institution’s mission and educational degrees, the faculty is responsible for directing the learning enterprise, including overseeing and coordinating educational programs to ensure that each contains essential curricular components, has appropriate content and pedagogy, and maintains discipline currency.

Achievement of the institution’s mission with respect to teaching, research, and service requires a critical mass of qualified full-time faculty to provide direction and oversight of the academic programs. Due to this significant role, it is imperative that an effective system of evaluation be in place for all faculty members that addresses the institution’s obligations to foster intellectual freedom of faculty to teach, serve, research, and publish.

1. The institution employs an adequate number of full-time faculty members to support the mission and goals of the institution. (Full-time faculty) [CR]

2. For each of its educational programs, the institution

a. Justifies and documents the qualifications of its faculty members. (Faculty qualifications)

b. Employs a sufficient number of full-time faculty members to ensure curriculum and program quality, integrity, and review. (Program faculty)

c. Assigns appropriate responsibility for program coordination. (Program coordination)”

I was also tasked with writing our response to FR 4.2.  Federal Requirement 4.2 says this:  “The institution’s curriculum is directly related and appropriate to the purpose and goals of the institution and the diplomas, certificates, or degrees awarded.”  I wrote approximately 15 pages documenting our compliance with FR 4.2.

Dr. Gretchen Riehl (AVP of Workforce Education) and I wrote the key instructional pieces of the Report.  Other writing assignments were given to various teams in Student Services, Campus Planning and Operations, and Institutional Planning and Evaluation.  The entire effort was overseen by Misty Rasmussen, our Director of Accreditation, and Dr. Mary Harris, our Vice President of Institutional Planning, Development, and Evaluation.  They deserve applause for the planning, forethought, organization, and support that they have provided as we have written our report and prepared for the visiting team.

I should tell you that we’re actually being visited by two teams next week. One is focused on the Fifth Year Report, and the other is focused on our recent level change.  In addition to preparing for the Fifth Year, we went through a level change process this year so that we could be approved to offer the RN-to-BSN program.  If you see Misty or Mary, give them a hug or a high five and tell them they should both go on vacation in October.  They will deserve it!

Now you know.  SACSCOC is coming, and we are well prepared.  But keep in mind – 2023 will be here before we know it, and we’ll be working on a full reaffirmation report.

I can’t wait 😉