First 100 Days: Days 1-100
Dear Colleagues and Community Stakeholders,
Thank you to everyone I have had the honor and opportunity to meet with thus far. I am humbly honored and do not take lightly how fortunate I am to serve as Wenatchee Valley College’s 13th president. WVC is a compassionate, passionate, and caring shared-governance and collective-ownership college with so much potential to advance teaching, learning, applied and community-based research, and innovation, as well as supporting the educational and career needs of the region. We can do all of this while nurturing authentic and mutually beneficial partnerships as we proceed forward together.
WVC plays an important role in the lives of our students, employees, workforce development, industries, and communities. Wearing my lifelong learner and student-focused lens, I experienced the college as a collaborative and engaged learning environment and a Hispanic-serving institution (federal HSI designation) in one of the most beautiful regions of the Northwest. The college serves one of the largest territories of any public two-year and four-year college in Washington State. The territory expands over 10,000 square miles and includes Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties and is an outdoor oasis and recreational paradise. The college is a multi-campus district with campuses in Wenatchee and Omak, as well as other teaching and training sites. The college and community are also proud of its award-winning partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, including offering classes and programs in Nespelem, 40 miles from the Omak campus.
As I reflect upon my first 100 days as a student-teacher-scholar, I have a greater appreciation of our students, employees, and members of the community and of the importance of the college as a catalyst and jewel for our region and beyond. During this time, I met with hundreds of students, employees, alumni, community members, and educators as I listened, learned, and witnessed firsthand how WVC’s mission comes to life by serving communities' and residents' educational and cultural needs throughout the service area.
The word “transformational” is often an overused word in education. However, when used as a synonym for WVC, it is an understatement of the importance of the college’s role in North Central Washington. WVC has remarkable and nationally accredited programs, with many of them having a 90% or better job placement rate within six months of completion. WVC is not only instrumental for the region but has the potential to become a beacon and a leader in meeting students and members of the community where they are and supporting them as they achieve their educational, personal, and career goals.
While the college is no doubt instrumental in the lives of students and our many communities, WVC has work to do. As I listened to the various stakeholders that I met during my first 100 days, it became more apparent for WVC to strengthen relationships and become more community-centered in our approach to engaging students’ families, residents, employers, and potential investors in our community ecosystem. WVC students have competing responsibilities and priorities outside the college. The college must be responsible for meeting, supporting, and preparing members of our community to be the next generation of leaders and positive contributors to society. Especially now, as we transition from the COVID-19 pandemic, WVC will need to reimagine what it means as we strive to embrace our whole student and aspire to be one of the nation's best community-centered and degree-granting colleges.
My most memorable time during my first hundred days was not in meetings in Olympia or Washington D.C. during the legislative session. On the contrary, my most memorable time has been meeting and hearing from students, faculty, staff, alumni, residents, and other stakeholders who care about our college and the North Central Washington region.
Several reoccurring themes emerged from these individual and group meetings. They will help identify what should be some of the college’s priorities and a future vision for the college which will be a precursor to the campus and community SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis as we plan for our future and embark on the college’s 2024-2029 Strategic Plan later this year. Thus, as we better understand our students, employees, and community members lived experiences and personal stories, we are better prepared as a college to understand what is needed as we deliver on our mission’s promise and the goal of becoming the higher education institution of choice for our region and beyond.
Strengths and improvements
These last sections will include ten reoccurring themes from campus and community stakeholders that reflect the following:
- Strengths of WVC from students, faculty, and staff on our Wenatchee and Omak campuses;
- Strengths of WVC from community stakeholders in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties;
- Improvements from students, faculty, and staff on our Wenatchee and Omak campuses lens; and
- Improvements from community stakeholders in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties.
Strengths of WVC from students, faculty, and staff on our Wenatchee and Omak campuses:
- The college has caring, knowledgeable, and invested faculty and staff that are committed to student achievement, success, and personal growth.
- Many of our employees were former students at the college and live within the three counties that represent the district. Thus, they can relate to many of our students’ lived experiences.
- Both campuses have an array of signature programs, offerings, and services that align with the region’s needs and address some of the literacy, knowledge, and skills gaps.
- Career placement and transfer rates for our students are high.
- The college has beautiful, safe, and family-centered campuses.
- Strong academic programs and faculty that are responsive to the different learning styles of our students. Many programs implement high-impact practices or engaged learning and Integrated Basic Education Skills and Training (I-BEST) as an evidence-based learning and career development and preparation model.
- A shared-governance campus with the goal of fostering a collective-ownership culture.
- Faculty and staff are actively involved with the community, especially as it relates to specific programs or professional or personal interests.
- The facilities and infrastructure improvements are welcome additions. Including the recent addition of a new building in Wenatchee and goals to build new buildings on both campuses.
- Our support for diversity, including our interest in hiring employees from different backgrounds, the federal recognition as a Hispanic Serving Institution, and our collaborative partnership and program offerings with the Colville Tribes are some of our points of pride.
Strengths of WVC from community stakeholders in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties:
- WVC has many community members who have taken classes and are passionate alumni that appreciate our campuses' value and how the college positively impacted their lives.
- WVC history and involvement with other organizations in the region and the role it plays in advancing upward economic mobility and supporting livable wage careers is an asset for the community.
- Many employers, nonprofits, the healthcare sector, and emerging industries count on WVC to support some of their employment and skill needs.
- WVC programs support many of the region's educational and skills gap training.
- The college has talented and supportive faculty and staff. Former students and alumni were often able to remember and recall faculty and staff members by name that have contributed to their learning experiences, and that had a positive impact on their lives.
- Some of our programs, for example, our allied health and workforce development programs, have strong partnerships and relationships with employers in the region.
- WVC is a comprehensive liberal arts college that provides a wide spectrum of courses and areas of study that prepare students to be critical thinkers, learners, and positive contributors to society. Moreover, WVC provides students with knowledge and prepares them to transition to one of the college’s four-year programs or to transfer to four-year and graduate colleges and universities.
- Community members appreciate WVC’s Running Start, College in the High School, and other programs and services that are available for high school students.
- The college is viewed as essential to the community and North Central Washington.
- Almost everyone I met in our service area knew someone that attended WVC.
Improvements on from students, faculty, and staff on our Wenatchee and Omak campuses lens:
- We need to build stronger partnerships with K-12 schools, districts, and other members of our community.
- Strengthen WVC institutional culture and campus morale. We have caring and engaged faculty and staff, but we need to build a culture of excellence, accountability, and mutual respect for all colleagues.
- Working in collaboration with K-12 schools to address the lack of preparedness for some students that are entering college after having their education disrupted due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
- While acknowledging and recognizing past trauma, it is essential to support employees and advance the college to a high-performing, growth mindset, continuous improvement learning organization instead of a deficit mindset. This calls for organizational development, staff, faculty, and supervisor training.
- Transitioning the campus from the pandemic to a comprehensive and vibrant campus and learning organization. Opening back up for business, including having face-to-face classes and services offered daily from Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and after-hours based on demand, with a goal to expand our portfolio to offer more evening programs and services based on demand.
- Addressing the inequities and lack of classes, programs, and services offered between the Wenatchee and Omak campuses.
- There is an urgent need to foster authentic and trustworthy relationships with external partnerships, especially throughout Okanogan County.
- We need to right-size our programs in relation to the number of students served. We need to increase enrollment, support our low enrollment and underperforming programs, and address the demand for high-demand programs.
- The need for a larger budget requires increasing our enrollment, retaining our students, and diversifying our funding portfolio to support the demand for additional positions and strategic institution priorities.
- To integrate more student-informed, student-centered, community-informed, and community-centered decisions throughout the college.
Improvements on from community stakeholders in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties:
- There is an ability, desire, and need to foster stronger and more engaged relationships with K-12 schools and school districts.
- Some members of the community that are not associated with the college were not aware of what programs the college offers, including classes, training, and professional enrichment opportunities, or that there were four-year degrees offered on both campuses.
- The college can do a better job of being more actively involved with the community and supporting our entire service district, especially in Okanogan County.
- Exploring new partnerships and supporting nonprofit and for-profit organizations that currently do business or are considering expanding to our region.
- We can be more engaged with the needs of the members of our community. Until this occurs, residents and future students in our community will seek out other higher education institutions and workforce development and training centers to meet their needs.
- The college can be more responsive to the needs of potential students and their families in the region.
- The recognition from community members that there is very little activity, including students and employees on both campuses, compared to what individuals remembered in the past and before the pandemic.
- The lack of activity on campus makes some residents ask questions related to how the college’s enrollment is, whether there are concerns related to x, y, or z, or will the college rebound from the pandemic.
- The college should expand its efforts in exploring new and additional partnerships with other regional organizations and groups.
- Some community members were not aware of the advantages of attending one of WVC’s campuses or teaching sites in comparison to other two-year, four-year, or online higher education options.
The lists above are not intended to be an exhaustive list but rather provide a snapshot of what I heard from internal and external stakeholders during my first 100 days. As I continue my listening phase, I invite campus and community members to meet with me and other invested college stakeholders to support several time-sensitive goals for the college.
We will be hosting campus and community listening throughout 2023 in preparation for our 2024-2029 Strategic Plan. The college is developing strategic plan web resources, timelines, and information related to future meetings and the progress of this important initiative. We want this next plan to be reflective of our student and community needs moving forward. Therefore, we encourage as many individuals as possible to participate in the various town halls, information sessions, and campus and community meetings we will host on campus and throughout our service district. We also want to hear from you if you want to be involved or are willing to host one of our listening sessions with community members.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this 100-day snapshot view from the presidency. Please stay tuned. More updates, including WVC’s strategic priorities moving forward, will be provided.
Dr. Faimous Harrison, WVC President