Governing Board Address 9/28/21

Good evening, everyone.

Have you noticed that MCCCD is a busy place these days? Maricopa continues to work on implementing Guided Pathways, on operationalizing the brand-new Faculty Agreement, on centralizing IT services to save money and avoid redundancy, and on retooling the enrollment process to make it faster and more user-friendly. Additionally, we are also unveiling the District’s three strategic priorities and launching our new four-year degree programs. And on top of that, we’re pursuing the Chancellor’s nine Governing Board goals for the year. Whew!

Well, tonight I want to update you on how the faculty are trying to move some of these initiatives forward for our District.

While we’re just beginning to craft our new baccalaureate programs, it’s already clear that faculty will be heavily involved in every stage of the process: we have faculty on the steering committee, faculty on the college recommendation committees, and faculty Instructional Councils ready to formulate the plans to get these programs to launch. What’s more, faculty are chomping at the bit to engage in the process — knowing full well that it takes a massive effort to roll out an entire four-year degree program, the most common feedback I’ve heard from faculty members is raw enthusiasm to dive right into this brand-new and long-awaited expansion of our mission. Additionally, we agree with the District leadership’s approach of moving carefully enough to get it right from the very beginning so that our students can extract the maximum benefit from these degrees. It seems clear that the faculty will be eager partners in this ongoing effort for many years to come.

Another important project is the rollout of our brand-new Faculty Agreement. After a few years of intense effort, this document is decidedly a “beta version,” but because of the skill and dedication of the drafting team we have a higher-quality initial document than any reasonable observer could have anticipated. Nonetheless, it is THE most significant policy change for the faculty in decades. Well, the good news is that we’re successfully adjusting to this new ruleset. As I mentioned last time, over the summer the Faculty Executive Council held a “book club” to bring faculty leadership up to speed on the contents of the new document. Now, those faculty leaders are extending their efforts by hosting additional “book clubs” for interested faculty across the entire District. Faculty are also finalizing their new “department charters” to align with requirements introduced in the Faculty Agreement, and we are deciding how to parcel out supervision work and pay in accordance with new Faculty Agreement guidelines. Suffice it to say that while this document has caused massive changes to every aspect of faculty life, we are rising to the occasion and making all the necessary adjustments.

Of the District’s major initiatives, Guided Pathways is the longest-running, and also the closest to completion. The goal of Guided Pathways is supremely student-oriented: to help each student find the classes that lead to their chosen goals and to provide them with the 360-degree wrap-around support necessary to let them reach those goals. Faculty have been crafting the “pathways” part of Guided Pathways for a few years now — setting up semester-by-semester guides for students in a chosen degree path. Now, these guides are living documents needing frequent adjustment in response to new innovations and discoveries, not to mention requirement alterations by our local instructional councils, by national education councils, by certification boards, and by transfer partners. That’s why this fall we have 18 separate teams working to either refine existing pathways or create brand new ones in programs ranging from Commercial Real Estate to Kubernetes.

On the “guided” side of Guided Pathways, we’re unveiling the District’s new “First Year Student Experience”: that’s our name for a suite of support structures to give our students the knowledge, skills, and habits necessary to succeed in college…and beyond. The First Year Student Experience includes gateway courses, enhanced advising, co-curricular experiences, career exploration, and much more.

By putting all of these pieces together, our Guided Pathways work is revolutionizing our student experience, so much so that the rest of the educational world is taking notice: in addition to a forthcoming academic publication summarizing our work, four separate community college districts have asked our faculty to come and present about these efforts so that they can try to follow in our footsteps.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote that “the only constant in life is change.” In Maricopa, we’re constantly experiencing change. Luckily, our faculty, staff, and administration have learned to embrace it. This year, we will once again face a wide array of changes that will challenge everything about how we function as a system, and once again our employees are not only willing but EXCITED to rise to the challenge and to ensure that our students get the highest-quality experience that we can provide. After having seen how their dedication and skill have transformed our District so far, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thank you for your time.