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Introduction to the academic master plan from the Chief Academic Officer

Johnson County Community College adopted a new strategic plan in 2014. Goal 1 of the Strategic Plan directs the college to focus on specific metrics of student success: student satisfaction, retention, persistence, and graduation and transfer rates. To accomplish that goal, the first task of Goal 1 calls on the college to develop an academic master plan aligned with the college’s new goals. Those goals, briefly stated, call on the college to address 1) clearly defined student success, 2) increased agility responding to stakeholder needs, 3) communication of the college’s comprehensive offerings, and 4) efficient use of college resources to strengthen college offerings.

As various committees worked on addressing the major goals and tasks guided by the new 2014-2017 strategic plan, one comment often heard was the obvious – the strategic plan’s goals and tasks often seemed to overlap. Those overlaps should not be surprising. New strategic plans always overlap the work of the past. 

Fortunately, JCCC has never worked without direction. For example, the college’s strategic plan 10 years ago highlighted the following six goals:

  • JCCC will concentrate on improving student learning.
  • JCCC will concentrate efforts to ensure student success and student support.
  • JCCC will promote and enhance opportunities for lifelong educational and cultural enrichment.
  • JCCC will focus on maintaining a supportive environment for faculty and staff.
  • JCCC will enhance its role in supporting civic engagement and civic responsibility.
  • JCCC will stress accountability based on sound assessment practices and ethical stewardship.

These six goals informed the initiatives and specific program decisions made by the various academic divisions and college branches at that time. And the college’s work of 10 years ago can only be fully understood by laying it on top of the college’s founding vision presented in JCCC’s treasured Blue Book (a document created by the college’s founders outlining their philosophy and aspirations for JCCC). One of the strengths of the college has been the broad commitment to serve the community, a community that has long been committed to education and public service.

Noting overlapping dimensions in the strategic plan simply reminds us that the college’s academic planning has always been based on a set of values that helped shape decisions. But values shared with the past must not keep us from seeing changing demands of the future. The new strategic plan adopted in 2014 directs the college to build on its past by being responsive to the present and future.

Given that the college’s many programs were established to meet perceived needs at the time, one of the challenges facing the college today is to implement valid processes that will guide the college in evaluating the ongoing value of established programs curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular as well as the many other college programs ranging from professional development and community service to continuing education programs. The college will need to be able to make choices between maintaining established programs and developing new programs.

The following partial list of college programs adopted over the years (here listed in alphabetical order) represent the breadth of JCCC’s services that need evaluation for continued relevance and value:

  • A comprehensive curriculum for degrees, certificates and personal enrichment
  • Academic music
  • Academic theatre
  • Clubs and organizations
  • Collaboration with Continuing Education and Student Success and Engagement
  • Collaborations with the Kansas Board of Regents and the Regent universities, including expanded academic pathways and reverse transfer agreements
  • Diversity
  • Faculty development
  • Fashion collection
  • Honors
  • International education
  • Model United Nations
  • Library services
  • Outreach sites, including Lawrence and Shawnee Mission North
  • Reflection and Renewal sessions
  • Resource centers for student support
  • Service/community-based learning
  • Standard college class scheduling practices
  • Sustainability
  • Technology
  • Visual arts across campus

This list is not complete, and the various items listed are general and need to be subdivided if they are to be seriously evaluated. All of these programs – the college itself – have evolved through one form or another of academic planning. Our greatest challenge will be developing meaningful criteria that support responsible evaluations of the broad and varied services provided by the college. This challenge poses significant difficulties especially given that the college’s many constituents cannot be expected to share a single set of values that lead to one clear set of decisions.

Fortunately, moving us forward in a community-minded way and drawing purposefully from our communities’ values, needs and expectations, the new strategic plan builds on the spirit of the college’s earlier statements but directs us to assess and improve what is currently in place as well as to explore what new programming needs implementation.

The college’s new strategic plan has been developed systematically with specific attention to gaining community input. But the current mission, vision and values statements are not contrary to the spirit and substance of earlier strategic goals and do not immediately suggest adding or deleting any specific programs. The new strategic plan does focus more clearly on matters of accountability, transparency and responsiveness to the community.

The academic master plan must build on the values identified in the new strategic plan. More challenging will be identifying the criteria and necessary decisions that guide choices that will need to be made between competing programs that each in fact align with the strategic plan values. It is likely given changing budget constraints that the college will need to choose between competing goods. Our choices will not be between the useful and the useless, but more often between what we choose to consider more valuable among multiple programs that are all valuable in their ways.

In the new academic master plan, the college will need to first establish processes that guide reasonable decisions and secondly identify the key elements needed to best serve the diverse needs of the growing Johnson County community facing limitations that we have not before encountered. To inspire learning that transforms lives and strengthens communities, we will need to invest JCCC’s talents wisely. 

Andy Anderson
Vice President of Instruction/Chief Academic Officer