Aspen Institute’s draft report recommends focus for Alamo Colleges

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Report notes faculty ‘initiative fatigue.’

By Kyle R. Cotton

kcotton11@student.alamo.edu

Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in partnership with Achieving the Dream, two national organizations focused on student success in community colleges, suggests the leadership of the Alamo Colleges focus on its two most recent Initiatives, AlamoAdvise and AlamoInstitutes.

That focus will also relieve “initiative fatigue” within the district.

The two organizations conducted a site visit Nov. 3-4 to collect data and meet with district leaders, faculty, staff and community partners.

Its draft report, released by district Jan. 27, states the organizations usually come back with a list of concerns for leadership to prioritize. However, in the case of the Alamo Colleges, the report recommended simply, “to zero in on its most important current initiatives and communicate … that singular focus as the institutional priority.”

“Alamo Colleges has already identified its big bets to improve student outcomes —advising systems and guided pathways — and made significant commitments in time, energy and staffing to provide the opportunity to bring AlamoAdvise and AlamoInstitutes to scale across its institutions. The challenge is now to ensure that faculty and staff at all levels understand that is the singular priority and to give them the time and the support to fully implement these critical reforms.”

The report advises the Alamo Colleges leadership to develop an explicit engagement strategy that evolves with the implementation of AlamoAdvise and AlamoInstitutes.

The report emphasized this focus by noting fatigue from all the initiatives the Alamo Colleges has implemented in the last decade to create a unified institutional mission focused on student success and access.

The report said while most of the initiatives have been successful, many faculty members, advisers, vice presidents and deans feel the scattered nature has been problematic.

The report included the following anonymous quotes:

“We are a mile wide and an inch deep.”

“The strategy map changes every time we see it.”

“The next big thing can’t be to add another big thing.”

“We don’t have time to become great at anything.”

“We follow the flavor of the month.”

Aspen and Achieving the Dream stated its interviews with faculty and staff revealed the need for more time to focus to put these programs into action and emphasized faculty and staff only want to achieve quality.

“The nation’s most successful community colleges — including Aspen prize winners Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, Valencia and Walla Walla — have all created that sense of urgency by concentrating on a few top priorities, communicating them clearly and repeatedly, and focusing on implementation until the work is completed,” the report said. “This is an opportunity to be capitalized upon: faculty and staff want to be excellent.”

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