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Newsletter- October 2008

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About MCC - Accreditation/AQIP -  - Newsletter- October 2008


Our AQIP Quality Checkup visit is fast-approaching! We are scheduled for a site visit November 5-7, beginning at noon on Wednesday and ending at noon, Friday. Two AQIP Reviewers will be guiding us through this process.

Image: Gwladys Austin

Gwladys Austin - Dr. Austin is currently Vice President of Institutional Services & Technology at Mid Michigan Community College and oversees the following areas:  Library Services, Student Services, Computer Services, Academic Support Center, Distance Education, and Physical Plant.  She administers all of the college’s construction projects and writes the Capital Outlay proposals to the State of Michigan for funding.  In addition, Dr. Austin is the primary grant writer for the college.   Dr. Austin has had direct experience in academic support services including developmental education, student services, and academic administration. She has been involved with the college’s AQIP process from the beginning, served as a member of the AQIP Steering Committee, and has participated in the AQIP Focus Forums. She has been a reviewer in four AQIP Quality Checkup Visits.   Prior to her current position, she worked at Michigan State University and Central Michigan University.  Dr. Austin received her Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University in Human Ecology, a Masters in Education from Central Michigan University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University.

Image: Kathleen Plinske

Kathleen Plinske - Ms. Plinske is currently the Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness at McHenry County College (MCC!) in Illinois, after having held staff and administrative positions in Distance Education and Professional Development. In her current position, she provides leadership for the College’s continuous improvement efforts and accreditation through AQIP, and oversees the Office of Institutional Research and Planning and the Office of Marketing and Public Relations. Ms. Plinske also serves as the ERP project manager during the College’s transition to a new Enterprise Resource Planning system, and is the project leader to enhance the College’s all-hazards emergency management plan. Ms. Plinske has been involved in the College’s continuous improvement efforts since 2005, through the AQIP Steering Committee and action teams. She has been an AQIP Systems Appraiser and Annual Update Reviewer, and this will be her first Quality Checkup Visit. Her previous work experience included eight years at McHenry County College, a community college located in Chicago. Ms. Plinske received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Physics from Indiana University, a Masters in Spanish from Roosevelt University, and a Doctorate in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University.

An added visitor will be Sarah Marino, who currently is the Senior Officer for the AQIP Peer Review Corps. Ms. Marino will not serve as a reviewer, but will be an observer to primarily learn how AQIP can improve their processes.

What is a Quality Checkup visit?

In this stage of our accreditation process, two reviewers visit the college and talk with key administrators, faculty, and staff, focusing on five components:
  • Systems Portfolio Clarification and Verification – The goal of this component is to affirm the accuracy of the organization’s Systems Portfolio and verify information in the portfolio that the last Systems Appraisal identified as needing clarification or verification.

  • Systems Appraisal Follow-Up – Reviewers will examine the actions the college has taken to address the strategic issues and opportunities for improvement identified by the last Systems Appraisal.

  • Accreditation Issues Follow-Up – If a Systems Appraisal or another mechanism has identified potential accreditation issues, this component will review evidence to determine whether uncertain Criteria and Core Components issues have been met. (Our Systems Appraisal indicated no accreditation issues.)

  • Federal Compliance Review – Verification must be made that the institution has met the expectations of the Commission’s Federal Compliance Program.

  • Organizational Quality Commitment – The visiting team will interact with various personnel, using these opportunities to assess the strength and direction of the college’s commitment to systematic quality improvement.

Preparing for the visit

Obviously much preparation is done prior to the site visit, including gathering data, advance mailing of documents to the two reviewers, setting an agenda and timeline, formulating questions, making arrangements for off-site visits if necessary, and more. Most importantly, however, is setting the right tone for the visit.

What should we expect? “A site visit is not intended as a trial, ordeal, or inquisition, but as an opportunity for a team of quality experts to talk seriously with the administrators, faculty, and staff of an institution committed to systematic quality improvement about the progress they are making, the obstacles they are overcoming, and the challenges they face” (AQIP Quality Checkup Guide, 2008).

This statement pretty much sums it up. The Quality Checkup is our chance to show pride in our achievements as an institution, but also to gain clarification and a clearer direction in improving our service to students. The reviewers’ objective is to help us build up and enrich our college. It is a collaborative effort, with active participation and involvement by all staff.

Veteran reviewer, Dr. Austin advises, “AQIP Quality Checkup Visits are a time of learning for all who participate. The College participants will learn more about themselves from discussions with each other, students, community members, and the visitors. The visitors will learn from the combined participants and will be able to take some of this knowledge back to their own institutions. Although one aspect of the visit is to verify the AQIP Portfolio and federal compliance requirements, other important components include learning, focusing on the present and future, and reenergizing the organization in their Quality Improvement journey. “

So, let’s welcome the reviewers—we say “Bring it On!”

A…QuIP of the month:

“We're supposed to be perfect our first day on the job and then show constant improvement.” Ed Vargo, major league baseball umpire

Further Thoughts

“Improvement begins with I.” Arnold H. Glasgow

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood...Make big plans, aim high in hope and work." 
Daniel H. Burnham - US architect & city planner (1846 - 1912)

"You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful."
Marie Curie

A long time ago in a community college far far away…

It seems like a long time ago, but in May, 2008, six members of MCC traveled to Lisle, Illinois to attend MCC’s second AQIP Strategy Forum.  It was a time for sober reflection by the team members.

Image: Left to right:  Betty McKie, Rachel Kellum, Greg Thomas, Kathy Frisbie, Susan Clough.  Extreme left: Kent Bauer’s elbow.

Left to right:  Betty McKie, Rachel Kellum, Greg Thomas, Kathy Frisbie, Susan Clough.  Extreme left: Kent Bauer’s elbow..

When MCC attended its first Strategy Forum, back in November 2003, the focus was on launching the quality improvement program at our college and getting started on our first Action Projects.  This second Strategy Forum was focused on integration issues: how to effectively incorporate AQIP into our infrastructure.  We dealt with questions like:

  • How have we assigned responsibility and accountability for continuous improvement throughout our organization?

  • How do we motivate employees to contribute to our quality initiatives, and how do we recognize their involvement?

  • How is our organization using our Systems Portfolio to communicate our quality development to employees and other stakeholders?

  • How do we maintain effective communication and coordination among the people responsible for various aspects of planning and continuous improvement?

In one respect, the Strategy Forum gave us a set of mirrors with which to look at ourselves: there were several other institutions there who were struggling with the same issues and concerns. The interaction with them was very helpful and we began to feel that we were right where we should be at this stage in our development.

The Strategy Forum was very productive for us in the following ways:

  • We began to see the fit between AQIP and the Strategic Planning Team.  During our first four years we were not clear on how it all fit together; we were doing AQIP on top of our other operations.  During the Strategy Forum we realized we could begin to integrate SPT and AQIP into one seamless process and started making plans to put that in place.

  • We learned it’s okay to fail at projects, so long as we learn from them and “Fail Forward”.

  • We concluded that it was in our best interests to retire our current Action Projects, which were formulated before we received our Systems Portfolio Appraisal, and focus on initiatives that were in keeping with our current priorities and which would have immediate leverage in shifting the institution toward its declared goals.

  • We learned we can have multiple Action Projects at any given time; there isn’t a need to limit them to only three.

  • We deepened our grasp of how we could incorporate AQIP into the college Quality Infrastructure.

  • We postulated that it was time to begin an inquiry into what “Quality” means to the institution.

  • We concluded we should utilize charter or “framing documents” to plan and monitor action projects.

  • We pondered how we could develop individual ownership of the quality improvement process among staff and increase staff involvement in action projects.

  • We identified the need to integrate AQIP into our Human Resources processes, including Annual Work Plans, to bring responsibility for fulfilling the goals and mission of the college down to the individual level.

Since returning from the Forum we have generated ten new Action Projects (six of them coming at the Strategic Planning retreat in May).  Not all of these will be designated as AQIP Action Projects, though all of them are active projects at the college.  Profiles of the designated AQIP Action Projects will be presented upcoming issues of this newsletter.

Additional things we expect to be doing in the coming year include:

  • analyzing our Systems Appraisal feedback more thoroughly
  • finding additional uses for our Systems Portfolio (they’re good for more than just doorstops!)
  • incorporating quality improvement initiatives into Annual Work Plans
  • improving publicity and awareness of our quality initiative
  • involving more people in our quality initiative
  • keeping our Systems Portfolio up-to-date
  • reviewing our quality program’s structure and leadership
  • undergoing our AQIP Quality Checkup visit

All in all it was a positive, productive experience that reaffirmed the appropriateness of our choice to join AQIP.

New to AQIP?  New to the MCC family?

Welcome to all the new members of the MCC family. Right now AQIP may seem like just another acronym thrown at you. It’s actually THE acronym that all the rest of our alphabet soup depends upon; without AQIP and the continuous improvement and accreditation it represents, we might as well close the doors.

Below are some links to learn more about our quest for continuous improvement.  A good place to get started is last October’s newsletter, which has links to some useful background information. Click here to go to that issue:

AQIP Links

Check out the Official AQIP web page here.
AQIP's description of the Quality Checkup Visit here.
The AQIP Categories
Principles of High Performance Organizations