Fall 2017 Convocation Remarks
Welcome, it’s good to see you. Me allegro de verte! It’s good to be back.
As many of you know, I recently returned from my sabbatical. While it may have taken me 28 years to secure a sabbatical, it was a true privilege for which I am grateful to the Board of Trustees. I am also grateful to the members of my team who so aptly stepped up while I was away. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge Sr. Vice President Jonathan Eldridge who did a fantastic job as acting president.
The theme of my sabbatical was “Mind, Body, and Soul” and I’m pleased to report that albeit modest, progress was realized in each category. In particular, I wanted to share with you that I had the opportunity to participate in a Spanish immersion program for three weeks as a part of the experience. While I was not able to reach the level of proficiency in Spanish that I had hoped, I have a renewed appreciation for our ESL students and teachers and a whole new appreciation for our adult learners. Let’s just say this—35 years ago when I was first studied Spanish as a freshman in college, there was a whole lot more room up here [pointing to his head] than there is today. Alas, my quest to become more proficient in Spanish continues.
Many of you have heard me state that this is a very good time in the history of College of Marin and perhaps an even better time to be a part of this college community.
When I make such statements, more often than not I’m referring to our richly diverse and capable students or our extraordinarily dedicated and talented faculty, staff, and administrators. I have also made such statements when referring to our exceptional, high-quality instructional programs and support services which enable our students to meet their educational goals. I’ve also made such statements as they relate to the unprecedented support we currently enjoy as reflected by our school, university, and community partnerships. And of course, the county’s support of Measure B was an important vote of confidence in the work we are doing at the College.
It’s indeed a great time in the history of College of Marin.
This morning I make that statement with a whole new sense of optimism and hope for the future of the College and our future together.
For the first time in many, many years we begin a new academic year not faced with the “looming threat” of accreditation. Unless you are new to the College or have been hanging out in the redwood grove too long, you are aware that our accreditation was reaffirmed in June for seven years. Let’s take one more opportunity to acknowledge and thank all of those individuals who were involved in the accreditation process. Please stand and be acknowledged. Truth be told, each of you can take credit for that accomplishment.
I arrived at the College in December 2010 and in the following months came to the realization that the College was suffering from what I will call organizational PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was palpable. There was anxiety, fear, and even a bit of paranoia in the air. And perhaps understandably so.
All of that took up a lot of space—physical space by nature of time and energy. And it also took up a lot of emotional space. We have been virtually consumed with "all things accreditation" for years.
ACCJC’s report which included 10 commendations, as well as recommendations for improvement, can be found on the College’s website.
While we have some hard work ahead of us related to student learning outcomes and hiring practices, thanks to our collective hard work and perseverance, it occurs to me that we have a well-deserved gift of time and space.
With this open space, we have the perfect opportunity to focus and go deeper into some of the challenges and initiatives deserving of our time and attention. Work that can truly be transformative to the College and further enrich the experiences of both our students and employees.
To borrow from the lyrics of the Beatles' song—With A Little Help From My Friends—the following are some areas that I believe can be transformative in nature:
COM will provide access to an exceptional education that allows students to discover their passions and achieve their educational goals.
Providing access to exceptional education has been core to the mission of the community colleges since their inception. And as you well know, we have been transforming lives through education and training for over 90 years since the College opened on April 6, 1926. We certainly have a history providing high-quality curriculum, instruction, and student support services. The 340 students who graduated last spring and earned degrees and certificates and the hundreds of students who transferred this fall to a baccalaureate degree granting institution are certainly a reflection of this work. At the same time, we also serve a large population of noncredit students who are gaining life-changing language skills. And we, of course, serve another large population of lifelong learners through community education. We will continue to strive for excellence in each of these areas.
COM will cultivate an inclusive and collaborative community that supports our diverse population.
You may recall that we began last fall on a rather somber note as we honored and paid tribute to the individuals and communities impacted across the nation and the world by hatred, bigotry, and racism. I greatly appreciated all of those individuals who embraced my call to action ensuring there were opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and learning throughout the year.
I’m very proud that the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action (IDEA) Committee emerged through that period of reflection and action. The IDEA Committee is advisory to the superintendent/president and is charged with making recommendations, educating and informing the campus community about best practices and innovative methods to cultivate a safe, equitable, and inclusive environment at COM for students and employees.
Members were appointed to the IDEA Committee late spring semester and they have already met on a couple of occasions. I look forward to working with them as we continue to cultivate a more inclusive community that embraces the diversity of our students and employees.
We continue to live in a very complicated world as is evidenced by the march and rally that took place last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. I won’t even get started on all of that other than to say that while our efforts here at College of Marin may not move the needle on the international or national level, I am confident that we can move the needle here at COM and perhaps in Marin County.
COM will commit to recruiting and retaining students, faculty, staff, and management that reflect the diversity of our current and future populations.
I will celebrate my 7th anniversary at College of Marin on December 1. Very hard for me to believe. One of the things I’m most proud of during my tenure as Superintendent/President is the number of new faculty, staff, and administrators that we’ve been able to hire. We’ve hired some incredibly talented and committed individuals across disciplines and departments – individuals who have made truly amazing contributions to the College. While I celebrate these individuals and their contributions—candidly— I’m disappointed in our failure to realize greater diversity among our employees.
We simply must do better. We owe it to our students and we owe it to ourselves to get this right. I think we have a great deal to learn in this area. On the positive side – we are fortunate to have members of our learning community that are well versed in this area. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend the “Strategies for Recruiting Diverse Faculty/Staff” Flex session. I was very impressed with the panelists’ expertise and perspectives on recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse employees.
I really need your help here and look forward to partnering with you as we work to get this right.
COM will engage in reflective practice that supports and expects contributions from all community members to inspire inclusivity, respect, safety, accountability, development, and innovation.
So yes, it does take a village. We each play a critical role in creating the future we hope to experience. While I was on sabbatical, I had the opportunity to reflect on our work together in this arena. It occurs to me that the challenge lies in creating the appropriate framework that is graspable and one that connects and bridges the various initiatives already in place across the College. And there are many.
I was recently introduced to the concept of creating a Community of Belonging. Creating a Community of Belonging resonated with me because it encompasses the ideals of respect, inclusivity, equity, and social justice. And in order to have a community that celebrates those important ideals, there must also be integrity, accountability, and safety.
I believe we have reached the juncture where it is critically important to engage in reflection and take stock of our strengths and weaknesses in this area. Again, we owe it to our students and we owe it to ourselves to get this right.
I certainly can’t take credit for the power and wisdom of these vision declarations. In fact, it was with more than just a little help my friends…I offer these vision declarations on behalf of the nearly 60 faculty, staff, and administrators who are participating in a leadership development series made possible by funding offered through the Chancellor’s Office. This work is the reflection and outcome of three full-day retreats—the last which was just this past Thursday.
I’d like to recognize those individuals in our community who are participating in the leadership program. In the words of our facilitator Dr. Larry Roper, they are a remarkable team of people! I’d also like to acknowledge Senior Vice President Eldridge and Executive Director Combs for their leadership and vision in pursuing the grant opportunity. Like so many grant opportunities, this one came at a time when we were all consumed with other activities, not the least of which was accreditation. So I offer my heartfelt thanks to Jon and Kristina for their dedication to this important initiative.
In the coming months, we will be assessing what specific steps, actions, and resources will be necessary to fulfill these vision declarations. And we, of course, will be creating opportunities for your engagement as well.
While the wording of these declarations may not be perfect, I offer them to you and invite you to join me…to join your colleagues in creating an authentic Community of Belonging. We will be an even better college as the result of this work.
So my question to you is this—are you in?
The last vision declaration is about ensuring that community stays in the community college.
As a steward of public trust and resources, COM will proactively engage community voices and respond to community needs and opportunities.
College of Marin is Marin County’s only public institution of higher education. We will continue to make every effort to ensure we are meeting the community’s needs through access to quality instruction and training as well as access to our grounds and facilities.
As a community supported college, we enjoy an abundance of support from the community through property taxes which account for nearly 90 percent of our operating budget. We have also received an abundance of support through two facilities bond measures in the recent past. Measure C, which was passed in 2004 and completed earlier this year, totaled $249.5 million.
On June 7, 2016, Marin County voters passed Measure B—our second facilities bond measure totaling $265 million—by 64.4 percent. As good stewards of public trust and resources, we are going to do everything within our means to ensure we deliver on our commitments to the taxpayers. You’ve undoubtedly noticed there is already much activity underway on both campuses.
Fall 2017 Convocation Presentation
Download Convocation Fall 2017 presentation PDF here.
2017-18 COMmon Read: Hidden Figures
Video by Dr. David Patterson