Saturday, August 29, 2009

STCC Allied Health Students


Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), STCC is now starting our ten year accreditation review. This process requires the college to create a narrative of our present state, appraise our strengths and challenges and explain where, as an organization, we are headed. In short, describe, appraise, and project.

Since we had a positive experience using the techniques and philosophy of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to produce a new strategic plan, we decided to use AI in accreditation. The AI approach aligns well with the accreditation process. Listed below is the way I envision the correspondence:

1) AI begins with an affirmative topic which would correspond to the subjects in the various NEASC standards.

2) AI then moves to discovery which would correspond to creating a narrative about that topic based on analysis and information.

3) AI moves on next to dream and design which in accreditation would correspond to appraising the college against the accreditation standard.

4) AI ends with destiny – what will be – which corresponds to the projecting the future of the college in the accreditation report.

On September 1st and 2nd we begin our accreditation with a summit for all working on the self-study. Throughout the year the committees in charge of the each of the eleven standards will meet, deliberate and begin writing. I expect that AI will infuse our work and enable us to produce a much more relevant analysis of the state of the college.

Monday, August 24, 2009


The image above was produced after the first part of the STCC planning process. The area of each word represents the frequency that it was used. The top 100 words are listed. One can observe that students occurred most frequently followed by respect, accountability and community.


The title of this blog – Celebrating What’s Right with Public Higher Education – was inspired by my experience with Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a method that can be used to improve organizations. In simple terms, AI directs us to increase the good stuff. This means that we focus on what is working in our organizations building to generate sustainable positive change. (If you want to know more about AI, go to the AI Commons hosted by Case-Western Reserve University at

This spring we used AI principles and techniques to draft a new Strategic Plan for STCC. In my twenty years as a college president and chief academic officer, I have been involved in numerous planning efforts both at three colleges and at several non-profits organizations. In the past these efforts were less than satisfactory. The process consumed significant organizational time but the value added was low. Moreover, in the non-profit sector, as Jim Collins points out CEOs have Legislative but not Executive leadership. Change occurs at a college when individuals are convinced, not compelled.

The strategic planning process must take that salient fact into account.

Using AI made this planning process different. Many voices inside and external to the college were heard both through the interviews and planning process. Participants enjoyed the AI inspired exercises and the planning process moved quickly and efficiently.Significantly, the AI process liberated creativity, enthusiasm and energy at the college. At the end, we felt better about ourselves and our organization. To get more information about our process and the use of AI go to

Monday, August 3, 2009

Teaching Mathematics

It’s been 18 years since I taught mathematics, so I jumped at the opportunity to guest lecture in an STCC algebra class. Professor Brewer told me that the topic was multiplying two binomials. This is akin to multiplying two two-digit numbers (such as 43 times 57) but here one doesn’t know the digits.

I had a great time as may be seen from the picture. There is something magical when a class goes well and students are absorbed in learning.

While the mathematics is the same, other things have changed since I last taught. Professor Brewer’s class is using software to do and record their homework. In this way the instructor can track the level of activity for each student and each student’s progress.

This technology addresses what I consider one of the biggest problems in mathematics instruction – making sure students are practicing. Learning mathematics is like learning to play an instrument. No matter how many times you see someone else do it, you won’t learn without your own diligent practice. It’s like the old witticism: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer is practice, practice, practice.

STCC has a great mathematics department dedicated to help all students learn. This was clear from the way Professor Brewer structured her class and the way she engaged students. Her department is leading efforts - part of the college’s Achieving the Dream initiative - to improve student success in mathematics.