Community colleges from across Texas and the nation gathered this week at Odessa College to share ideas about improving student outcomes.
Called the Odessa College Leadership Institute High Impact Strategies Workshop, it included officials from the Lone Star College System in Houston, Grayson College in Denison, Jackson College in Jackson, Mich., and Ivy Tech Community College, a system of 32 campuses in Indiana.
OC President Gregory Williams said there were about 40 visitors Wednesday. The conference was the result of the many requests OC has received to visit and learn about its programs and initiatives.
“We’re discussing some of the initiatives and initiatives that Odessa College has put in place,” Williams said.
Two of those were the drop rate improvement program and the eight-week course concept.
The drop rate improvement has four basic components that helps instructors to connect with students.
Examples are knowing the students’ names, letting the students understand the rules early on, connecting with the students and having “some reasonable flexibility in showing the student that we’re in this with you and that together we can see ourselves through to a very positive outcome,” Williams said.
He added that OC has set a goal of becoming the best community college in the nation.
“I’m sure the colleges here with us today strongly feel that way, but we don’t think that we should hold any good outcomes or any good research that we’ve put together here in Odessa,” Williams added. “We think that we should share that because we want to part of a movement that not only helps our students here, but helps students throughout the country.”
Plans are to have conferences like this one in the spring and fall.
Williams said OC began to be noticed five years ago and has racked up the recognitions and awards.
“I am proud, very proud of the colleges who have come to see us because that shows and fully demonstrates that they too are in this, just as Odessa College is, for the benefit of their students. We will learn from them. Hopefully, they can learn something from us and we’ll all grow together,” he said.
Williams said he thinks OC has shown some really good results and done some good work in the state.
“And it’s our students who have been outstanding,” he added.
Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech Community College, said her school contacted OC several months ago after hearing about the progress it had made with enrollments, student persistence and success.
“Ivy Tech has taken on a brand new strategic plan,” Ellspermann said.
She said Ivy Tech is a comprehensive community college covering the entire state of Indiana.
Ivy Tech serves almost nearly 200,000 students, a news release said.
“Indiana’s really counting us and our new strategic plan. Our goal is 50,000 degrees and credentials a year. That’s more than doubling where we are today,” Ellspermann said.
“In order to get there, we have to hit on all cylinders. What I can tell about Odessa College is it is hitting on all cylinders,” she added.
Ivy Tech came to learn about the eight-week courses and had seen its own internal results showing eight-week courses lifted completion rates.
“But we heard of Odessa’s great success, so we reached out. And as we did that, we discovered it was eight-week courses, but it’s so much more,” Ellspermann said.
She took 17 people with her from across Indiana and they were learning a lot.
“You should be so proud in this community of the community college you have, the lives you’re changing and the students who are benefiting in the community,” she said.
Going to eight-week courses system wide, she said, will be transformational.
“Ivy Tech absolutely intends to continue to implement eight-week courses. In fact, we’ve said that over the next five years we will be predominately eight-week courses, so that’s a lot of change over 19 campuses and many more locations,” Ellspermann said.
She noted that her communities and Odessa are similar because they both have low unemployment rates and students can make $18 to $25 an hour without being in college.
“We have a very similar student population and a high percentage of part-time students and many adult students, as well. The beauty of what they’ve seen with eight-week classes is that many of those students can go full time,” Ellspermann said.