Notes on Our December 7, 2016 Meeting

On December 7, 2016, members of the New England College Council met on the 32nd floor (UMass Club) of One Beacon Street, Boston for their annual dinner and meeting.

necc-tableI. Welcome

Ellen Kennedy called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. and thanked everyone for coming. She thanked Bill Hart, executive officer of the Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office, for arranging the space and thanked Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, for providing the shuttle service from the Copley Marriott to the UMass Club.

II. Introductions

As several new presidents were present, everyone went around the table and introduced themselves.

III. Musings on NECC over the Years

Dan Asquino, who will be retiring next month, couldn’t attend this evening because he was part of the process of interviewing new presidents for his position at Mount Wachusett Community College, so Ellen asked Cathryn Addy, president of Tunxis Community College, and Bob Ross, former executive director of the New England College Council, to provide some history on the NECC.

Cathryn Addy spoke of how New England is unique; everyone is practically related. But there is a national system in place where community colleges are considered “red-headed stepchildren” compared to other higher education institutions. They all have a place and a mission, but they don’t have enough support.

Cathryn praised the NECC for providing a place and way to communicate and share ideas and good news among the community colleges in the region. The NECC has provided scholarships and leadership succession. Roberta Cantor had been the executive director for many years, Cathryn said, and then Bob had taken on that role for 6-7 years. It’s good for a group like this to be able to talk to each other. We have similar issues and similar challenges. What we each contribute for students and on a daily basis is important.

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Bob Ross said he attended his first NECC meeting in 1990, when the colleges were first facing the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said the council at that time had as many four-year institutions as two-year institutions as members; they wanted an alternate route of entry to higher education and sat together, discussing transition pathways.

Bob’s advice on professional development is “don’t dabble; do.” He would like to see the NECC provide a high-quality experience to current and emerging leaders. NECC members who share successes and accomplishments should be recognized by other agencies.

In response to Ellen Kennedy’s question about the structure, Bob said the NECC would have a long annual meeting in June that was a three-day conference, organized by an institutional campus planning committee.

Bob added that we all live near each other, but we often only get a chance to talk to each other through NECC meetings. It’s an important vehicle for communicating and sharing ideas.

Mike Rooke, president of Northwestern Connecticut Community College, added that meeting other presidents through NECC meetings and last fall’s conference has been highly valuable.

Susan Huard, president of Manchester Community College in New Hampshire, added that as a third-year president, she too has discovered valuable opportunities for conversing and connecting with colleagues through the NECC.

IV. Financial Statement

Ellen Kennedy distributed copies of the 7/1/15-6/30/16 New England College Council financial statement that had been prepared by President Asquino and his team at Mount Wachusett Community College who have continued to handle the NECC’s treasury. We are in good shape, Ellen reported, as we didn’t expend funds this year, so our total equity is $64,550.38. We won’t charge 2017 dues to those who paid 2016 dues, as we were inactive this year, but we will be collecting dues for those who haven’t paid last year’s dues.

V. Professional Opportunities

Meghan Hughes, president of the Community College of Rhode Island, spoke on the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence. The intended audience of this fellowship, Meghan reported, is aspiring or brand-new presidents, and she applied as soon as she was appointed at CCRI. Three Aspen folks who started as VPs are now presidents. Aspen focuses on completion, transfer, quality, and equity, encouraging fellows to really explore what it means to do the work as presidents. The 39-member group is deliberately diverse, and the fellowship supports development for presidents’ use of data, which is important for use in backing up the stories we tell about our institutions.

Aspen is a 15-month commitment, Meghan reported, with two week-long stays and two four-day weekends. When thinking of people to nominate, she urged her colleagues to consider high-potential teammates who are ready to step up.

There are three components to the fellowship: mentor, portfolio (choose a topic that matters to your college), and a project. Her current project is rebuilding CCRI from A-Z, shifting the culture and creating a pathway to move the whole college. She would love to see more New England institutions represented in the Aspen Presidential Fellowship.

John Cox, president of Cape Cod Community College, spoke on the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents. When he started as president in 2012 he attended the seminar, which was run by Judy Block McLaughlin, who is familiar with New England and with community colleges. John did concede that the seminar’s conversations can be a little weighted toward private institutions, but the experience was valuable overall, providing an ability to watch what’s happening to the others over time. One-third of the group John started with four years ago are no longer presidents today, but the seminar’s alumni are very strong, and there is a follow-up seminar for presidents every 3-5 years.

Another opportunity, John added, is the Fulbright International Education Administrators Seminar. These are short-term programs for community college administrators, and he participated in a one-week stay in both India and Russia. It was a great experience and was paid for by the government.

Bob Pura, president of Greenfield Community College, spoke on NEASC Visiting Teams; he acknowledged that he’d recently been on a commission with Mary Ellen Jukoski, president of Three Rivers Community College.

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NEASC visiting teams are about the work to do better; visiting teams are an opportunity to learn best practices, visit with colleagues, and conduct important peer reviews. Tomorrow, there will be a NEASC business meeting item regarding Pam Eddinger’s nomination to the Commission; Bob urged anyone who would be available to attend that meeting and support Pam.

Mary Ellen Jukoski added that serving on a NEASC visiting team has been a great professional development experience and has helped her understand the diversity of New England higher education institutions. They may differ in how they do business, but they have the same goal: education and equality. All are committed to what they do.

In response to a question, Bob said the role of presidents is to help the institution being visited to reflect on their self-study on behalf of stakeholders (students and community). Each visiting team reviews the self-study in relation to NEASC Standards and then meets with appropriate representatives of the campus.  Each member of the visiting collaborates on the written assessment.  As a commissioner, Bob, for example, would recuse himself from any discussions of Massachusetts community colleges. In Washington D.C., the trend is for more regulation and compliance. New England’s model is about peer review and improvement. Mary Ellen added that when people are selected for a NEASC visiting team, they can attend workshops so they’re prepared for the process, product, and conversations rather than being thrown in cold.

If someone wants to be involved, call or write NEASC and let them know.

Susan Dunton, president of NHTI, Concord’s Community College, added that her experience didn’t feel like a college audit but rather conversations on how to do different things like financial statements. As a team evaluator, you are a strategist of student outcomes, and that has both systematic and college-wide implications. One must be mindful of the new standards.

Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, spoke on American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Commissions. New England isn’t so unique, Pam said; community colleges across the country all have similar issues of poverty and inequity. She urged her NECC colleagues to get to know professional organizations such as AACC, Achieving the Dream, CCRC, and others and to urge membership for their teams. Pam added that NECC presidents should consider serving on boards. New England is not represented enough.

The AACC has six standing commissions (diversity, inclusion and equality; marketing/communications; global education; academic, student and community development; economic and workplace development; and research, technology and emerging trends) plus three special commissioners on pathways, developmental education, and community colleges. The commissions meet twice a year before the annual meeting, going through the context of rising issues and allowing members to get to know their colleagues in other states.

There is always a late summer/early fall call for membership, Pam said, and membership on the board is a three-year term. You can run for office, and there are 25 members of the Board of Directors, which helps direct policy. Reports dictate best practices, and AACC helps build relationships. If New England wants to be part of that conversation, Pam explained, we need to be in the room where it happens. She encouraged her colleagues to have their voices heard and volunteered to send around emails during the next call for nominations.

Pam then spoke of the AACC Hunger Survey. Many community college students are hungry, she stated; Bunker Hill CC has 19,000 students, half of whom are on financial aid and 1,000 of whom are on food stamps. People are trying to help, such as the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, a non-profit that has been expanding the national school lunch program to include community colleges. They asked for a national audit of hunger, and the AACC is looking for 75 colleges to participate in a hunger survey. Hunger, transportation, and housing are all barriers to receiving an education, and we must try to help students overcome them. Pam hoped her NECC colleagues would be interested in participating in the AACC Hunger Survey and invited people to let her know if so.

VI. Discussion of Goals for the NECC

At last year’s dinner, Ellen said, suggestions for the NECC and its finances included sending fellows to the Aspen Institute; writing white papers to represent New England; or even dissolving the NECC and either spending its finances on scholarships or returning the money to its member institutions. What do members think this year?

Ron Cantor suggested using each other for networking. He and his colleagues in Maine have great relationships, and he’d love to see that spread out to other states in the region.

Mike Rooke said the NECC is valuable (“There’s our vice president,” Ellen joked) and suggested continuing annual gatherings/meetings at minimum.

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The general consensus was to continue the work of the NECC.

John Cox added that the ACCT and AACC will be in D.C. this February, offering a chance to meet with the New England Congressional delegation. Bill Hart said he and his colleagues plan events and agency meetings around the delegation in Massachusetts. He added that it’s important to put a social event together and invite political folks to join. It’s a good way to have our voices heard on a different stage. Trustees are encouraged to attend the Conference and meetings to meet one-on-one or in groups with political leaders.

VII. Election of NECC Officers

We have had some retirements and changes, so a brief discussion and informal election resulted in the following list of NECC executive officers to represent each state in New England:

MASSACHUSETTS: John Cook, president, Springfield Technical Community College
MAINE: Ron Cantor, president, Southern Maine Community College
RHODE ISLAND: Meghan Hughes, president, Community College of Rhode Island
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Susan Huard, president, Manchester Community College
CONNECTICUT: Mike Rooke, president, Northwestern Connecticut Community College
VERMONT: Joyce Judy, president, Community College of Vermont

Ellen Kennedy will continue as Chair and Dan Asquino will remain on the l NECC Executive Board until his retirement.  Ellen will convene the Officers in February or March of 2017.

VIII. Other Business

There was no other business, and the meeting adjourned at 8:19 p.m. UMass Club staff were kind enough to shut off the lights following the meeting so NECC members could take photographs of the amazing view.

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