Our new strategic plan could be used as a template for others to follow

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Virginia’s Community Colleges have a new strategic goal in place, one that guarantees universal equity.

Guarantee? Let’s call the six-year plan, dubbed “Opportunity 2027,” a contract with our constituents. Among its principal components is a commitment to enhanced faculty training and more diverse hiring to better serve our students.

The task force charged with developing the plan consisted of deans, presidents, business leaders and students alike. Outside consultants were brought in to evaluate a variety of issues including student enrollment and retention. The panel worked for a year on the project. Among their findings – fewer black students, males in particular, were enrolling and fewer still were graduating with degrees or certifications.

Dr. Sharon Morrissey, senior vice chancellor for Academic and Workforce Programs for Virginia’s Community Colleges and co-chair of the task force, says that’s why corrective measures need to be implemented without delay.

“We’re all in. We’ll do whatever it takes,” (qtd., Diverse July 16, 2021, Virginia’s Community Colleges System Has a New Goal: Total Equity).

Morrisey adds the pandemic struck just as the task force began to roll up its sleeves.

“Our world was turned upside down. They (the colleges) scrambled to figure out how to get their colleges and students through a pandemic safely. And then, George Floyd was killed,” (qtd., Diverse).

President of Northern Virginia Community College and task force co-chair, Dr. Anne Kress, suggests she and Morrisey were effectively joined at the hip to ensure committee meetings included “diverse voices and experiences.”

“It’s through that dialogue that our ideas got sharper and clearer. I can’t say enough about the quality and the impact of the discussions we had in such a broad base group,” (qtd., Diverse).

From an accountability perspective, the plan calls for creating a public dashboard to gauge each college’s progress in meeting its equity goals. And each president will be required to provide yearly status reports to the chancellor.

At its core, the plan is intended to boost minority enrollment and establish a “culture of care” for students, especially those of color, while simultaneously preparing them for the demands of a technology-driven workforce.

Learn more about Opportunity 2027 here.

Read the article in Diverse Issues in Higher Education here.

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