Journeys of Transformation: Dr. Marcia Ballinger on Moving Toward a ‘Student-Ready’ College

Civitas Learning Blog Catalytic Conversations

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Over the last ten years, Lorain County Community College (LCCC) leaders—administrative, faculty, staff and student—have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard on a series of large-scale strategic initiatives. From Achieving the Dream to Completion by Design to Guided Pathways, LCCC has worked to leverage big projects to drive big change in student outcomes. With the help of these efforts, LCCC has been recognized by the American Association of Community Colleges for their leadership in student success, named a ‘Leader College with Distinction’ by Achieving the Dream, and moved to the top of Ohio’s performance-based funding system for community colleges, which is anchored in student outcomes. In this podcast, LCCC’s president, Dr. Marcia Ballinger, shares the story of this journey of transformation. She also makes the case that if this work isn’t done holistically and systematically, it can quickly become a furious fuss over fads or a scattered search for seldom-scaled silver bullets. Here are some of her key suggestions:
  1. Have the courage to look at your own data. Share it. Yes, it will sometimes feel good and sometimes be hard-hitting and disappointing. Most of all, you have to do this without fueling a culture of blame and fear. Aim for a culture of improvement and shared purpose instead!
  2. Anchor your responses to challenges in a deeper search about the students you actually serve, not the ones you wish you had. In LCCC’s case, it would be simpler for them to be systematic if they had a student body made up primarily of young adults, right from high school, ready to go full time. However, that’s not who they serve. The majority of their students have deeply complicated lives, come from all ages and stages, attend part-time, and often struggle with problematic and painful poverty. In short, LCCC serves a core of students who clearly fit into the #RealCollege category.
  3. Quality data and a deeper understanding of your students’ needs will anchor systems change in an effort to make sure the college is student ready, not trying to force deeply diverse students to fit into a system designed for different students from a different time. The student-ready college became a rallying cry for a lot of LCCC’s work. And being student ready didn’t mean lowering expectations of students, rather raising their own internal expectations for empathy and design thinking around how students come to and move through their institution.
I hope you can take the time to listen to this catalytic conversation on iTunes here, or on the SoundCloud link below. For leaders looking to lead impactful change in education, it’s inspiring stuff!

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