Polk State College hosted its inaugural Strategic Planning Summit, Connecting the Pathway to Success, Friday, Oct. 12, on the Lakeland Campus with national policy expert Dr. Evelyn Waiwaiole, Executive Director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) at The University of Texas at Austin.
More than 80 faculty and staff members, Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti, and District Board of Trustees Chair Dan Dorrell and Vice Chair Teresa Martinez, heard a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Waiwaiole regarding student engagement and best practices.
“The question isn’t, ‘Is the student ready for college?’ but rather, ‘Is this a student-ready college?’” Dr. Waiwaiole explained while presenting national and institutional data illustrating student perceptions, expectations, and realities on college campuses.
Dr. Waiwaiole’s presentation ended on a motivating note for Polk State employees, who then participated in brainstorming sessions to define student success and propose ways the College can measure its ability to ensure the core of its mission and strategic plan.
“Eighty-seven percent of students would recommend [Polk State College] to a friend or family member. That’s huge – that’s a reason to celebrate,” Dr. Waiwaiole said. “I’m impressed by the work that is being done here at Polk State and the passion everyone has for student success, from the advisors and faculty, to administration and security. That is what is going to take this institution to the next level.”
Prior to the Strategic Planning Summit, Dr. Waiwaiole had the opportunity to meet with the College’s Student Services team, which includes Polk State’s dedicated advisors. She also met with the Guided Pathways Committee made up of staff and faculty members who are working diligently to create outlines of courses students need to take from start to finish to achieve certain degrees.
As the College nears its 2021 reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and develops its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), administration, staff, and faculty continue to explore innovative ways to enhance the student experience at Polk State to ensure they persevere on their paths to their degrees.
Strategic Planning Summit participants received an overview of the reaffirmation process and the 2017-2022 strategic plan, and looked at College data for enrollment, retention, completion, and employment or continued education. They then shared valuable, well-informed ideas on how to define and measure student success.
“Students should leave confident and competent, and ready to engage in the local and global communities,” Professor of Mathematics Anna Butler said.
“Student success is making informed decisions regarding life goals and moving successfully towards them,” Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President and Interim President Ciera Baldwin said.
“Students should be equipped with both hard and soft skills for their careers and life,” Professor of English and Speech Communication Earl Brown said.
The groups proposed a variety of ways to measure the College’s ability in ensuring student success, including entrance and exit surveys with student experience as the metric; completion rates, term-to-term retention rates, and comparisons to peer institutions; and tracking the success of Polk State students who transfer to four-year institutions.
“Polk State’s inaugural Strategic Planning Summit proved to be an engaging, thought-provoking opportunity for individuals from all areas of the College to participate in transparent conversations that will allow us to take our institution to the next level,” Falconetti said. “Everyone plays an integral role at Polk State and I am thrilled to work together in strengthening our institution, motivated by the shared goal of student success.”