Action Learning Projects 2013-2014

Project #1: Partnership Models of Effective Non-credit Operations

Problem/Process Improvement:  
Continuing Education/Customized Training (CE/CT) is a critical delivery approach in MnSCU’s Strategic Framework to meet the workforce needs of Minnesota.  CE/CT departments are charged with expanding program offerings, but have faced an environment of changing financial support and challenging economic conditions.  The challenge for CE/CT departments is how to build a model that is operationally efficient and financially sustainable that allows for and promotes collaboration with other CE/CT programs to meet the Strategic Framework goal.  In the past, CE/CT departments may have partnered on developing and delivering specific programs.  However, in the past year, at least seven colleges have formed different operational strategies among colleges, in response to either institutional alignment or necessity for a different business model.    

Team Charge:  
Building from the CE/CT report completed by the 2012 Luoma Leadership Academy, design a research project that studies and develops a summary of best practices and lessons learned of current MnSCU institutional alignments/mergers.  In addition, develop a summary of best practices from other states or regions featuring operational and financial models that support alternative business CE/CT models.  Working with a small team of CE/CT administrators, conduct an analysis, recommend business and operational practices gleaned from research.  

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Deborah Bednarz, MNSCU System Office
Matt Bissonette, Riverland Community College
Louise DiCesare, MNSCU System Office
Daria Dona, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Troy Gilbertson, Bemidji State University
Abbey Hellickson, Rochester Community & Technical College

Executive Sponsors:  
Joyce Helens, President, St. Cloud Technical and Community College
John O’Brien, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs
Mary Rothchild, Senior System Director, Workforce Development

Team Advisors:  
Jaime Simonsen, Interim System Director for Education Industry Partnerships
Marsha Danielson, Dean of Economic Development, South Central College
Jamie Barthel, Executive Director of Customized Training & Education, Anoka-Ramsey Community College

Project #2: A Systematic Approach to Nursing Admissions

Problem/Process Improvement:  
Prior to becoming registered nurses, all students must first graduate from an approved and accredited nursing program. Each program has common standards identified by the accreditors and the MN Board of Nursing. Each graduate is required to pass a nationally standardized exam to become a Registered Nurse. However, nursing schools across MnSCU do not have standardized admission criteria or application processes. Why are there such differences in admissions when the graduates need to meet such rigorous standards?

In addition, each college currently employs staff to manage admissions with often complicated scoring mechanisms for each applicant. Applicants also apply to multiple colleges, submitting similar information, and having multiple system employees score such information. There is a possible financial benefit to standardizing and automating the admission procedure.

Team Charge:  
The project team would complete the following:
•    Identify best practices in using predictors of nursing student success in associate degree nursing program admission criteria;
•    Consolidate identified predictors of success into common admission criteria for MnSCU associate degree nursing programs;
•    Identify system resources for creation of a common online admissions system that students across the state may use as a one-stop location to apply to associate degree nursing programs in MnSCU;
•    Complete analysis of resources required and potential long term cost savings to MnSCU;
•    Present findings and an action plan to key stakeholders for distribution to MnSCU associate degree nursing programs.

This project has the potential to benefit all colleges with an associate degree nursing program through minimizing duplication of services, automating current practices, and standardizing best practices in admissions. This project also benefits Luoma participants as they learn key leadership skills. Participants would learn about project management, implementation of best practices and change, communication with key stakeholders, and assessment of current vs. future states. Each participant would be able to take what they have learned back to their respective organizations. This work may be duplicated in the future for other programs in the system.

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Holly Bigelow, Rochester Community & Technical College
Connie Frisch, Central Lakes College
Mike Mendez, Century College
Carolyn Olson, St. Cloud Technical & Community College
Mary Olson, Saint Paul College

Executive Sponsors:
Ron Anderson, President, Century College
Tim Wynes, President, Inver Hills Community College & Interim President, Dakota County Technical College

Team Advisors:
Jennifer Eccles, RN, MScN, MEd, Director of Nursing, Century College
Dr. Doris Hill, RN, Ph.D., Dean of Health Sciences and Director of Nursing, Inver Hills Community College

Project #3: Improving Student Financial Literacy as a Means of Addressing Increasing Student Loan Default Rates

Problem/Process Improvement
As the cost of higher education goes up, Saint Paul College student loan debt is increasing.  Consequently, students are taking on more debt than they can handle and defaulting on their student loans. The result is a significant increase in the college’s loan default rate.  This is bad for both the students and the college.

Team Charge:  
Develop a student financial literacy campaign to be implemented system-wide, with a plan to measure the campaign’s success.  The campaign will target those students most likely to over-extend themselves financially, creating unmanageable financial debt.

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Steve Bean, Itasca Community College
Aarin Distad, Century College
Alex Kromminga, Winona State University
Deborah Mayne, Century College
Nicole Squires, Vermilion Community College

Executive Sponsor:  
Tom Matos, Associate Vice President of Student Development & Services, Saint Paul College

Team Advisor:  
Margie Tomsic, Dean of Institutional Planning, Research & Effectiveness, Saint Paul College

Project #4: Using Learning Communities to Improve Student Persistence, Progression, Engagement and Completion

Problem/Process Improvement:
Are Learning Communities, as they exist at Saint Paul College, a viable, sustainable and duplicable engagement and retention strategy?

Team Charge: 
Evaluate existing Learning Communities at Saint Paul College to determine if they, in fact, are increasing student persistence, progression, engagement and completion.  Recommend ways to improve existing Learning Communities and provide recommendations on possible additional Learning Communities for Career and Technical Education programs, developmental education classes, and general education students, with special consideration given to underserved and non-traditional students.

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Bobbie Anderson, Metropolitan State University
Justin Bonnett, Saint Paul College
Tammy Cook, Rainy River Community College
Wendy Marson, Inver Hills Community College
Jen Sell Matzke, St. Cloud State University
Carlos Panahon, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Executive Sponsor:
Margie Tomsic, Dean of Institutional Planning, Research and Effectiveness, Saint Paul College

Team Advisor: 
Molly Bahneman, Associate Dean of Student Development & Services, Saint Paul College

Project #5: Increasing the Effectiveness of HR Service Delivery in a Shared Service Environment (with Normandale CC as a case study)

Problem/Process Improvement:
The world of human resources is rapidly changing.  Three issues in particular pose something of an identity crisis for HR offices throughout our colleges and universities.  

•    With shrinking budgets, it is increasingly difficult to continuously improve the services provided by an Office of Human Resources.  
•    HR functions are often viewed as “back office,” which makes it difficult to achieve the status of strategic partner in an organization.  HR offices struggle with effectively making the case that their work aligns with and supports the strategic priorities of the institution.   
•    The Chancellor has made shared services a priority in his strategic framework.  As such, HR offices are struggling with  determining what direction they will take, which services they will continue to provide and which roles to repurpose and staff to retrain as we move toward providing services in a shared services environment.  

Normandale Community College’s Human Resources Office needs a tool or decision-making model to assess core HR functions. It should help distinguish between functions that are performed well and should be retained in-house, and core functions another campus could provide on our behalf.  In addition, it should help Normandale identify clear strength areas that we may offer to take on a shared service function for other campuses.

This project has the potential to provide a benefit to HR offices throughout the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities by creating a footprint for how campus-based HR offices of the future could look in our system.

Team Charge:  
Develop and pilot a decision-making model to assess current HR functions and distinguish which functions should be retained in-house and which functions should be outsourced to shared services or external vendors. The team is encouraged to research HR best practices and review relevant data both at the system and campus level.

This decision making model should assist Normandale in evaluating and improving current HR services, and position HR as a strategic partner throughout the college.  The project should also include a set of attainable and easily measurable HR –related metrics. While the pilot will focus on Normandale Community College, the decision-making model should have broader application to be replicated systemwide.

Executive Summary
Final Report

HR Decision Matrix Graph - Master
HR Decision Matrix Graph

Team Members:
David Bjelland, Alexandria Technical & Community College
Loren Haagenson, Minnesota State Community & Technical College
Jean Kim Maierhofer, Hennepin Technical College
Heidi Myers, MNSCU System Office
Jay Nelson, Anoka Technical College
Liz Newberry, Inver Hills Community College

Executive Sponsor:  
Michael Berndt, Vice President for Planning and Institutional Advancement, Normandale Community College

Team Advisor:  
Michelle Thom, Chief Human Resources Officer, Normandale Community College

Project #6: Develop a Long-Term Sustainability and Growth Plan for North Hennepin Community College's Buffalo Site

Problem/Process Improvement:
In recent years, the NHCC Buffalo High School site has seen a steady decline in participants in that locality.  Enrollments have leveled off at a point close to 25% of what was originally maintained pre-recession.  

Developing a sustainability and growth plan would help the college:
•    Identify the root cause of the decline.
•    Achieve predictable enrollments through planning and active management.
•    Track and assess the educational needs in the community.
•    Construct indicators to maintain growth at the Buffalo site.
•    Construct an awareness campaign and strong presence to support the community.

Team Charge:
The project team would assist with the following:
•    Constructing a root cause analysis
•    Developing and administering an internal and external community needs assessment.
•    From the analysis of the data collected, creating the Buffalo sustainability and growth plan.
•    Developing key indicators linked to the college plans (strategic, master academic plan, master student affairs plan, and the Buffalo plan).
•    Developing an awareness campaign to support the plan.

This project would benefit the college, but would help the Luoma participants practice and learn key leadership skills.  Participants would learn root causes analysis, strategic planning, outcomes development, setting key indicators and developing a marketing plan (communication and assessment).  These are skills that would benefit any leader and fits within the Luoma Leadership Program competencies.  Each participant would be able to take what they learn back to their institutions.

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Jennifer Bendix, Minnesota West Community & Technical College
Carmen Bradach, Northeast Higher Education District
Joseph Collins, North Hennepin Community College
Brad Krasaway, Rainy River Community College
Kristine Ramos-Walker, Hennepin Technical College

Executive Sponsors:  
John O’Brien, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs
Lisa Larson, Acting President, North Hennepin Community College

Team Advisors:
Jane Reinke, Vice President of Academic Affairs, North Hennepin Community College
Janet McClelland, Interim Director of Marketing and Communications, North Hennepin Community College
Nerita Hughes, Interim Director of Professional Development and Training, North Hennepin Community College

Project #7: Creating Prospective Student Communication Plans to Support Strategic Enrollment Management

Problem/Process Improvement:  
Northland Community & Technical College has interest in researching and creating unique prospective student communication plans. Currently, Northland communicates with all prospective students in a single voice. The institution has interest in developing unique communications for sub-populations to increase enrollment funnel matriculation. These sub-population communication plans may include non-traditional, diverse, or program specific audiences.

Improve enrollment funnel matriculation by 5 percent.

Team Charge:
The project would be conducting research on best practices, developing strategy recommendations, and creating specific sub-population communication plans.

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Beth Adams, Central Lakes College
Susan Jansen, Rochester Community & Technical College
Gale Lanning, Minnesota State College, Southeast Technical
David Mills, Minnesota West Community & Technical College
Tracey Roy, Northeast Higher Education District

Executive Sponsor:
Dr. Anne Temte, President, Northland Community & Technical College

Team Advisors:
Jason Trainer, Director of Enrollment Management and Marketing, Northland Community & Technical College  
Nicki Carlson, Enrollment Coordinator, Northland Community & Technical College

Project #8: Campus Service Cooperative (CSC) Student Internship & Development Program

Problem/Process Improvement:
The CSC is in the initial stage of a multi-year program.  The CSC’s mission is to focus on efficient, high quality, and transformational delivery of administrative services, while respecting the distinct educational mission of each college and university.  The CSC has partnered with IBM’s Public Sector Transformation and Strategy Practice to deliver savings and value through adopting modern procurement practices and common business practices. 

To ensure long-term success, the CSC has to begin planning for future CSC resources and develop plans to transition from the CSC IBM team to MnSCU.  This need for internal capability building presents a wonderful opportunity to bring student interns on-board with the several benefits of 1) providing critical resources to the CSC; 2) creating valuable development opportunities to MnSCU students; and 3) integrating faculty and curriculum into the CSC’s efforts.  The added value is that student intern and faculty participation would add credibility to the CSC efforts because they are “insiders” who understand the issues at the campus level. 

One state-wide student association president commented, “Why didn’t these CSC Internships exist for me five years ago?!”

In order for these internships to be of greatest value to the CSC and the students themselves, the CSC needs a robust strategy, including implementable steps and tools in order to attract students, secure faculty support, ensure meaningful work, and provide lasting development for the intern. 

Team Charge:

  • Engage with the CSC leadership team and the CSC IBM team to understand the project and the opportunities for intern assignments and development opportunities. 
  • Develop a project plan for developing an internship and intern development program for the CSC.
  • Benchmark internship and intern development programs with such organizations as Target Corporation’s Leadership Development Program and Macalester College’s intern program.
  • Define the intern activities supporting the CSC.  These could include project management, communications, change management, and/or business process redesign. 
  • Define the intern development activities for the CSC intern.  These development opportunities can result from interactions with the CSC IBM team in learning leading practices in strategic sourcing, shared services, and organization change management.  In addition, other opportunities may be available from the CSC’s partnership with the Itasca Project members. 
  • Develop a phasing plan to bring interns on-board prior to the development program being completed.
  • Develop a communications/marketing plan to attract interns and a process for the selection process.
  • Develop a strategy for ensuring faculty support to this internship.

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Erin Daly, Normandale Community College
Daniel Elliott, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Melissa Leimbek, North Hennepin Community College
Brady Prenzlow, North Hennepin Community College
Gwen Westerman, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Executive Sponsors:
Colin Dougherty, Managing Director, Campus Service Cooperative
Sue Appelquist, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources

Team Advisors:
Jason Cavallo, Campus Service Cooperative Lead Project Manager
Anne Taylor, IBM
Steve Frantz, System Director for Disability & Student Life
Deb Kerkeart, State University Management Officer

Project #9: Collaborative Academic Program Planning

Problem/Process Improvement:
The advancement of Strategic Framework objectives such as increasing baccalaureate access in underserved areas, connecting faculty across institutions, and advancing regional and statewide academic planning require greatly expanded capacity to support inter-institutional collaboration.

Research Questions:
There exist many collaborative models both within and beyond the system that have not been fully assessed as effective practice or been provided as a resource across the system institutions. A number of questions arise concerning the collaborative models that could support advancement of the objectives above, including:

  • What were the key variables that contributed to the initial interest in advancing a collaborative effort?
  • How did the collaborative effort address issues such as sharing of resources (facilities, human, financial, etc.)?
  • What were the most challenging barriers to advancing collaborative program efforts?
  • What can the system do to best support an environment for collaborative efforts to emerge?

The project methodology could include an assessment of a broad range of collaborative efforts or a more focused mini-case study of one or two collaborative examples (to be determined in consultation with Luoma project team).

Intended Outcome:
A greater understanding of the collaborative approaches could inform the recommendations and strategies of the futures groups including improvements to collaborative processes, system strategies in support of academic collaboration, and minimize the time investments and other resources required for institutions to plan and deliver programs needed by Minnesota.

Team Charge:
Develop a compendium of successful tools and information to guide inter-institutional academic program collaboration. This work can be based in research on current practices within the system and beyond, in an assessment of principles, barriers, and incentives for collaboration, and in other areas suggested by the Luoma project team.

Final Report

Team Members:
Michelle Blesi, Century College
Cal Helgeson, Minnesota State Community & Technical College
Mary Jacobson, Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Jan McFall, North Hennepin Community College
Jeremy Nienow, Inver Hills Community College
Cherie Pettitt, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Executive Sponsors:
John O’Brien, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs
Leslie Mercer, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
Mary Rothchild, Program Manager/System Director

Team Advisors:
Ron Dreyer, System Director of Program Review & Approval
Todd Harmening, System Director for Planning

Project #10: Building Business Relationships Through Strategic Alumni Development

Problem/Process Improvement:
North Hennepin Community College (NHCC) Foundation has not had a strategic plan for alumni development, fundraising and business networking.  Now more than ever, the business climate needs a workforce ready college graduate.  The needed response to this situation can be summed up in three parts.

  • Identify the employers of NHCC Alumni
  • Identify the work force requirements of employers
  • Connect employer needs with academic programming

Team Charge:

The project team would assist with the following:

  • Research existing database of NHCC alumni who are employed by local businesses and organizations   (including company headquarters)
  • Utilize technology to collect and analyze data
  • Use alumni employment data to develop relationships with employers
  • Work with NHCC deans, faculty and staff to identify successful alumni and current students
  • Identify internship opportunities for current students within the employers of NHCC alumni, or other employers
  • Track and assess alumni engagement with the college and foundation

Not only will this project benefit the college and foundation, but if executed well, each of the MnSCU colleges and foundations could tailor it to their needs.  With the recent cuts to higher education, this project would provide an opportunity to increase support of our institutions by the business community.  Results would be multifaceted: financial, producing a work force ready student, providing paid internships, and development of course curriculum.  Luoma participants would learn about project management, strategic planning and the importance of researching and tracking data.

Executive Summary
Final Report

Team Members:
Gretchen Biesanz, Winona State University
Michelle Goode, North Hennepin Community College
Laura Savin, Saint Paul College
Mary Tosch, Bemidji State University

Executive Sponsors:
John O’Brien, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic & Student Affairs
Lisa Larson, Acting President, North Hennepin Community College

Team Advisor:
Jennifer Summer Lambrecht, Foundation Executive Director, North Hennepin Community College
Landon Pirius, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, North Hennepin Community College