Action Learning Projects, 2015-2016

Project 1: Developing a Pipeline for Increasing Adjunct Faculty of Color at Technical Colleges in MnSCU

Problem/Process Improvement:

Two-year colleges in the MnSCU system have seen dramatic changes in their student populations that correspond with the increase of racially diverse students in the metropolitan and greater Minnesota area.  At Hennepin Technical College (HTC), from fall 2009 to fall 2014, the number (%) of students of color has grown from 1,978 (32%) to 2,408 (40%).

In contrast, MnSCU’s teaching workforce is not reflective of its student populations or the communities they serve.  In HTC’s 2008-10 Affirmative Action Plan (AAP), only 3.16% (out of 158) represented unlimited faculty of color.  With a census availability of 10.00%, HTC had an underutilization of 11 faculty of color.   In HTC’s 2014-16 AAP, only 3.70% (out of 135) represented unlimited faculty of color.  With a census availability of 24.9%, HTC has an underutilization of 29 faculty of color.  

One of the ways to diversify the faculty workforce in MnSCU is to develop pipelines to increase the pool of adjunct faculty of color.  However, there are challenges in developing these pipelines including:

  • Technical program instructor vacancies, in areas such as manufacturing, transportation, and construction, have been historically filled by Caucasian males. 
  • Even with the increase of students of color graduating from technical programs, this does not necessarily translate into a desire to be an instructor and teach in these areas.
  • There is an increase of work experience as part of the technical education instructor credentials, in particular a requirement of 4-years related experience in the trades.

Team Charge:
Make recommendations about developing pipeline programs for increasing underrepresented candidates into technical education instructor positions at the postsecondary level.  The recommendations should include best practices from secondary and postsecondary institutions as well as from industry for recruiting candidates, developing pipeline programs, and alternative teacher certification routes. The focus is on two-year technical colleges; however, the scope could be broad enough to be applied system wide for increasing adjunct faculty of color.  

Executive Sponsors:
Dr. Merrill Irving, Jr., President, Hennepin Technical College
Dr. Laura Urban, President, Alexandria Technical and Community College
Renée Hogoboom, Associate Director/AAO, MnSCU Office of Diversity & Equity

Team Advisors:
Jean Kim Maierhofer, Chief Diversity/Affirmative Action Officer, Hennepin Technical College
Mike McGee, Academic Dean Hennepin Technical College
Sharon Mohr, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hennepin Technical College
Shari Maloney, Chief Human Resources Officer, Alexandria Technical and Community College

Team Members:  
Daniel Bernstrom, Minnesota State College, Southeast Technical (Action Learning Coach)
Amy Canavan, Century College
Miki Huntington, Minneapolis Community & Technical College
Eugenia Paulus, North Hennepin Community College
Gregory Rose, Minneapolis Community & Technical College
Sarah Woodward, Dakota County Technical College

Final Report

Project 2:  MnSCU/SMSU Transfer Experience

Problem/Process Improvement:

Transfer students are having problems finding correct information as to what will transfer in to Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) either from the web, advisors of schools they are currently transferring from, or individuals from SMSU. The transfers are also able to register for courses offered by SMSU in a multitude of ways which makes it difficult for SMSU employees to track, advise these students, as well as ensure all the courses that can transfer in are being evaluated. We would also like to see where they are getting their information from as well as what way of communicating with these students is best for them.  It would also be beneficial to see what promotion and marketing techniques are best for drawing their attention.

Team Charge:
Evaluate and improve upon the transfer process between the MnSCU system as well as into SMSU from other MnSCU schools.

Areas to consider:

  • Transfer of credits
  • Communication with prospective transfers
  • The information available online for prospective transfers and their influencers
  • Various ways to transfer into SMSU
  • Orientation of transfer student

Executive Sponsors:  
Louise DiCesare, System Director, Collaboration and Transfer, Academic and Student Affairs, MnSCU System Office

Team Advisors:  
Matt Suby, Associate Director of Admissions, Southwest Minnesota State University
Pat Carmody, Registrar, Southwest Minnesota State University

Team Members:
Jennifer Brookins-King, Minneapolis Community & Technical College
Nicki Carlson, Northland Community & Technical College
Poh Lin Khoo, Metropolitan State University
Sean Olson, North Hennepin Community College (Action Learning Coach)
Julio Vargas-Essex, Metropolitan State University
Tony Zahler, Century College

Executive Summary

Final Report

Project 3: Enhancing System Facility Space Utilization through Institutional Sharing of Facility Space

Problem/Process Improvement: 

In an environment where colleges and universities are asked to more efficiently and effectively utilize their resources, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is challenged to create and implement improved means by which we manage our facility resources, specifically space in the delivery of higher education and student success for Minnesota. We believe there is significant value to creating facility sharing arrangements that incent and encourage our colleges and universities and go beyond basic cost savings.  These arrangements would be focused on student success in terms of academic potential and attainment, while taking into account the full spectrum of services and support required to enhance the use of underutilized facility spaces of a host site while addressing the needs and expectations of a system partner or tenant in utilizing those spaces. College and university staff have had limited success creating improvements in their processes due to a variety of factors, of which time and man-power play a large role.

Team Charge: 
Validate the needs and expectations from both host and tenant perspective by building upon the work done within the report of College University Partnership Baccalaureate Programs: Student Services, define an array of student success considerations, research methodologies being used across the country in higher education systems for the sharing of and incentivizing the sharing of facility space and the associated support and services, and recommended actions for adoption at the system level that would provide significant incentive for colleges and universities to consider implementation.

Executive Sponsor:  
Laura M. King, Vice Chancellor and CFO

Team Advisor:  
Brian Yolitz, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities

Team Members:
Layne Anderson, Minnesota State University Moorhead
Shawn Anderson, M-State
Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson, Minnesota State University Moorhead
Jessica Lauritsen, Hennepin Technical College
Judy Tebben, Minnesota West Community & Technical College (Action Learning Coach)

Final Report

Project 4: The Jointly Conferred Degree and Program Collaboration

Problem/Process Improvement:

The Charting the Future Strategic Framework calls for increased collaboration among MnSCU institutions to increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and to offer more students access to unique academic programs. However, each college and university is an independent and autonomous academic degree-granting institution that has its own academic program planning process with few incentives for inter-institutional collaboration.  Most incentives are tied to student FYE, course enrollment, and faculty workload, even though inter-institutional collaboration may lead to reduced instruction costs, a broader student pool and increased enrollment. A jointly conferred degree, in which the transcript and diploma bear the names of both institutions, may serve to reduce the barriers to collaboration.

Board of Trustees Policy does not currently authorize conferral of joint degrees. A number of other universities throughout the United States do grant joint degrees and at least two regional accreditation agencies specifically define joint degrees. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education authorize conferral of joint degrees, and the Higher Learning Commission has stated that it does not prohibit jointly conferred degrees, although the consortia agreement may require approval.

Team Charge:
Research the processes and steps required to permit conferral of joint degrees by MnSCU institutions. Explore the potential ramifications of adopting a joint degree policy, including whether this solution will increase program collaboration. Draft appropriate language for Board Policy and system procedure to implement the change.

Executive Sponsor:
Lynda Milne, Associate Vice Chancellor, Academic and Student Affairs, MnSCU System Office

Team Advisors:
Jon Dalager, System Director for Academic Programs, MnSCU System Office
Gary Hunter, System Director for Policy & Procedure and Intellectual Property, MnSCU System Office |

Team Members:  
Angie Arnold, Normandale Community College
Jeremy Carney, Minnesota State University Moorhead
Deanna Forsman, North Hennepin Community College
Eri Fujieda, Winona State University (Action Learning Coach)
Nicole Meulemans, Dakota County Technical College
Ger Vue, Saint Paul College

Final Report

Project 5: PSEO-Process and Policy Evaluation and Improvement

Problem/Process Improvement:

Over the years, the purpose and function of the PSEO program has changed nationally and locally. With more intense interest in aligning K12 and higher education, high schools, college and universities, and families are interested in programming that allows high school students to earn college credit. Legislative changes have also opened the door to early college credits to a broader range of students than when it was first implemented in 1985. With the expansion of both concurrent enrollment and specialized programming for cohorts of students to enroll in both general education and career technical courses on our campuses, MnSCU would benefit from an evaluation of current practices and policies and consideration for new guidelines for PSEO practices and policies across the system.  

Team Charge:
Survey and analyze current admission practices, program practices, and campus policies for students enrolled in PSEO across the system. Provide recommendations for PSEO process and policy improvement.

Sample evaluation questions might include:

  • How are PSEO opportunities communicated to students and parents?
  • How are PSEO students’ college-readiness/eligibility determined?
  •  Does the eligibility criteria differ for individual PSEO students versus a PSEO cohort program?
  • If eligibility criteria is broadened to allow more students into PSEO, how will you know what is the best indicator?  What evidence do you have to support this recommendation?
  • How are PSEO students supported throughout the program? What systemic processes are in place to support PSEO students?
  • How are PSEO student performance monitored in these programs? What data is collected on PSEO students?
  •  How are PSEO students and parents communicated throughout the program?
  • How do institutions evaluate the success of a PSEO program?
  • What are campus policies related to PSEO?
  • Do current campus and system policy reflect the direction and purpose of PSEO program?

Executive Sponsors:
Toyia Younger, Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, MnSCU System Office
Pakou Yang, System Director of P-20 and College Readiness, MnSCU System Office

Team Advisor:
Jessica Espinosa, Coordinator of College Transitions, MnSCU System Office

Team Members:
Lisa Bestul, Hibbing Community College
Peter Miene, Winona State University
Betsy Thompson, MnSCU System Office (Action Learning Coach)
Pangyen Weng, Metropolitan State University
Michael Werner, Anoka-Ramsey Community College

Executive Summary

Project 6: Flexible, Accelerated, and Culturally Responsive Scheduling Options for Courses and Programs

Problem/Process Improvement:

For working adults who wish to validate their credentials or improve their skills, accelerated and flexible education programs and course offerings may be the most accommodating, while also benefiting students who struggle with balancing school, work, and home obligations.  These offerings allow students to complete coursework and earn credentials in a shortened period of time; thus allowing for faster entry or reentry into the workforce.  At University of Phoenix, courses are four weeks long, so students can focus on one course at a time.  At Rasmussen College, accelerated program courses start every six weeks. In addition, they also offer a Flex Choice option allowing students to complete online classes as well as optional self-paced courses. Institutions such as these offer a competitive advantage for working adults.  

As identified in the Strategic Plan, Century College would like to develop schedule options that allow for flexible and/or accelerated courses and programs to not only increase completion rates but also to attract future students.  In developing these flexible options, we want to be guided by the needs of our increasingly diverse students.  Having options that meet the needs of these diverse groups is part of Century’s effort to become a culturally responsive institution. Realizing this goal is often challenged by contractual limitations as well as external regulations like those for financial aid. These limitations make it difficult to be flexible, yet other institutions find ways around these limitations. To remain competitive we need to ensure our courses and programs can be offered in formats that meet students’ needs.

Team Charge:
Research and develop a summary of best practices from within MnSCU or other states and regions featuring models that support flexible and accelerated programming. Based on identified best practices and consideration of current operational parameters, work through the logistics to create a toolbox for flexible programming including: recommendations for a year-long schedule, length of course/program, and ideal on-campus and online courses to target for implementation. This toolbox could include resources for ensuring course and program scheduling is responsive to culturally diverse students’ needs. Aspects of the toolbox could first be piloted and refined at Century and then implemented at other community and technical colleges throughout MnSCU. It could also increase collaborative efforts across the system and help MnSCU compete more effectively with the for-profits and serve diverse populations like returning adults.  Team members will need to learn about the constraints within which a core function like academic course and program delivery occurs; they will also learn how to design programming that is student-centered and engages multiple stakeholders in its development.

Executive Sponsor:
Michael Berndt, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Century College

Team Advisors:
Katie Svoboda, Director of Orientation and Student Engagement, Century College
Brenda Lyseng, Academic Dean, Century College

Team Members:
Laurie Blunsom, Minnesota State University Moorhead
Colleen Brady-Santwire, M-State
Taiyon Coleman, Minneapolis Community & Technical College
Ann Deiman-Thornton, Inver Hills Community College
Jason Jones, Hennepin Technical College (Action Learning Coach)
Cary Komoto, Normandale Community College

Executive Summary

Final Report

Project 7: Create Seamless Career Pathways for Undecided Students

Problem/Process Improvement:

There are a large number of undecided/undeclared students who get admitted to North Hennepin Community College (NHCC) without a specific career track. These students pursue an Associate in Arts (AA) degree, which is designed for students who want to earn a two-year degree which lets them keep their career options open. Roughly 36% of NHCC students pursue an AA degree with no emphasis or career track. The majority of these students transfer to a 4-year university once they complete their AA degree, without a career path. This presents a problem for these students since they are expected to declare a major at the point of entrance at the 4-year institution. NHCC does not have a system/process in place designed to help these students declare a specific major or establish a career path early on before they transfer out.

Team Charge:
Thoroughly research this issue and recommend strategies that will engage undecided students starting from the orientation process throughout their time at NHCC to make strong connections between academic choices and potential career paths and goals.
Research methods and strategies may include:

  • Survey undecided students (those without identified degree/major) including those who are pursuing AA degree and identify their career needs
  • Analyze the organizational structure including the orientation process, Academic Advising, Career Counseling and Career Development Course. Identify ways in which the various departments could work together to create a seamless process that puts students on a career path.
  • Research nationally how “career clusters” are designed and implemented. Recommend ways in which NHCC could create career clusters for those pursuing AA degrees. Recommend strategies on how to implement those in the orientation and advising process.

Executive Sponsor:
Dr. Landon Pirius, Interim V.P. of Academic Affairs and V.P. of Student Affairs, North Hennepin Community College

Team Advisors:
Elena Favela, Dean of Student Development; Karen Philbin, Director of Career Center, North Hennepin Community College

Team Members:
Tom Chervenak, MnSCU System Office (Action Learning Coach)
Jodi Elness, St. Cloud Technical & Community College
Sara Fier, Southwest Minnesota State University
Sean Johns, Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Andrea Northam, Winona State University
Matthew Sewell, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Executive Summary

Final Report

Project 8: New Employee Onboarding Program for Anoka-Ramsey Community College and Anoka Technical College

Problem/Process Improvement:

An effective onboarding/orientation program is a significant factor in retention of new employees. It can provide resources for HR staff, supervisors, and the new employees to ensure a successful experience during their first year.

There currently is no formal onboarding process for new employees at Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College. New employees have an inconsistent experience in term of being welcomed to the institution, oriented to expectations and processes, and feeling like part of the campus community. Part of the problem is that supervisors need better resources and preparation for completing their role in onboarding new employees. A formal onboarding program could increase retention, promote a climate of inclusivity and diversity, and help new employees make connections with fellow new faculty and staff outside of their departments. In addition, new employees lack an orientation to the bigger picture of employment at the MnSCU system and the State of Minnesota.

Team Charge: 
Develop an onboarding program that creates a welcoming and inclusive environment during the first year for new faculty and staff.  1) Develop a proposal for in-person and online new employee orientation by December 2015. It should include a model describing essential elements of an onboarding program and examples of best practices (for example, scripts, agendas, toolkits, web sites, etc.); 2) Identify one or more elements of the proposal to be developed and ready for implementation in June 2016; 3) Present findings to the system HR community and provide resources for other institutions to develop similar programs.

Executive Sponsor:
Kent Hanson, President, Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College

Team Advisors:
Jay Nelson, Chief Human Resources Officer, Anoka Technical College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College
Dee Anne Bonebright, Director of Systemwide Training, MnSCU System Office

Resource Team:
Talent Management Steering Committee, onboarding subcommittee

Team Members:
Matt Gardner, North Hennepin Community College
Derek Hughes, MnSCU System Office
Julie Lutz, Winona State University (Action Learning Coach)
Julie Myers, Anoka Technical College
Michael Nordby, MnSCU System Office
Greg Rathert, Anoka-Ramsey Community College

Executive Summary

Final Report

Project 9: Organizational Design Options for Shared and Centralized Services

Problem/Process Improvement:

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities strives to create a transparent and robust organizational design that enables the system to provide leadership, governance and campus-facing services efficiently and effectively, while also respecting the uniqueness and autonomy of each of our colleges and universities.  Our colleges and universities enjoy considerable local autonomy to manage their administrative functions, while still obligated to maintain compliance with system policies and procedures and other state and federal requirements.  They also vary in their capability and capacity to provide a full range of administrative services and meet administrative requirements.  

Over the past decade regulatory requirements have grown, the demand for consistent practices across our system has increased and budgets have tightened.  As a system, we continue to look for the most effective way to deliver administrative services across our system so that we can provide “the highest value/most affordable higher education option” for Minnesotans.

The challenge we face with our diverse system is how do we design an organizational structure that meets the needs of our all our institutions, from our largest universities to our smallest colleges?  How do we strike the balance between local autonomy and systemwide consistency?  How do we encourage collaboration, cooperation and economies of scale throughout the system?

We believe there is significant value in understanding how other systems throughout the country address these issues.  Have they developed new or innovative service delivery models that we can learn from?  If so, what are those models?  How are they financed?    What services are provided centrally, regionally or locally?  What choice, if any, does a college or university within a system have in selecting the service delivery model that works best for them?

Team Charge:
We are asking the Luoma Leadership cohort, through its action learning project, to:
  • Research administrative service delivery models used in other public higher education systems throughout the country and their funding mechanisms.  Which administrative functions are provided centrally?  Which are provided locally?  Which are provided through another organizational structure (such as a cooperative or a regional model)?  How are the services funded?   Do campuses pay for specific services they “purchase” or are they funded through some other method?  
  • Analyze the models used by other systems and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Recommend one or more option for MnSCU to consider implementing.   

Proposals will be reviewed with the following criteria in mind:

  • Is the problem significant and important to the organization and or individual?
  • Is a one-year timeframe appropriate for this project?
  • Is the problem within the scope and feasibility and understanding of one or more potential Luoma Leadership Academy participants?
  • Does the problem provide learning opportunities?
  • Is this project within the scope of the Executive Sponsor to move forward after the action learning team completes its work?

Executive Sponsor:  
Laura M. King, Vice Chancellor and CFO

Team Advisors:  
Deb Bednarz, System Director, Financial Planning and Analysis, MnSCU System Office
Denise Kirkeby, System Director, Financial Reporting, MnSCU System Office
Kathy Hanon, Financial Planning and Analysis, MnSCU System Office

Team Members:
Dan Conklin, Normandale Community College
Brad Doss, Riverland Community College
Erica Johnson, Minnesota State University, Mankato
Dawn Master, Minneapolis Community and Technical College
Teri Wallace, Minnesota State University, Mankato (Action Learning Coach)
John Yearous, Winona State University

Executive Summary

Final Report

Campus Size Comparison

Shared Service Comparison