President's Blog

Follow Me on Twitter

Posted on October 17th, 2017

Twitter: A Great Way to Connect

Before I became Interim President, I had never really seen or used Twitter. Over the past few months, it has become a great way to connect with our college community, as well as stay informed about what other regional institutions are doing. In addition to PR and promotion, I have noticed faculty members using Twitter to engage their students in the classroom. One of our faculty members, Scott Deaner, makes fantastic use of Twitter to connect his students with geography and important academic events related to his courses. In fact, he even uses his Twitter feed to promote registration and further scholarship in his discipline.

I hear lots of jokes about using Twitter as a college president. I always assure people that I do not tweet late at night, and I only post positive things about Owens Community College and higher education. I have found the @OCCPresident Twitter account to be a very valuable way to promote the college. Because I spend so much time at college events, my phone has become a pocket PR device. It is very easy to snap a quick photo and post something positive, as I did yesterday walking past Veterans Hall.

This post took no time at all; it was literally a quick stop on my walk between meetings on campus. We have so many wonderful things happening here at Owens Community College that it simply takes a moment to record and promote the great work that is going on here. If you know of events or items that should be promoted here on campus, please reach out to me and let me know. I love to share our positive stories!

The @OCCPresident account currently has 106 Twitter followers, which is not very many. For example, I just posted a tweet about the Pop-Up President’s Office session at the Downtown Learning Center later today. The folks at @DowntownToledo re-tweeted that to their 8,871 Twitter followers! Let’s hope that brings some people to the DLC. By comparison, Dr. Gaber (UT President) has 2,691 followers; Dr. Mazey (BGSU President) has 5,434 followers). I want to grow our Twitter following.

While it might seem silly, I have set a modest goal of earning more than 200 Twitter followers by the end of the semester. If you are on Twitter, I would love you to follow me. Tell your staff and students about the account. The more people we have, the better we can promote Owens and the excellent things we are doing here!

In the meantime, I promise to keep it positive and classy!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Yes, You Need the Microphone

Posted on October 6th, 2017

A Lesson from Twenty Years Ago

Everyone has little issues or small causes that matter a great deal to them. A few people on campus have noticed that one of mine is using the microphone during a large gathering. As educators, many of us feel that we have loud “teacher voices” that everyone can hear. I know I felt this way once. I began my career teaching in noisy classrooms and giving speeches in union halls. I also started college as a theatre major, so I was trained to project to the back of the house and speak from my diaphragm. But I always use the microphone if one is available, and I encourage everyone here on campus to do the same. The image above is a screen shot from a presentation I gave here at Owens shortly after I arrived. I didn’t always have this opinion. It was born from something I learned twenty years ago, and it comes with a little story.

Here’s the story.

In 1998, I was a delegate to the National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly (simply called the RA) in New Orleans. The RA is the largest deliberative body in the world: 9,000 union delegates debating and voting in a huge parliamentary process. I had just been elected President of my local union, a position I would hold for 10 years, and I was passionate about very hotly debated topic at this particular RA: a merger between the NEA and the AFT. This item was called The Principles of Unity, and unlike most of my fellow delegates from Michigan, I was strongly in favor of the merger. At our State caucus in a New Orleans hotel before the general RA session, we held a large caucus meeting to debate our state’s formal position. I gave an impassioned speech on the subject in that hotel ballroom. When I was finished, a fellow delegate came to talk with me.

“Young man, I was very interested in what you had to say,” she said. “You seem passionate about this issue, and I can tell you have really put a great deal of thought in your position.”

I assured her that I had.

“The problem is,” she told me, “I could not hear a single word you said. It isn’t about your voice; it’s about my ears. You need to use the microphone.”

Right then and there, I vowed to always use a microphone if one is available. For these past twenty years, I make sure that I do this and I encourage others to do the same. You may have the loudest “teacher voice” in the world, but your voice is no match for the HVAC duct in the back of the room that you cannot hear, the high ceiling or carpet that absorbs your voice, or the humming fluorescent light fixture above someone’s head. If there is a PA system and mic in a room, it’s there for a reason. Use it.

In addition, it is also important that we have ASL interpreters present if their services will be needed by anyone in attendance. Again, it’s not about the person delivering the message: it’s about the people receiving it.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

What’s the Plan?

Posted on October 4th, 2017

As I reflect on my first 90 days at Interim President here at Owens, my interactions with our faculty, staff and students stick out as my most exciting and engaging experiences. We have a great college built on the work of wonderful people! A large part of my job has been moving from place to place to interact with Owens people and the people we serve in Northwest Ohio.  One thing our team has been working on “back at the office” over the past several weeks is a set of Strategic Priorities that will guide us through the fiscal year.

Since we emerged from Fiscal Watch, many employees have shared with me a sense of excitement and optimism about our current situation and our future. But more than a few people have stopped to ask me: What do we do now? Where are we going? Or as one faculty member very succinctly put it:

“What’s the plan?”

I am delighted to share a specific answer to that question. Yesterday, the Board of Trustees approved a set of Strategic Priorities for this fiscal year. This set of priorities was approved just hours ago, and this is the first place I am publishing the very rough draft. There is nothing secret or especially novel here: just a set of very specific priorities and goals that we can all work toward in this important year after Fiscal Watch. A more comprehensive strategic planning process will need to take place in the future, but we need a set of priorities and goals to guide our work NOW.

To help us achieve our essential function of TEACHING & LEARNING and WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT, the following four priorities have been adopted by our Board. Here is a first look at those priorities (this is a screen capture from the draft document that was approved yesterday):

Under each of these priorities is a set of goals that are key to our success; each one will be assigned a metric or set of metrics so we can monitor our progress over the year. Again, this is simply a screen capture of the draft adopted by the Board. We plan to create a more formal and specific document in the near future.

When a final document containing the Strategic Priorities is completed, it will be shared widely within the college. Because it might take some time to generate that document, I wanted to share what the Board approved as soon as possible. Enrollment and retention are obviously key issues for us given the demographic and economic situation in Northwest Ohio. If you are curious about my views on these and other topics, the blog entry I wrote on “Service Club Presentations” contains a video with a great deal of information about our current context and what we need to do to be effective and add value to our region. These Strategic Priorities will help us drive that work internally.

One thing we can all do RIGHT NOW is regarding Goal 1.3 “increase efforts in retention of current students.” Nearly everyone reading this will encounter an Owens student today. Make a point of asking them if they have registered for next semester. If they have not registered, encourage them to do so. One Owens faculty member that I follow on Twitter recently encouraged students to re-enroll via social media. That is FANTASTIC! However you interface with students, ask them about their plans for next semester and encourage them to register!

If you have questions or input on this important work, I would love to speak with you and discuss it.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Service Club Presentations

Posted on September 27th, 2017

Internal and External Communication

Last Friday I delivered a version of the presentation that I have been making to local service clubs to an internal audience here at Owens. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, the title of the presentation is “Owens Community College: A Regional Resource.” I was very pleased with the turnout: about 40 students, faculty and staff came to hear the presentation, and we had an excellent conversation afterward. I find it exciting to connect the “external” and “internal” dialogue about the great things that are happening at the college.

The video is about 30 minutes in length. For the first few minutes, I review the purpose and intended impact of the presentation. From my perspective, the main objectives of delivering this presentation in the community are to:

  • Clarify our legal service district and campus locations
  • Proactively tell our story and be present across the entire district
  • Re-frame recent media coverage of issues such as Fiscal Watch, enrollments, and program status
  • Recruit and invite new partnerships with employers, K-12 school districts/career technical centers, and community-based organizations

The actual “presentation” begins at about 3:45. I occasionally “break character” to explain something about the presentation. Thank you to everyone who attended the session on Friday. My initial plan was to simply deliver the presentation in an empty classroom for the camera in order to share it here; this was much better and more comfortable for me, and I really enjoyed the interaction.

The entire video is 33 minutes long, and you can watch it here if you are interested:

About The Video

The production values of this brief video are very basic. I simply put my personal camera on a microphone stand and pressed record. The camera was fairly close to me, so the audio is clear and the slides are visible. I have an annoying habit of walking off camera here, but that was because I was presenting to real people. In recent years, I have gotten better at standing still for formal presentations and videos, but this presentation took place in one of our classrooms. It was nearly impossible for me to avoid going into “teacher mode.” I have spent my adult life in community college classrooms, so roaming around and gesticulating is second nature in settings like these. I can’t help it.

Again, this video is nothing flashy or special, but I do think it’s important that our internal community hear what I am saying to our external stakeholders. Feel free to drop me a line if you have reactions or questions.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Dr. Rob Johnstone / Toledo-area Campus 9-29-2017

Posted on September 25th, 2017

I am pleased to announce that Denise Smith, Interim Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs, has secured a national speaker on the subject of community college student success who will present here at Owens. This professional development opportunity is made possible through our participation in the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) Student Success Leadership Initiative. If you are available on Friday, please do not miss this important professional development opportunity.

Dr. Rob Johnstone
President, National Center for Inquiry and Improvement

An Open Session for Faculty and Staff

September 29, 2017
9:30 – 11:00
Heritage Hall 123
Toledo-area Campus

RSVPs are encouraged but not necessary (

I have heard Dr. Johnstone at many national conferences, including Achieving the Dream, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), as well as here in the State of Ohio. He is a frequent presenter at community colleges. His direct, classroom-oriented style is very effective for those of us who have worked in community colleges for many years.

Below is Dr. Johnstone’s bio from the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement

Rob works to help two- and four-year colleges create structures and processes that increase student completion, learning, and labor market outcomes. His unique and engaging approach to inquiry and improvement fuses the world of foundations, initiatives, and system-level policy changes with the ground-level work of college practitioners and college senior leaders.

Rob has worked on the ground with more than 350 colleges around the country both directly and on initiatives such as the American Association of Community Colleges Pathways Institutes, the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the California Guided Pathways Initiative, Jobs for the Future’s work with the statewide centers in the national Student Success Center Network, Gates’ Completion by Design, Lumina’s Beyond Financial Aid, and a variety of state-level and local college projects.

Rob served as a director, dean, and provost in the California community college system for more than a decade, and he worked as a strategic consultant in industry prior to shifting to higher education. With more than 20 years of consulting experience in industry and higher education, he has a unique dual perspective on this work. He also brings an energy and passion for authentic change to improve outcomes.

Note: the photo above is a screen shot from Dr. Johnstone’s recent keynote address at Community College of Rhode Island earlier in the month. He is an engaging speaker; a video of his CCRI keynote is on YouTube here.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Rossford High School Update

Posted on September 20th, 2017

UPDATE: 9/25/2017

After the most recent meeting with Rossford about the potential hosting/lease arrangement, the Marketing & Communications has set up a “landing page” on the Owens intranet for updates on this issue. As new details are finalized, information will be posted at the following address on the intranet:

Original Post

As many of you know, teams from Rossford City Schools and Owens Community College have been meeting to discuss the possibility of hosting Rossford High School while the district completes a major construction project in late 2018. The specific spaces under consideration are in AVCC/Math & Science/SHAC/Library, and CFPA. Back in May 2017 when I was still serving as Provost, the President’s Office provided the following message regarding this possibility in an all-employee e-mail:

“Owens is committed to our partnership with Rossford, and we are planning ways to be prepared for a lease arrangement during this important transition. We are currently identifying spaces on our Perrysburg campus for the potential hosting of Rossford High School in the Fall of 2018. The specific arrangements and lease provisions have not been finalized.”

Nothing about our previous discussions has changed: there are still many details to work out, and we do not have a lease agreement with Rossford as of yet. We have not identified cost per square foot, and a number of key issues about space sharing have not been determined (e.g. which spaces can be completely dedicated to Rossford, which can be shared, and which must stay 100% Owens). They also have some outstanding issues on their end, including lockers/storage, public address system, and required construction in a few parts of the building. Facilities and academics are working on those issues right now. The specific spaces are in AVCC/Math & Science/SHAC/Library, and CFPA. Facilities and finance are also going over how to charge for the rental; we have only approximated costs to this point, and we do not have a draft lease prepared. The time frame of the hosting arrangement would be limited: approximately one academic year to 18 months. This would not be a permanent arrangement. In addition to furthering our partnership with Rossford, the hosting arrangement will provide needed rental income for the college during a time of decreased space utilization.

Because I love words and dictionaries, I could not resist looking up “swing space.” Here’s the definition from a web site called Dictionary of Construction: “A space temporarily occupied by building users away from areas that are undergoing renovation. Swing space can be new space built before renovations or existing space that has already been renovated.”

A team of stakeholders, including representatives from impacted areas, is meeting regularly to plan for the hosting possibility. When facilities has a specific lease agreement and timeline, formal communications will be sent to the campus community.

If you have questions or concerns about the possibility of hosting Rossford, I would be happy to talk with you and/or connect you with the appropriate Owens department that handles a specific issue. During my 15 years as a full-time community college faculty member, I taught in a building that also hosted a K-12 high school. I found this to be a rewarding and enriching teaching environment; in fact, I co-taught 11th grade for a few years and this was some of the most rewarding time I have spent in a classroom.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Rotary Presentation on Campus: 9/22 @ Noon

Posted on September 18th, 2017

Happy Monday!

As I write this, the weather is looking gloomy for our Owens Alumni Golf Classic at Belmont Country Club. Let’s hope the weather clears a bit for our fundraiser today. Since 2003, this event has raised over $369,468 in support for scholarships and outreach. I’ll be out there thanking our donors rain or shine!

Telling Our Story

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been giving a series of presentations at Rotary clubs in our service district about Owens. My talk is entitled “Owens Community College: A Regional Resource,” and it has been very well received. I will be giving this presentation for our internal audience on the Toledo-area campus on Friday, September 22. Here is the information:

“Owens Community College: A Regional Resource”
Friday, September 22 @ 12:00 noon
Heritage Hall, Room 137
Toledo-Area Campus
Pizza will be provided

My primary purpose in doing this presentation on campus is to provide the same information to our employees that I am sharing out in the community. I will be recording the presentation so I can share it here on the blog for employees who cannot attend.

Feel free to bring a friend to the presentation. I will bring a bunch of pizza in case people would like to make this time slot their lunch. There is no need to RSVP; just show up. I look forward to sharing the information with our campus community.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Deadline Now with Sen. Gardner (Jan 2017)

Posted on September 16th, 2017

Back in January, I had the honor to appear with Senator Randy Gardner on the WGTE television program Deadline Now with Jack Lessenberry. Our discussion centered on higher education funding in Ohio, as well as the purpose and value of community colleges. The interview is approximately 26 minutes long:

Deadline Now: Randy Gardner & Steve Robinson

Because Lessenberry is a professor at Wayne State University and also does a great deal of journalism in Michigan, he also asked me to explore some of the differences between higher education the two states.  I thought I would post a link to the interview here.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Our New Digital Front Door

Posted on September 15th, 2017

Today marks the official launch of the new Owens website!

Redesigning the website is not a low-stakes undertaking and required the hard work of so many throughout various departments. Our website is one of the most important outward facing representations of our campus community. It serves as an initial gateway for prospective students and their families to get a glimpse of our academic and student life before even stepping foot on campus.

As you click through the site, you will see a clean, mobile-friendly design that is consistent with current web trends, navigation driven by the information prospective students and visitors are looking for, backed by website analytics, with opportunities to highlight our students, faculty, and academic program areas. This website allows for a greater sense of pride and visibility to showcase the depth of our programs while highlighting our amazing student life and services.

We understand that users’ reactions to a website redesign will vary and that not everyone will love every element, but some decisions are an inevitable part of a project this large. Research was conducted, user meetings were held, and good, honest feedback was evaluated and considered. The result was a collaboration of information that reinforces our mission of success through well-designed navigation and relevant copy while delivering a compelling reflection of our College.

The beauty of a website is that it is a living, fluid document. With input from our stakeholders (you!), changes are being made on a daily (hourly!) basis in order to keep our content fresh and up-to-date. We will continue to thoughtfully modify the site as we collect feedback from our users.

We are excited about this new direction and the possibilities it will bring to highlight the amazing opportunities that exist on our campuses and learning center.

Your Success Starts Here!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

BBT: The Checklist Manifesto

Posted on September 13th, 2017

Brief Book Talk: The Checklist Manifesto

During a busy semester, it’s very difficult to find time for professional reading and research. The deluge of e-mails, phone calls, and meetings can sometimes make “sharpening the saw” very difficult to accomplish. Just keeping up with higher education news and scholarship can be a daunting task.

As I was walking across campus the other day, I had the idea of sharing some very brief thoughts about significant books about higher education and organizational leadership that I have read over the years. The first one that popped into my head was The Checklist Manifesto (2009) by Atul Gawande. There are a few important books that I often talk about in meetings and presentations; this is one of them.

In the near future, I will try to do a few of these “brief book talks” as a way of sharing some of these ideas. One of the key points Gawande makes in this book was central to our work during the recent financial crisis. This video is exactly 5 minutes long. As I do these, I will try to keep them short. It takes almost no time to make a video like this, as I simply record it with my phone.

So that’s the first “brief book talk.” Look for more in the coming months, and try to make time to read during your busy schedule as the time allows!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Interim President

Addendum: I have had some fascinating dialogue with people about this post. Since I posted it, I have found a great video of Gawande covering this same point about the effectiveness of (and stigma against) checklists. It is from WNYC Radio, and I repost it below: