President's Blog

Rossford Back to School… at Owens!

Posted on July 27th, 2018

Welcome Rossford Bulldogs!

This morning I took a brief walkthrough of the portions of AVCC and Math/Science that will host Rossford High School in a few short weeks.

A recent news segment on 13ABC featured a tour of the space that will be used by Rossford, as well as interviews with the district superintendent Dan Creps and high school principal Tony Brashear. The television segment really shows Owens in a positive light: “The hallways are also bright and offer beautiful views of the new senior lounge.” As Brashear states in his interview:

“It’s an upgrade for [the students] to come here, and then when we leave here and get into a newer building it’s going to be even better.”

In addition to providing an important service to a neighboring school district, our hosting of Rossford High School  is a fantastic way to expose hundreds of students and their families to our wonderful college.

Just as we did with Lake High School back in 2010, our hosting of Rossford is an extension of our mission of student success and community service. It also provides us with a direct connection to numerous students and their families, many of whom are potential Owens students. The lease revenue is also a positive factor for the college, making the partnership and hosting a true “win-win” collaboration between the college and the school district.

Some Updates

  • The first day for Rossford teachers to officially report is August 20
  • Freshman report to school for the first time on August 21
  • The remainder of the students start on August 22

All of the “above-ceiling” inspections for the construction changes are complete; all construction is anticipated to be finished by the week of August 13.

I want to thank all the Owens employees who have worked so hard on the Rossford hosting project. We have received very complimentary feedback about how warm, inviting and helpful our Owens people have been during the process. I am especially grateful to the Owens faculty and staff who moved their classrooms and offices in order to make this partnership work.

If you happen to interact with Rossford students, faculty, staff and families in the coming weeks, please extend a warm greeting and leave them with the sense of welcome that is conveyed in the banner we hung in the atrium. This is a remarkable partnership that should create lasting goodwill for Owens in the Rossford community for many years to come.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Remembering Trustee John C. Moore

Posted on July 25th, 2018

In Memoriam: John C. Moore (1936-2018)

I am very sad to inform our campus community about the passing of one of our college’s great leaders, Mr. John C. Moore, who served on our Board of Trustees from 2000-2010. I was fortunate enough to have a few brief conversations with Mr. Moore about our college and its history during our 50th anniversary celebrations; I also discussed his extensive mentoring with community leaders during his long career in banking and public service. I frequently saw John Moore out and about in the community. As a frequent visitor to the Toledo Museum of Art, I saw Mr. Moore at the TMA and the Toledo Symphony on a number of occasions. Many college employees have fond memories of Trustee Moore, and he will be sorely missed.

Board Chair Dee Talmage issued the following statement on the passing of Mr. Moore, whom she considered a dear friend:

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of John C. Moore, former Chair of the Board of Trustees at Owens Community College. Mr. Moore served as a Trustee from 2000-2010, and later as a Director on the Owens Foundation Board. In addition to serving as Board Chair, Mr. Moore served on the Executive Board of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges and helped guide Owens through a vitally important part of its history. He will be remembered for his strong commitment to higher education and his mentorship of countless community leaders. The entire Owens family wishes to convey deep sympathy and condolences to Mr. Moore’s many friends and family in our community.”

Chair Talmage informed me that Mr. Moore was heavily recruited to be the Chair of the OACC Board, but he declined and encouraged her to become involved. Dee Talmage would later become OACC Board Chair. The mentorship of John Moore improved our entire community, but it had a special impact on Owens Community College.

The obituary for Mr. Moore appeared in the Toledo Blade this morning. Funeral arrangements are below:

Wake from 4-7 p.m. Friday, July 27

Dale-Riggs Funeral Home
572 Nebraska Ave
Toledo, OH 43604

Funeral services at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 28

St. Joan of Arc Church
5856 Heatherdowns Blvd
Toledo, OH 43614

John Moore served as Chair of our Board during a pivotal time for Owens, including a difficult presidential transition and the loss of accreditation for our Nursing program. He was a strong and stabilizing force for our college during this time. Owens Community College will always be grateful for his energy, leadership and service to our institution.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Suicide Prevention Conversations

Posted on June 29th, 2018

We need to talk about suicide.

That’s not just an attention-grabbing opening line. It’s very important that our campus community has open and honest conversations about the warning signs and risks posed by this important health crisis. It’s also the law. In 2016, HB 28 went into effect mandating that Ohio’s public colleges and universities take a number of proactive measures to address suicide prevention and crisis intervention. An excellent web resource was created for colleges to comply with the law and do everything in their power to address this devastating issue.

I’d like to share a letter I received from the Ohio Attorney General on this subject. This letter contains a very simple and important message about our campus conversations regarding suicide. A very important point made by AG DeWine in this letter is regarding FERPA. Please know that there are exceptions to the FERPA privacy provisions when it comes to immediate danger, threats of self-harm, and suicide. An article in the New York Times concerned AG DeWine, as it described a situation in which a college was aware of a student’s struggle, but his family was not.


When our General Counsel Lisa Nagel receives the clarification mentioned in the Attorney General’s letter, we will pass that on to our college community. In the meantime, here are links to our current suicide prevention and crisis intervention resources on the Owens Community College web site.

Owens Web Resources on Crisis and Suicide Prevention

The recent suicides of prominent individuals such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have brought new attention to the often-stigmatized subject of mental health and suicide. Despite the recent increase in media attention, suicide has been a long-standing crisis in this country (some even call it an epidemic), particularly among communities that we serve here at Owens.


Owens Community College is proud to serve a large and growing number of veteran students, as well as eligible veteran dependents. We are also proud of our employees who have served in the military. Earlier this week, Brian Kinsella published a moving piece on the crisis of veteran suicide in Task & Purpose, a military news and lifestyle web site. Recently, the father of a local veteran who took his own life, has begun a campaign to get veterans and their loved ones talking about suicide.

As he told the Freemont Messenger in a recent article, Jhan Corzine believes that talking about the issue is vitally important: “The one thing I want out of this is my son back and it’s the one thing I can’t have … Hold your loved ones tight. Try to get them to talk to you as much as you can.”


In addition to being the home of metropolitan areas such as Toledo and Findlay, Northwest Ohio is made up of farming communities. A recent article in The Guardian caught my attention regarding the alarming rate of suicide among American farmers. (Suicide is also an incredibly serious problem among farmers in other parts of the workd, including India). According to data in the article, farmers have the highest rate of suicide of any profession in the United States.

We serve a number of students from farming families and communities. It’s important that we keep our eyes and ears open for ways to help them.

The Ohio Department of Public Health tracks violent deaths, including suicide. The most recent annual report, published in 2015, can be read here.


Below is a map of the State of Ohio from that report showing suicide rates by county.

“We’ve Got to Talk About These Things”

One aspect of the problems surrounding suicide in our country is the stigma placed on discussing the issue. Political strategist David Axelrod has recently discussed this part of the problem dramatically by recalling the suicide of his father. Many people we encounter daily have been impacted by suicide but seldom talk about it due to the uncomfortable feelings and misconceptions surrounding the topic. In the clip below, Axelrod discusses the importance of talking about the issue of suicide with Chris Cuomo in a recent interview:

So we need to talk. And we need to support our students and our fellow employees. If you have questions about how to handle things you see or hear regarding students or employees in crisis, do not keep these concerns to yourself. Reach out to our Counseling services or Public Safety using the information and resources above. I will end with one of my favorite quotes from Fred Rogers:

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Please let your students and colleagues know that the things we can talk about are things we can do something about.

Thank you,

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


What Time Is It?

Posted on June 26th, 2018

It’s time to fix the iconic clock on the south face of the Health Technologies building.

As you walk across campus, you may notice that the hands of our giant clock are missing. While the clock mechanism has been functioning properly, strong winds move the hands to the incorrect time. Due to the nature of the original clock design, moving the hands back to the correct time took a great deal of time and effort. Our Facilities crew did a great job of correcting the time on the clock, but this became a daunting battle with the old clock and Mother Nature.

NOTE: The large campus clock is housed on the same facade as our carillon, but the two are not mechanically/electronically connected. One of my first blog entries was on our Campus Carillon

In 2018, nearly all of our students, faculty and staff have the correct time with them at all times: on their phones. Still, if we are going to have a clock as a prominent part of our campus architecture, it needs to display the correct time. So if you have been ignoring the time on the campus clock, you’ll be able to count on it once again when the hands are returned. The work is being performed by Smith’s Bell and Clock Service, a firm that specializes in clock and bell tower repair.

Clocks on Campus

Clock and bell towers have been a prominent architectural feature on college campuses since the Middle Ages. The University of Toledo has its signature Bell Tower; the Bowen-Thompson Student Union at Bowling Green State University features an architectural clock in the facade. Because many community colleges were founded in the 1960s, the architectural element of a clock tower was a common design element of that time, as it tied these new college campuses with a centuries-old past of academic tradition. Some of these colleges, such as Lakeland Community College right here in Ohio, use the imagery of the clock tower as part of the institutional brand:

Special Thanks to Facilities and our Vendors

With Fiscal Year 2018 drawing to a close at the end of this week, I want to thank our teams in Facilities for all of the fantastic year-end work they have accomplished to make our campus a better place to work and learn. The Summer has been a very busy time of painting, carpeting and other important improvements across campus. Our goal is to make our campus an inviting and productive place to work and learn.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Ohio Presidents Conference / Washington DC

Posted on June 22nd, 2018

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to serve on the Host Committee for the Ohio Presidents Conference in the US Capitol Building, hosted by Senator Sherrod Brown. Senator Brown has hosted this conference for eleven years. While serving on the host committee was an honor, it was not a heavy lift: we helped the Senator’s staff set the agenda for the conference, which took place in the Senate Meeting Rooms in the Capitol. We also helped move the agenda along and introduce panels and speakers. I have family in DC, so I get there often, but it was quite a different matter to be representing the College at a meeting on Capitol Hill.

The first part of the meeting focused on how venture capital is shaping entrepreneurship and innovation efforts at colleges and universities. While much of this work happens at large research institutions, Lorain County Community College is quite a leader in this area through their LCCC Innovation Fund. The second part of the agenda brought together State and Federal partners on the important issues of access, accountability and affordability.

While Senator Brown hosts the event, both he and his staff make sure the conference is a thoughtful and non-partisan event. I was very impressed with the staff in the Senator’s office; this event is clearly something that the legislative delegation from Ohio takes very seriously. Congressman Latta attended and visited with us, and we heard from Senator Portman at length. It’s clear that the event is well regarded by policy makers in Congress.

Public and Private Institutions

Here in Ohio, I have many opportunities to spend time with the presidents of the other 22 community colleges, as well as a fair number of chances to work with public university presidents. Outside our immediate region, however, there are not many opportunities to get to know leaders from private institutions in Ohio. While Senator Brown does not invite presidents of for-profit colleges to participate in the conference, this session was very well attended by the leaders of the highly-regarded private, liberal arts colleges in our state. For example, I had excellent and intriguing discussions with the presidents of Kenyon College, and Oberlin College; the normal rhythm of our work in public-sector higher education does not often afford this opportunity.

Civility in Washington

One piece of “good news” that I have been sharing since I got back from DC is the very real sense of collegiality that I witnessed first hand in the US Capitol. Our group heard from and talked to Representatives and Senators from both parties. On this particular day, the national news about immigrant family separation on the border with Mexico was a very hot topic; the representatives of both parties talked about this issue openly and directly. They did not yell at one another or ridicule opposing viewpoints the way we have come to expect on TV or in social media.

I had the honor to introduce Senator Portman at the event. During his speech, he made a point of discussing legislation he had introduced with Senators from outside of his party. The “politics” of the policy that was discussed by members of Congress at this event were always handled with respect, civility and candor. Suffice it to say that the vitriol and nastiness we see on television is not universal. I was there and witnessed something much different first hand.

I came away from the conference very proud of the higher education environment in Ohio. Not only to we have excellent community colleges and state universities, but the private institutions in our state (many of which are extremely high profile colleges) make Ohio a great place to work in higher ed. In addition, Northwest Ohio was very well represented at the conference. Sharon Gaber from UT, Rodney Rogers from BGSU, and Mary Ann Gawalek from Lourdes were also in attendance.

I am already looking forward to the 12th annual conference next year.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Mission/Vision/Values: A Case Study

Posted on June 13th, 2018

During our amazing volleyball season, many of us became familiar with Lincoln Land Community College (Personally, I could not get the image of a tin can of Lincoln Logs out of my head when I thought of them, but we were fierce competitors then). A while back, I encouraged members of our college community to start poking around the Web for community college strategic planning information; I have been doing the same, and I thought I would share what Lincoln Land has published:

NOTE: I am not offering Lincoln Land up as a model for our strategic plan! It is a good case study, however, as the artifacts of their process really do represent a kind of “archetype” of what a normal/common practice would be for colleges that regularly engage in planning activities.

A few observations about what Lincoln Land has published here:

  1. In many ways, the mission/vision/values here reflect the “standard” for 2-year college planning. The mission statement is brief, yet it defines and differentiates the institution; the vision statement is aspirational and describes a desired future state for the college; the 5 values are reflective of the 2-year college mission. In short, these are “good” statements that reflect a typical community college.
  2. The college has a manageable number of goals (6), and these also reflect the national view of what quality community colleges should be doing. The goals also appear to be measurable. Divisions of the college that are driving toward these goals and keeping track of their progress would be adding value and helping to propel the college in a single, focused direction.
  3. There is a dashboard tool that runs in Adobe Acrobat; it was created in 2009, but it looks like it has not been updated since FY13 or calendar year 2015. At one point, these “balanced scorecard” or “strategic dashboard” approaches were the “killer app” in organizational planning. It’s not clear how much Lincoln Land uses this dashboard, or if it is kept up to date. I encourage you to play around with that tool. What do you think? I have attached a PDF “click through” document of what you see when you “drill in” to the data on the dashboard.

PDF “clickthrough” of Lincoln Land Dashboard

At some point in the near future, I encourage anyone interested in 2-year college planning to spend a little time looking at Lincoln Land as a case study. What do you think about this approach?

I’m excited to kick start this work in the Fall. IR has already completed the “mission statement” input form/survey, which we will deploy during Opening Week. After that, we will be facilitating 2-hour input sessions for internal and external stakeholders; these sessions will give participants an opportunity to provide input on the VISION (aspirational statement of a desired future state), and potential GOALS.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


P.S. A further note about dashboards. While these graphic representations of progress are cool, they are only worth building if they will be USED. There was a time when cutting edge colleges “had to have” a dashboard. Denise Smith and Anne Fulkerson are discussing the need for such a tool, and they have even talked to an external vendor that provides such services. It’s an open question if we “need” such a tool. Again, we don’t want to build one of these just to have it.

Aspen Top 10 College Mission Statements

Posted on May 25th, 2018

The mission statement for Owens Community College is over 15 years old. It first appeared in this form in the College’s 2002 Annual Report, and it has not been revised since. The current statement does not define or differentiate Owens Community College. A central part of our 2019-2021 strategic planning work will center on discussions of our mission with a variety of internal and external stakeholders.

NOTE: We will NOT be changing or revising the college tagline, “your success starts here.” This is a vital part of our identity that has taken decades to build here in our region.

But our mission statement needs to change to reflect the unique and important role we play in Northwest Ohio.

Benchmarking Community College Missions

As a quick benchmarking exercise, here are the mission statements for the 10 finalist colleges for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence that were announced earlier this month. These mission statements range in length from 11 words to 92 words, but all of them seek to define and differentiate the college. These statements are excellent models to consider as we move forward with our strategic planning process.

I have provided links to the mission, vision and values pages for these colleges (just click on the name of the college). Many of these pages also contain links to the current strategic plan for that institution. The colleges are listed in alphabetical order (as they are in the Aspen Prize press release).

Alamo Colleges District – Palo Alto College – San Antonio, TX

“To inspire, empower, and educate our community for leadership and success.”

Broward College – Fort Lauderdale, FL

“Transforming students’ lives and enriching our diverse community through academic excellence, innovation, and meaningful career opportunities.”

CUNY Kingsborough Community College – Brooklyn, NY

“Kingsborough Community College of The City University of New York is a comprehensive community college providing both liberal arts and career education. It is dedicated to promoting student learning and development as well as strengthening and serving its diverse community.”

Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, FL

“As a leader in education and innovation, Indian River State College transforms lives by offering high-quality, affordable and accessible education to the residents of Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties through traditional and online delivery. IRSC is a comprehensive college accredited to award Baccalaureate Degrees, Associate Degrees, and Career and Technical Certificates.”

Miami Dade College  – Miami, FL

“As democracy’s college, Miami Dade College changes lives through accessible, high-quality teaching and learning experiences. The College embraces its responsibility to serve as an economic, cultural and civic leader for the advancement of our diverse global community.”

Mitchell Technical Institute – Mitchell, SD

“It is the mission of Mitchell Technical Institute to provide skills for success in technical careers.”

Odessa College – Odessa, TX

“Odessa College shall lead the way in preparing its students and community for the future.  The College District offers exemplary courses, programs, and services to assist students in achieving their educational goals and becoming lifelong learners, community builders, and global citizens.  Odessa College shall empower its employees to model excellence in their service to students, colleagues, and the community.”

Pasadena City College – Pasadena, CA

“The mission of Pasadena City College is to provide a high quality, academically robust learning environment that encourages, supports and facilitates student learning and success. The College provides an academically rigorous and comprehensive curriculum for students pursuing educational and career goals as well as learning opportunities designed for individual development. The College is committed to providing access to higher education for members of the diverse communities within the District service area and to offering courses, programs, and other activities to enhance the economic conditions and the quality of life in these communities.”

Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom – Lakewood, WA

“Pierce College creates quality educational opportunities for a diverse community of learners to thrive in an evolving world.”

San Jacinto College – Pasadena, TX

“Our mission is to ensure student success, create seamless transitions and enrich the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

Another common feature of the mission statements from these highly-recognized colleges is that they are very specific to the region and context of the college itself. This will also be true of our new mission statement. Our new mission statement will need to be specific to Owens Community College; it will define and differentiate our institution in the context of our region, as well as the students and communities we serve.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Strategic Planning 2019-2021

Posted on May 23rd, 2018

It is time for Owens Community College to develop a multi-year, comprehensive strategic plan.

One of Stephen Covey’s famous 7 habits is “begin with the end in mind.” (That’s habit #2 if you have read the book). As we begin our strategic planning process for 2019-2021, I think it’s important that we start by describing what will come out of this process. So let’s start there:

We will present a 3-year strategic plan to the Board of Trustees at their February 26, 2019 retreat. Developed over an eight-month time period with extensive internal and external stakeholder input, this plan will outline refreshed mission, vision and values statements for Owens Community College, as well as a comprehensive set of strategic goals and metrics. 

That is the “end” result of the plan development, but the process will not end there. In fact, the Board adoption of the plan will just be the beginning.

In the coming months, many of my entries here on the President’s Blog will concern our strategic planning process. This process will be a great deal of work, but it will also be incredibly engaging. Having done this many times, I can tell you that the conversations we are about to have regarding the future of Owens Community College will be exciting. Our work on the strategic planning process will fall into three phases.

Phase I: Planning & Organization (May – August 2018)

During this first phase, we will begin “planning to plan.” In other words, we will be building the infrastructure and capacity to conduct our planning process. Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. Owens has an existing set of mission, vision and values statements. We also have an existing set of Strategic Priorities for fiscal year 2018. The mission, vision and values are quite old, however, and the strategic priorities were developed with a very small number of stakeholders. Both will need to be refreshed, and a great deal of internal, external and community-specific stakeholders will need to be engaged to create a quality 2019-2021 plan. The official start of that “Phase II” part of the process will be opening week of the 2018-2019 academic year at the end of August.

Phase II: Stakeholder Engagement (September – November 2018)

One of the most important things we are currently planning in Phase I is the structure of our internal and external stakeholder engagement activities. For me, this is what I call “the fun part.” Internally, we will lead very focused sessions that ask our employees to engage two large strategic questions: “What are your hopes and dreams for Owens in the future?” and “What are the most pressing organizational goals for Owens in the next three years?” These discussions will take place on campus during work hours as part of our daily routine. We are currently planning for the structure, facilitation and schedule of these events. My goal is to engage every employee who wants to play a role in shaping our future in this process. We will also be scheduling similar stakeholder events for the community. This will take place across our service district in locations such as public libraries, city council chambers, fire halls, etc. I have worked on numerous community engagement projects such as these. Not only are the events interesting and fun, but they also promote dialogue and good will about our College.

Phase III: Analysis, Formulation & Adoption (December 2018 – February 2019)

By Thanksgiving 2018 (November 22), the majority of the stakeholder engagement activity will have been completed. We will then have a great deal of data and input, and the work to analyze and synthesize what we have learned will begin. The work to revise and update our mission statement, along with the vision and values statements will take place during this phase. Goals will be thematically grouped into categories (similar to the Strategic Priorities document that is currently in place). Very important in this process will be the assignment of metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that will allow us to assess our progress toward the new goals during the 2019-2021 timeframe. Drafts of these statements and goals will be posted for review, and the Board will see a “first reading” of a proposed plan at the regular Board meeting in February. The “begin with the end in mind” goal is to present a final 2019-2021 Strategic Plan to the Board of Trustees for their consideration and possible adoption on February 26, 2019.

I realize that this seems like a great deal of work. Owens Community College has gone for a considerable amount of time without a formal, multi-year, comprehensive strategic plan. I am excited to move forward with this busy but engaging part of our journey together. The planning process will bring with it a great deal of dialogue, soul searching, and introspection. Most importantly, it will be an opportunity for us to ask ourselves and the students and communities we serve what should be and what we should do.

And I am quite serious when I say it is going to be fun. I look forward to working with you on this very important process.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Indispensable Partner

Posted on May 21st, 2018

I was recently asked to submit a very brief guest column in the Toledo Business Journal. I thought I would post my short, 530-word column here on the blog. The audience for this piece is business owners in our region. Our graduates and the participants in our many workforce training programs are vital to the economic vitality of Northwest Ohio. In this column, I attempt to highlight our strength of corporate training and workforce development; I also encourage business leaders to reach out to us for their higher education and workforce training needs.

The phrase “indispensable partner” is something that came out of the focus group work during the presidential search. Because I was a candidate, I did not participate in those forums. But that phrase is a fantastic way to express one portion of our vision for the future. As we work to help our region with important social and economic issues such as college affordability, degree attainment and workforce development, we want our local partners to say “thank goodness we have Owens Community College,” or perhaps “What would we do without Owens Community College?”

TBJ Workforce Update – June 2018

In the paragraph about corporate training, I tell a real story about the grand opening of the Dana Toledo Driveline facility. Because the Toledo Business Journal is a trade publication, I decided not to name the corporation in the article, but I feel it is appropriate to discuss it here. Our team was so proud to hear the Dana executives describe how crucial their partnership with Owens Community College was for the successful launch of their facility. Many months earlier, we traveled to an existing Dana facility in Dry Ridge, Kentucky to help design their pre-employment assessment and onboarding. Working with Dana’s HR and plant management team, Owens was truly an “indispensable partner” for Dana.


Here is the text of my guest column:


Your Workforce Success Starts Here:

Owens Community College seeks to be an indispensable partner for our region.

As the newly-appointed president of Owens Community College, I am delighted to serve the students, communities and businesses of Northwest Ohio. Because I am not new to the College, I have had the privilege to work with a wide variety of corporations and organizations for a number of years here in Northwest Ohio. For over fifty years, Owens has played a pivotal role in the economic development of our region. Our graduates are critical to the schools, hospitals, businesses and agencies that make our community thrive. We strive to be an engine of workforce development that prepares our students for in-demand jobs and fosters innovative solutions to the issues facing our region.

As one of Ohio’s 23 public two-year colleges, Owens is proud to be the community college for the entirety of Lucas, Wood, and Hancock counties, as well as school districts in Ottawa and Sandusky counties, which comprise our legal service district. We are proud to be your community college.

A vital part of our vision for Owens Community College is to be an indispensable partner for the success of Northwest Ohio. We want to work with you.

Corporate Training

One particular strength of Owens is our Workforce and Community Services (WCS) division, which works directly with companies to strengthen and develop their workforce. Given the workforce demands currently placed on our community partners, WCS provides vital support for interview events, onboarding, and pre-employment assessment. At a recent grand opening of a major manufacturing facility here in the region, I sat with pride as a number of corporate leaders spoke about our teams at Owens from the podium. They commented on the quality of our workforce support for the launch of their facility, and several company leaders said they could not have executed their work so quickly and efficiently without the help of Owens Community College. It is our goal to replicate those experiences across the region and become the indispensable partner our community needs.

Strategic Planning.

During the Fall of 2018, our team at Owens Community College will be launching a strategic planning process. We need the input of our local businesses as we formulate our goals for the next several years. In the weeks ahead, I look forward to speaking with many of you and gaining your input about our future direction and priorities. Your insight and perspective will be critical as we develop a 2019-2022 strategic plan. As we work to craft our strategic plan and vision for the future, I ask that you and your business become involved in the community stakeholder events that will take place in the Fall of 2018. If you are able, we would love your input on the programs and services that impact your industry. We value the input of our business and community partners who serve on program advisory groups that help keep our programs current. I would be delighted to hear from you directly:

I ask that you help craft our vision for the future as we work together to help our region thrive.

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

Community College Month 2018

Posted on April 30th, 2018

As Community College Month draws to a close, most of us here at Owens are preparing for commencement exercises on Friday, May 4. This is my absolute favorite time of year. The many awards ceremonies, Police Academy graduation ceremonies, Nurse’s pinnings, the Honors Symposium… the days are filled with celebration of our students’ success and the great work our faculty and staff have done during the semester.

One piece of Community College Month that seems to be different in 2018 has to do with something that has troubled me for a long time: the uninformed stigma against community colleges.

Community College Stigma

During many on-campus presentations and a number of talks in the community, I have shared my view on the unfair stereotypes of two-year colleges in the United States. I use two examples from my own history and career. I grew up near another OCC, which some of the local high school kids called “Only Chance College.” I taught my very first community college class at LCC, which the kids called “Last Chance College.” Many (if not most) community colleges have a pejorative nickname. A few people have shared with me the disparaging name given to Owens (though I must say that I have only heard this from Owens employees–I’ve never heard it out in the community, and I refuse to even repeat it for the reasons below).

In my experience, people create nasty nicknames for people and things they do not understand. As community colleges, we have excellent faculty, highly transferrable courses, and quality facilities. We need to do a better job of telling our story. What I find different about 2018 is that our story seems to be taking hold in the national media. In the space of a week, I noticed prominent stories in national news outlets such as NPR, The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Consider the following recent Wall Street Journal headlines:

Then there is my favorite headline from the Dallas Morning News by Bethany Reed:

No, we can’t. In her article, Reed does what I think we all should do in our own spheres of influence: tell our story wherever we go. Her article pushes back against what she calls the bias against community colleges by recounting four real and recent conversations she had in her daily life. This is something everyone in our college community has the ability to do. I am sure that many of you do this already, but I encourage everyone here at Owens to tell our stories outside of campus.

Returning to Reed’s headline, the idea that we “cannot afford” to be snobs about community colleges is supported by evidence. It is well known that important skilled trades jobs go unfilled in most regions of the country. We are literally paying a price in terms of lost productivity and social mobility by thinking of community college as a “lesser than” option after high school. And there is even greater evidence that this thinking is simply wrong. Consider this interesting graph from a recent publication of the National Center for Education Statistics:

Not only do students who earn an occupational credential have a higher employment rate; they also have a significantly higher likelihood of working in a job that is related to their field of study.

I am a firm believer in the value of the bachelor’s degree, and a central part of our mission at Owens Community College will always be to prepare university-bound students for successful transfer. That is a central part of who we are as a comprehensive community college. But equally important is the other part of our mission: directly preparing students for the workforce through certificates and degrees, as well as non-credit and corporate training. That is also a central part of who we are as an institution that was founded as a technical college.

As employees, we should never miss an opportunity to tell our story for both of these core missions at which we excel. And that is something we should do not just during April and Community College Month, but year round.

See you at graduation!

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.