Presidents strategy for student success

MARIETTA, Ohio (Dec. 12, 2017) –Since assuming the helm at Washington State Community College (WSCC) less than six months ago, President Dr. Vicky Wood has worked tirelessly to guide the College toward continued growth–bolstering the institution’s focus on student success.

When she arrived on July 1, Wood immediately began strategizing with faculty, staff, and community leaders to envision the future of the college. “My first five months at WSCC have been extremely busy,” said Wood. “I tried to share my time among getting to know the employees and Board of Trustees, meeting with community leaders, and getting involved with civic and community organizations.”

As president, one of Wood’s first priorities was to evaluate the institution’s 2016-2017 goals along with the outcomes related to those goals. As a next step, she worked with college personnel to fine-tune the goals for the 2017-18 academic year. She introduced the institution to the 4 Disciplines of Execution, or 4DX, a formula for executing the most important strategic priorities in order to see results.

For two days, WSCC’s leadership team reviewed data, discussed institutional opportunities, and determined the most critical strategies needed to advance student access and success. Ultimately, the team outlined four strategic priorities: improving student success, increasing student access to education, increasing community engagement, and expanding workforce development. In the spirit of the 4DX model, Wood helped align the College with its main strategic focus for the year: increasing term-to-term retention specifically targeting course completion.

Wood is confident of the College’s ability to meet these goals.“One of our greatest strengths at WSCC is our faculty and staff who are committed to student success,” said Wood. “Our quality faculty not only have academic credentials but many also have work experience in their field; and they go above and beyond to connect with our students. There isn’t a day that I walk around campus without seeing a faculty member having a one-on-one discussion with a student.”

Wood also emphasized the value of having a strong, actively engaged Board of Trustees who are committed to the College. She explained the community’s support of the College and the willingness to help the institution advance its mission positively impacts WSCC’s ability to touch so many lives in the area.

Since her arrival, Wood has spent a great deal of time getting to know the institutional culture and overseeing several major projects for the college. In September, the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education announced a revised reciprocity agreement with the state of West Virginia, which provides residents in twelve WV counties with low in-state tuition rates for all courses and programs. Then in October, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) visited campus for a reaffirmation of accreditation. Overall enrollment at WSCC has also stabilized and is showing growth. In fact, fall 2017 was the largest fall term in overall headcount since 2012.

Wood has also been working with college leadership to expand the WSCC Foundation, including conducting a feasibility study and purchasing Blackbaud, a nonprofit fundraising software program. WSCC is also in active discussions with Marietta College to build a clear transfer pathway for students to earn their bachelor’s degree.

Looking to the future, Wood has already established plans for the institution to explore several new strategic initiatives. These include the creation of new programs, along with the redesign of existing programs, to meet workforce needs. The College will also be focused on creating programs tailored to the unique needs of the adult learner. By doing so, WSCC expects to help more adults graduate from college and connect with careers that will allow them to make a livable wage. Additionally, WSCC will focus on strengthening relationships with area high schools and other partners to improve access to higher education opportunities within our community. Ultimately, these initiatives will aid in the improvement of the community’s economy.

As a community college graduate herself, Wood has a deep appreciation for the value of the community college experience. And after 30 years in higher education and her new position as WSCC president, she still prides herself in her quest for knowledge and growth. In spring 2017, Wood was one of 40 individuals in the nation selected for the 2017-2018 Aspen Presidential Fellowship. Applicants who pass the highly competitive selection process enter into a year-long fellowship that includes residential seminars, a capstone project and mentorship with exceptional, nationally recognized current or former community college presidents. Aspen Fellows work to advance higher education practices, policies and leadership in ways that help institutions of higher education make the choices that matter most to improving student outcomes that define student success.

“The Aspen organization is focused on higher education policy, best practices, and sharing what different states are doing to advance student success from a national perspective,” said Wood. “This has been an exceptional educational experience. I’m able to take this valuable information, apply it here on our campus, and then see it successfully unfold firsthand.”

Among her aspirations for WSCC, Wood would like to see the College be in the Aspen Institute Top 150 Community Colleges, an honor that recognizes institutions that achieve exceptional levels of success for all students, while they are in college and after they graduate.

“Washington State Community College is working to align itself with some of the most promising practices in the nation related to student success,” she said. “The strategies we are implementing will positively impact student access and success.”

For more than 45 years, Washington State Community College has provided residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley the opportunity to realize dreams, to enhance skills, and to broaden understanding. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or an adult student looking to move your life in a new direction, Washington State has the classes to suit your needs. For more information about Washington State Community College, visit www.wscc.edu or call 740.374.8716.