Columbia’s top administration addressed pressing topics including curriculum improvements, the second year of the Strategic Plan and rebranding at this years Faculty and Staff Convocation.
President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim, Senior Vice President & Provost Stan Wearden and Vice President of Marketing Communication Deborah Maue led the Convocation, held Sept. 16 in the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building, who discussed the Strategic Plan’s first year of work and addressed other concerns.
“We are all here because we have a deep belief in the importance, the value, the richness of our institution and would love to see a future in which this college achieves a higher state of thriving,” Kim said.
Kim added that he does not mean the college is not thriving, but it is operating in a challenging, creative time.
“There are clearly members of our community who don’t understand the difference between crisis and challenge,” Kim said. “A crisis is the moment when an institution loses the ability to stay focused on where it is trying to go, loses the ability to make rational, logical decisions and has to respond in some terrified manner.”
Kim emphasized the college is not at crisis stage, but acknowledged challenges being faced, including the lack of understanding of Columbia’s message to the community.
“One, the world doesn’t understand the quality of what we offer and, [two], the quality of what we offer is not yet consistently at a high enough level,” Kim said.
As reported on Page 3, the college created a rebranding plan over the past year, which Maue presented to employees during the event.
According to Maue, the term “brand” tends to get thrown around and used interchangeably with “logo” or “tagline,” but she emphasized it is much more than that.
“Our brand is the promise we make to prospective students about what they will get if they come to Columbia,” Maue said. “Everything we do is about executing on that brand, not only advertising, not only communication but program delivering and the experience students have when they’re on our campus.”
The purpose of the gathering was to bring the college community up to date on what is currently going on with the Strategic Plan, what has been accomplished and where the colleges administration intend to take the college this year, Kim said.
According to Wearden, the college’s retention rate has gone up by three percentage points from the previous year. He added that progress has been made in the curriculum thanks to new network and wireless upgrades and student support services.
Wearden said with the creation of the new Career Center, the college is closer to its goal of having internships available for all students.
“That’s not going to happen overnight, but that is the goal, and that goes along with the idea that we need to focus on employability,” Wearden added. “We need to make sure our students have rich and fulfilling lives, but also that they’re able to support themselves in meaningful ways that make them happy, and the Career Center is a huge step in that direction.”
Wearden also emphasized the hiring of new staff members, including Vice Provost for Digital Learning Robert Green.
According to Wearden, Green is helping the college phase out Moodle, the current online learning management system.
Wearden said Green will work with the Digital Learning office to offer new online courses in order to prevent students from seeking credits elsewhere.
“There’s an opportunity through digital learning to recapture those students and courses and to recapture those tuition dollars, particularly in the summer,” Wearden said. “Rob and his team have already begun selecting some courses we know, based on data, students are taking in large numbers elsewhere and transferring to us.”
Wearden said that the question faculty and staff need to be asking among themselves is whether or not Columbia’s current structure is serving the students in the best possible way. By asking this question, Wearden said he hopes the right changes can then be made moving forward.
Faculty Senate President and associate professor in the Photography Department Greg Foster-Rice said having information regarding the Strategic Plan and its updates available to all faculty, staff and students would be beneficial.
“It’d be great to make sure this reaches a wider audience,” Foster-Rice said. “These kinds of presentations provide some clarity for the strategic direction of the college, the opportunities we have as a college for moving forward and the ways to address being a college in the 21st century. It’s great for us to have that information, so we can all feel a part of the movement forward.”