April 28, 2011

SIUC, community colleges focus on student success

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the region’s community colleges are forging stronger links in an effort to enhance student access and success.

Chancellor Rita Cheng hosted an SIUC/Community College Retreat on April 20. Cheng made initial visits to five community college campuses last fall, and she scheduled the retreat to expand discussions about transfer student initiatives, distance learning, and other related topics. In addition to Cheng and various SIUC officials, representatives of John A. Logan College, Rend Lake College, Kaskaskia College, Shawnee Community College and Southeastern Illinois College participated.

George Reid, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and Elaine Johnson, vice president of academic affairs and workforce development for the Illinois Community College Board, presented what Cheng referred to as “the big picture” regarding key higher education trends and issues in the state, including the move toward performance-based funding.

“This meeting was a response to what I heard during my visits with our community college partners about the need for closer collaboration,” Cheng said. “The outcome was that we have a clearer understanding of what’s working well and what we want to expand. We also identified areas we still need to work on, particularly with local high schools, principal cohorts and teacher training.”

Among the keys to enhanced student access and success are the SIUC Service Centers, which opened in 2007 at each of the community colleges. Coordinators from the service centers, who participated in the retreat, will be able to admit transfer students to SIUC on-site. In addition, they will teach the Saluki 101 course at each of the colleges. That course helps students better understand the academic expectations at a research university, and familiarizes them with available resources and the campus environment.

Officials from SIUC and the community colleges also have been working together to create new distance learning opportunities. Beginning this summer, SIUC will offer 10 distance education courses at Shawnee Community College, both online and on-site at Shawnee’s Anna and Metropolis centers, through the “Southern@Shawnee” initiative. This will enable students to begin making progress toward their major requirements for their bachelor’s degree while still attending Shawnee. In addition, if students maintain continuous enrollment in SIUC courses, they will lock in tuition at the current rate.

Shawnee President Larry Peterson said he is excited by the new sense of engagement.

“I got the feeling there are some real efforts under way at SIUC to reach out to the community colleges,” he said. “We are particularly excited with the Southern@Shawnee program. Our next step will be to monitor that, see how it goes, what does and doesn’t work, and then tweak it however we need to get SIUC more engaged in our southern five counties.”

A similar agreement is in place with Kaskaskia College. Five online courses will be available through “Southern@Kaskaskia” next fall.

“We are extremely interested in expanding the programs to cover all of our partner community colleges,” noted John Nicklow, interim assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management at SIUC.

In addition to presentations about service centers, transfer initiatives and distance education, the community college participants also learned more about Saluki First Year, SIUC’s new University College model and the University Core Curriculum.

“Transfer students are an integral part of SIUC’s student profile -- indeed, many programs graduate predominantly transfer students -- and we are eager to serve the particular needs of this population,” Mark Amos, director of Saluki First Year, said.

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, assistant provost for University College and director of University Housing, said the retreat symbolized “the positive partnerships that have been formed between the Southern Illinois community colleges and SIUC.”

“It was clear that SIUC has been listening to the needs and concerns of our community college partners and their students,” she added. “Our hope is to create purposeful links between our complimentary missions so that we can all best serve both students and communities in Southern Illinois.”

Community college participants in the retreat included:

• John A. Logan College: Robert Mees, president; Julia Schroeder, vice president for instruction; Tim Daugherty, vice president for administration; Deborah Payne, dean for instruction; Terry Crain, dean for student services; Mary Finley, SIUC Service Center coordinator.

• Rend Lake College: Christina Kuberski, vice president of academic instruction, and Lisa Price, dean of student services.

• Kaskaskia College: Sedgwick Harris, vice president student services; Steven Cox, coordinator of advising; Suzanne Reese, SIUC Service Center coordinator.

• Shawnee Community College: Larry Peterson, president; Tim Bellamey, vice president of instructional services; Carolyn Kindle, vice president of student services; Jean Ellen Boyd, dean of instructional services; Dee Blakely, dean of student services; Jeff McGoy, director of student support services; Sarita Robinson, SIUC Service Center associate coordinator.

• Southeastern Illinois College: Jonah Rice, president; Dana Keating, vice president for academic affairs; JoAnna Lane, SIUC Service Center coordinator.