State of the College 2016

Dr. Kolovani delivered these remarks at the Fall 2016 Convocation, held August 19, 2016.

August 2013 was just 3 short years ago – although it seems longer, doesn’t it? I stood on this spot and outlined a strategic plan for the college called One College, One Voice, One Future. A strategic plan to which more than 400 TCC employees contributed their thoughts and ideas.

For those of you who weren’t here then, we used a process called Appreciative Inquiry, which calls on us to recognize our strengths and build on them. The strengths TCC’s employees identified were dedication, innovation, and collaboration.

Out of that strategic plan grew lists of annual working priorities as long as my arm. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by everything we have to do, and I’m sure you feel that way, too.

Strategic Enrollment Management. Process-mapping and action registries. Realignment of our academic programs. Restructuring of Workforce Solutions. A new website.

On top of that, it’s been a tough year, and we face another tough year.

I am switching the normal approach from Appreciative Inquiry, where we focus on the positive, to setting the context of our environment with the bad news items first. I will then move to the good news items to demonstrate that even in the midst of bad news the college staff are committed to doing great work!

Enrollment remains in the doldrums – with the start of classes Monday, we are still short more than 1,000 FTEs compared to last fall. We are fighting the same trends all community colleges are fighting. Fewer people are attending college generally. There are fewer high school seniors.

Enrollment at Virginia’s Community Colleges is down overall 5.9%, with 16 of the 23 colleges in the red. I’ll be talking in a little while about actions we have taken to reverse this trend and glimmers of hope we have seen.

Lower enrollment means we are collecting less tuition. Since 2012, our 25% drop in enrollment has cost us $17 million in tuition revenue.

The Executive Staff and I have had nearly half a dozen meetings over the last two months about budget cutting measures. Later on this morning, I will send more details to everyone about the specifics.

For the presentation this morning I am doing the highlights: We are cutting the 2016-17 budget by some seven million dollars by freezing or eliminating vacant positions; reducing operational costs; and barring out-of-state travel for everyone, myself included.

Our faculty and staff picnic, which costs in the range of $30,000, was a casualty of our tighter circumstances. We will be eliminating or curtailing special events. And I have asked for an analysis of our utility costs and possible strategies to reduce those. In the spirit of that, I am calling on all of you turn out lights when you leave your office or classroom.

We’ve also slimmed down the size of the Executive Staff by not filling vacancies and asking some to do double duty.

In order to support student-focused services on the campuses, in what I have called “putting more boots on the ground,” some staff members from District, and other areas of the college, are being redeployed. We’re doing everything we can to avoid the need for layoffs.

Similar to what the VCCS is undertaking, namely to move transactional activities to the Shared Services Center and deploying technology to replace manual and paper driven transaction, TCC has initiated several actions in this regard as well, freeing up staff time to concentrate on transformational changes that are geared to improve efficiency, save money and increase effectiveness.

For example, the travel approval process, which Phyllis [Milloy’s] staff developed, has resulted in a 60% improvement in time to completion and has saved us thousands of dollars in paper.

Fiscal 2017 also brings a new funding model for Virginia’s Community Colleges. Previously, our funding was based on a three-year average of FTE enrollment plus tuition.

This is the first year a portion of our funding will be based on student outcomes. Each year, the percentage of our General Fund money based on student outcomes increases.

Here is where you can see how critical it is that we keep working on Strategic Enrollment Management.

Despite these funding challenges, TCC must continue to be an economic driver in South Hampton Roads.

An upcoming Major Gifts Campaign will call on the community to support greater access to TCC by helping us lower financial barriers for students, such as through scholarships.

It will also help us expand academic programs and infrastructure targeted to local industry needs.

A feasibility study has been initiated through our Education Foundation, the results of which will guide our fundraising efforts. The campaign will launch in 2017, and I look forward to telling you much more about it through the website and through open forums.

But the most important thing we can accomplish this year is to retain our regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

A critical piece of our reaffirmation is the Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP. Our QEP is called P.A.C.E.--Progressive Academic and Career Experience. More on that a little later.

For now, I just want you to remember that P.A.C.E. is our QEP. Its goal is to improve students’ decision-making in their career and academic choices, and to ensure they are prepared for their eventual careers.

The SACSCOC site team will be here October 17th through October 20th, and you may be asked by one of them, “What do you know about TCC’s QEP?” Our students may be asked, too.

I ask you to familiarize yourself with P.A.C.E., and to familiarize your students. To help in that effort, a short video has been created, and I’ll show it to you right now.

Show it in your orientations. Show it in your classes. Show it in your meetings. I want to see this video be one of the most-viewed on our YouTube channel!

In the midst of preparing for SACSCOC and the QEP, we suffered the identity theft incident in March, in which W-2 data of all 3,000-plus TCC employees were exposed through a spear-phishing scam.

All of us have been affected, and I’m sure some of you are still dealing with the after-effects. Cyber crime is a fact of life these days.

Christine Damrose-Mahlmann, the college’s privacy officer, has been keeping you updated on our efforts to improve information security to avoid another incident like this.

The Identity Theft FAQ page on continues to be updated. To provide maximum transparency, we established a public dashboard on that holds us accountable for completing the actions that we said we would take.

Both the FAQ and the dashboard are linked from the Faculty & Staff Resources page on

Now, you might expect that challenges like these would distract us from our priorities. You would be wrong, because we have persevered.

Still, when you’re in the weeds, as we have been, you sometimes stop and wonder: Have we made a difference? Have we moved the needle on our strategic plan goals? Has it been all activity and no outcomes?

With 2 years remaining on the 2013-2018 strategic plan, I want to use my time this morning to show you that, yes – we are moving the needle – and to celebrate the hard work that you have devoted to it.

Strategic Enrollment Management remains Goal 1, Objective 1 of our Strategic Plan. And great progress has been made this past year.

Action items for Phase I, prospect to applicant, included the creation of standardized and attractive college-wide materials highlighting our programs.

The new Customer Relationship Management software, which will help us streamline and track our touches with prospects, will be implemented this year.

We have improved the responsiveness of the Information Center during peak enrollment by training volunteers to answer questions from new and prospective students.

Phase II action items are intended to transition applicants to students. Here are a few of them: A new college-wide TCC Guidebook is being provided to all students at orientation.

The TCC Educational Foundation implemented AcademicWorks, an online scholarship application portal. We saw an increase from roughly 3,000 scholarship applications for the entire previous academic year to 8,000 just for the Fall 2016 cycle. Admission letters were revised to be easier to read and provide clear next steps.

Now we’re into Phase III, Student to Completer. There are three components: Academic Structure, Class Scheduling, and Guided Pathways. Recognizing that many students come to TCC without a clear idea of their goals or course of study, we simplified their choices.

We aligned our academic programs into 9 meta-majors, or career pathways. The next step is to develop default curricula for each of the pathways so that students don’t waste time and money on courses that they don’t need and that are not eligible for financial aid.

If we do that successfully, more students will graduate with valuable credentials.

Keeping the SEM initiative moving, many employees from Advancement, Public Affairs and Communications, OIS and a host of other departments took part this year in process mapping for Phase IV, Completer to Alumnus and Donor.

Through all of the phases, hundreds of action items are being worked on by dozens of you. You are so committed to this initiative, you do your jobs, and then go above and beyond to make a difference in unifying the college’s practices.

Martin Herrera is one of those. Martin, who happens to be a TCC alumnus, is veterans service coordinator on our Virginia Beach Campus.

As part of the core team of trained and dedicated facilitators and process-mappers, he goes above and beyond his day-to-day activities to help TCC achieve its strategic objectives.

In deconstructing existing processes, Martin and his colleagues challenge stakeholders on their assumptions, ask tough questions, and achieve consensus on the best way forward – always with student success at the forefront.

Goal 1 Objective 4 of the strategic plan calls on us to “review and refine policies and practices that impact student advancement and successful goal achievement.” How TCC scheduled classes was clearly an area ripe for review and refinement!

Historically, classes were scheduled by each of the 16 academic divisions.

Students sometimes couldn’t find what they needed to progress in their academic program. Classes were canceled or rescheduled based on practices at individual campuses.

That made for complex processes that – to make matters worse – were not written down anywhere.

With a team of 4 facilitators, Martin led a session on the Portsmouth Campus that gathered deans, provosts, faculty, and staff. The group identified the common steps involved in developing class schedules across the college BEFORE they are published each semester.

In June, the Executive Staff approved the college’s first-ever policy to govern class scheduling. The policy is designed to:

  • ensure students can complete a program of study as prescribed in the college catalog;
  • limit the need for course waivers and substitutions;
  • minimize time conflicts in class offerings across divisions and campuses; and
  • make the most efficient and effective use of instructional time and learning spaces while maintaining flexibility to accommodate unique needs and circumstances.

This new policy is a clear win for SEM Phase III. Is it perfect? No. A process can always be improved. But Martin and our other process-mappers will be there to help.

Goal 2 of our strategic plan is Innovation through Collaboration. Objective 2 under that goal is to “create a culture of collaboration and innovation to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.”

One of the hallmarks of collaboration is the belief that “we’re all in this together.” That kind of thinking is powerful. It tears down silos and brings our campuses closer together.

An example of innovation and collaboration is found on our Norfolk Campus. Just a year ago, Provost Jeff Boyd and I decided to try something new at TCC, an associate degree that could be completed within 12 months instead of 2 years. It would be the first in Virginia.

I’m very proud of all who came together to make this happen: deans, faculty, financial aid, veterans affairs, advising and counseling.

They developed the content, including electives because these students would have less flexibility. They had to make a traditional semester schedule work with the program, which is based mostly on 12-week sessions. They had to make it work for financial aid; the students in this program started in July, and summer is not usually a time when students receive financial aid.

Even the application process was different, with students required to write essays.

All of this didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of people like Cassandra Small, the special projects coordinator for Norfolk. All of the applications and questions came to her, and it was Cassandra who kept the program moving and growing.

Cassandra will tell you that she didn’t do it alone. I can tell you about another Norfolk staff member who helped improve the program after it had already started.

Lead counselor Kia Hardy teaches SDV for the program. Some of the students came to her saying they had hoped to pursue science, but the accelerated General Studies degree is more liberal arts.

Rather than lose those students, Kia worked with Dean Kerry Ragno to put together a schedule that includes more biology, chemistry, pre-calculus and statistics – and they will finish the A.S. in Science only a few weeks after their cohort.

Cassandra and Kia are pleased that, going forward, the accelerated degree will meet the needs of liberal arts and science students.

What are the results?

The first cohort is 19 students from across our service area, including 11 new high school graduates. Here are 19 high-caliber, full-time students whom we might not otherwise have enrolled – in fact most of the high school graduates had already been accepted to four-year schools. This is how we will rebuild enrollment, one success at a time.

You’ve heard a lot of talk these past two years about reaffirmation of our accreditation by SACSCOC. We go through this every 10 years in order to retain our regional accreditation, without which – well, I just don’t want to think about the negative implications of the college being sanctioned by SACSCOC.

There’s a lot involved. I might start by describing the meticulous process of crafting the all-important Compliance Certification document, in which we demonstrate how TCC meets each of the Core Requirements, Comprehensive Standards, and Federal Regulations as presented in SACS’ Principles of Accreditation.

I might also tell you about the hundreds of hours that have gone into the identification and development of our QEP to improve student advising, completion and career preparation.

Literally dozens of people have taken on extra work to make these things happen. I can’t tell you about all of them, but I can tell you about one: librarian Olivia Reinauer.

Olivia’s routine duties include teaching information literacy; serving students and other library patrons; selecting information resources to support the curriculum; supporting faculty; and assisting with the supervision of library staff.

But it’s her role on the college-wide Library Instruction Team, which is responsible for the assessment and improvement of student information literacy skills, that I wanted to highlight today.

Now, why is this important? Ensuring our students graduate with proficiency in information literacy is one of the core competencies of general education for which we as a college are held accountable. It’s spelled out in the SACSCOC Compliance Report for Libraries.

The Library Instruction Team had to map hundreds of courses across our programs to identify and improve the ones that were underserved in terms of meeting the requirements for information literacy.

Olivia developed the methodology for the mapping. She shared it with the team members, who then mapped the courses on their respective campuses.

They found gaps, largely in our certificate programs, which could have negatively impacted our reaffirmation. Those gaps, Olivia said, “made us as librarians aware where we need to do more outreach.”

In addition, the team came up with learning objectives for the library instruction sessions they provide our English and SDV students. Now they administer pre- and post-tests, quantifying student learning and demonstrating the effectiveness of their instruction. And as you have heard time and again, SACSCOC is all about quantifiable outcomes.

The QEP, as I mentioned, is a major element in our reaffirmation process. Ten years ago, the QEP gave us First Year Success. This time, it’s P.A.C.E., Progressive Academic and Career Experience.

The focus is on improving our students’ career readiness – which, in fact, aligns with Goal 1 Objective 3 of our strategic plan: To “meet the occupational needs of the region for a highly skilled and educated workforce through credential achievement.” The QEP aligns with the college’s Guided Pathways effort, too.

I can’t say enough about our faculty, who have collaborated across campuses and academic divisions to align our academic programs into career pathways.

Your work ensures that credits students earn in certificate programs apply to their associate degree. Over 90 percent of our certificate programs are now “stackable.”

Among the many faculty stories I could tell is that of Megan Taliaferro, who as program head for the new veterinary assistant program, has worked quickly and tirelessly to establish internships for her students at local veterinary practices.

I might also tell you about Chris Cartwright, who is improving the career prospects of our civil engineering technology students. Chris developed an articulation agreement with Eastern Tennessee State’s bachelor’s program, opening a pathway where one didn’t exist.

Good news for our students: They will pay what Tennessee residents pay for tuition, and they can complete the program entirely online.

But, I don’t have time to tell you about everyone, so I will tell you about one.

This year, we were designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense – which represents great progress toward achieving Goal 1 Objective 3.

Before most of us had ever heard of cybersecurity or hacking or cyber warfare, Rob Guess was the head of what was then called the network security program.

Early on, Rob identified cybersecurity as a field in which TCC could distinguish itself, especially because our region is home to the world’s largest Navy base and a global shipping destination.

Today, cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing career fields – Virginia alone has 17,000 job openings.

Rob saw all along that our curriculum needed to align with national standards for cybersecurity established and maintained by the National Institute for Standards and Technology and National Security Agency.

And when NSA and Homeland Security expanded their national centers of academic excellence program to include two-year colleges, he was practically the first in line with TCC’s application.

Rob’s expertise and effort – and that of the cybersecurity faculty – in the planning and submission of the application were key to the successful acquisition of this esteemed designation for the college.

Rob is proud of this achievement, and so am I. Just a few days ago, he presented me with the official CAE2Y certificate.

But wait! There’s more.

Collaborating again with Todd Estes of the Apprenticeship Institute, Bill Clement and our industry partners, they created the first Department of Labor-registered cybersecurity apprenticeship in Virginia. It may be the first in the nation.

These individuals are just a few examples of how all of us are working together to make TCC the best learning experience for our students. Through them, I’m recognizing each of you.

Back in 2013, you set lofty goals for this institution – yes, you did that, through Appreciative Inquiry. I wanted to show you this morning that you are moving the needle. You are making a difference. You are making TCC stronger and ensuring its continued relevance to the Hampton Roads community.

It has been a difficult year – one that I don’t care to repeat. While we are busy fixing our processes, working to grow our enrollment once again, and nailing down reaffirmation, don’t lose sight of the progress we are making.

I call on all of you to keep in mind the Rotary motto of Service Above Self in all that we do as public servants and in service to our students, and to follow the Four-Way Test:

  1. Is it the Truth?
  2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendship?
  4. Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?

I thank each and every one of you for your service and contributions to the success of students.

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