State of the College 2017

Dr. Kolovani delivered these remarks at the Fall 2017 Convocation, held August 17, 2017.

There is a genre of fiction called “alternative history.” I am not a fan particularly, but many people must be, because there are hundreds and hundreds of books and films out there.

What if Rome hadn’t fallen? What if Queen Isabella had not persuaded King Ferdinand to finance Columbus’ voyage to the New World? What if America had lost the Revolutionary War to England?

Today, I would like to offer you a brief alternative history of Hampton Roads if Tidewater Community College had not come into existence nearly 50 years ago.

Think of it as the TCC version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Without TCC, South Hampton Roads would not have access to high-quality, affordable education that costs less than half that of four-year colleges, and much, much less than the for-profit institutions.

There would be no Center for Military and Veterans Education, no Beazley School of Nursing, no Regional Automotive Center, and no Z-Degree.

Without TCC and its welding programs, where would shipyards and manufacturers find their welders?

Would Virginia Beach have its beautiful new library?

Would Chesapeake still be waiting for its first parking garage?

Would there be a Roper Performing Arts Center in Norfolk or a Visual Arts Center in Portsmouth?

I could go on, but I want to make a final point:

I cannot say that there would be 80,000 fewer college graduates in Hampton Roads if TCC did not exist. I can say there are people walking around with college degrees today who would not have finished college – or even gone to college – if you were not here to make it happen.

In the academic year just ended, 3,696 students graduated from TCC. Nearly half of them earned transfer degrees. Of those, two-thirds will continue their education at four-year institutions.

Ninety-eight percent of alumni who responded to a recent survey say TCC prepared them well for their eventual careers. As we begin this new academic year, I want to thank you – for your passion, your dedication, and your unwavering commitment in service of TCC and our students. [lead applause]

That passion, dedication and commitment will be greatly needed – and sorely tested -- this coming year. We must stabilize and increase enrollment, and we must make sure our students are achieving their degrees, certificates, and industry credentials.

These things have always been important, but this year they take on new urgency.

This is the year the VCCS Performance Based Funding model really kicks in. We and our sister colleges will be competing for a pot of state money, and the distribution will be determined by metrics like our enrollment growth, retention rate, degree attainment, and whether our graduates go on to complete 4-year degrees.

I will talk more about that a little later.

First, let me take a moment to highlight a few of our achievements this year.

First and foremost: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaffirmed our accreditation for the next 10 years!

Last year at this time, we had a little bit of anxiety – OK, a LOT of anxiety! – about the forthcoming site visit of the accreditation team. Well, that site visit went great! We responded to a few followup questions, and then, at its June 15 meeting, the SACSCOC board of trustees voted to reaffirm our regional accreditation.

So many of you participated in this 2-year-long effort, which included the development of the 5-year Quality Enhancement Plan, P.A.C.E. – or Progressive Academic and Career Experience.

If I start naming names, we will be here all day, so I will just say thank you to the literally hundreds of faculty and staff who worked so hard for this achievement! [applause]

We continue to refine our academic programs. Five programs were established for the 2017-18 academic year: the Associate of Fine Arts in Music; Associate of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology; Associate of Applied Science in Management with specialization in small business management and entrepreneurship; and career studies certificates in Computed Tomography and Inside Machinist. I extend my appreciation to Dr. Kellie Sorey and the Curriculum Committee for seeing these through.

We created a Prospect Team out of existing resources and redeployed positions to institute a case management approach to prospective students, using the new customer relations management system, or CRM. This is not rocket science; all of our competitors have teams like this. I wish to thank marketing director Curt Wynn and team leader Jen Perkinson for bringing this model to TCC.

In addition, I have just appointed a Recruitment Task Force to coordinate student recruitment across the four campuses, as well as Institutional Advancement and Academic and Student Affairs. Its mission is to establish processes and metrics so that we have a steady flow of prospective students and applicants. Curt Wynn and Terry Eusebio of Virginia Beach are the co-chairs. They went to work immediately, organizing 150 employees, including myself, to call students whose enrollments were dropped because of nonpayment.

Of the 3,678 students we called last Friday, 671 had enrolled in at least one class as of Monday, a return of about 18%! I will talk  more about enrollment in a minute.

The TCC Educational Foundation initiated the TCC Women’s Center STEM Promise Program, with the goal of increasing the number of women and minority students in 6 of our STEM programs where they are under-represented. The first cohort of 10 students was introduced yesterday; 9 are new TCC enrollees.

I am also excited to tell you that Elizabeth River Crossings, which had already committed $60,000 to fund the first year of the program, yesterday made a surprise announcement at our event that it is pledging another $60,000 for year two.

This program came about through a team effort among Academics, the Women’s Center, and the Foundation; thank you to Dr. Daniel DeMarte, Dr. Jeanne Natali, Dr. James Toscano, the Foundation staff, and all who took part in its successful launch.

The Foundation also lived up to its mission of ensuring state-of-the-industry equipment for our students. By historic standards, it is making its largest investments ever in our programs, around $800,000, this year and next.

It will purchase, or has purchased, equipment and technology for the alternative energy program in Chesapeake, the Culinary program in Norfolk, and for the Health Professions programs in Virginia Beach.

In Portsmouth, the Nursing program will have the latest in childbirth simulators.  And in 2018, the Foundation will spend about $350,000 to finally get that new greenhouse built for the Horticulture program.

Grants are an important resource for us. We have received major grants from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation to support our Academy for Nonprofit Excellence; from the U.S. Department of Transportation for veterans truck-driving training; from the U.S. Department of Education for the Open Door Project; and from the Virginia Department of Social Services for the Job Skills Training Program and Virginia Quality Rating and Improvement System for childcare providers.

Please join me in thanking LaVerne Ellerbe and the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, which over the last 10 years has brought more than $70 million in funding to TCC. If you have applied for or are administering grants, thanks to you also.

The Virginia Values Veterans program – or V3 as it is known – certifies educational institutions and employers for their best practices supporting veterans’ education and employment. This year, TCC became one of the few entities in Virginia to receive certifications as both a V3 Employer and V3 Educator. Thank you, Bill Brown and your CMVE staff.

Our Center for Workforce Solutions established a partnership with the Virginia Ship Repair Association to train job-ready welders at a facility we are leasing in Portsmouth. A separate 60-hour program prepares students for an industry credential. Thanks to Dr. Corey McCray and Todd Estes for delivering on this initiative.

Workforce Solutions also successfully implemented the General Assembly-funded Workforce Credentials Grant program, which pays for two-thirds of certain workforce training programs. A total of 2,173 credentials were awarded statewide. TCC had the 2d highest total of credentials awarded across the VCCS. One of our students, Micah Van Ness, received his credential from Governor Terry McAuliffe on July 10th!

I continue to be very proud of our work in cybersecurity. ODU and TCC signed an articulation agreement in February allowing TCC graduates with the Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology and relevant cybersecurity course work to transfer seamlessly to ODU’s cybersecurity major. ODU will accept 88 credit hours earned at TCC, so that students need only 33 to 36 credits at ODU.

Our students complete a bachelor’s degree at a huge discount, and they are prepared for amazing opportunities in a fast-growing and critically important field!

Governor McAuliffe joined us for the signing ceremony in Richmond in February. I extend my thanks to Bill Clement and the cybersecurity faculty.

Also, this is hot off the press: This past Tuesday, we signed an agreement with Virginia Wesleyan University to establish the Virginia Beach College Success Scholarship. Virginia Beach residents who graduate from TCC with an associate of science or associate of arts will receive a $10,000 scholarship to Virginia Wesleyan, renewable for a second year with successful academic performance. What a wonderful opportunity for our students!

Last year at this time, I told you that we were about to launch our next major gifts campaign. These days, every college is about to start a campaign, in the middle of a campaign, completing a campaign, or preparing for the next campaign.

To paraphrase the GEICO commercial, “If you are a college, you raise money. It’s what you do.”

We are now fully engaged in fundraising mode. I personally have met with more than 50 potential donors; nearly all have a positive view of TCC – a credit to the good work you do. This campaign is being built on a very strong foundation of positive public perception.

The major gifts campaign will unfold in phases, with initiatives aligned to workforce needs as identified by employers. Two of the pillars we are currently pursuing are maritime and ship repair and automotive and diesel technology. A third pillar, culinary and hospitality, is in development.

Another pillar is access to education. The stretch goal is to make college debt-free for every citizen in South Hampton Roads who wants to earn a degree or certificate.

Funding for this campaign will come from the businesses that benefit from our programs and philanthropic organizations and individuals who believe TCC is worth investing in – Elizabeth River Crossings is a good example.

This is where you come in.

For us to raise the millions we are seeking, we must show donors that our employees also see TCC as a good investment.

Earlier this year, the Foundation kicked off the employee giving campaign, “Find Your Giving Personality,” and this convocation marks the start of the fall Campus Challenge.

Here to talk a little more about that is Peter Shaw, professor of business administration on the Norfolk Campus and a TCC supporter.


[Remarks by Peter Shaw, Okema Bowers, Roosevelt Gray and Ellyn Hodgis in support of Employee Giving Campaign.]

Thank you, Peter, Okema, Roosevelt and Ellyn, for supporting TCC students.

Even though we are One College, this is one time when it is okay for us to have a little friendly competition. The Educational Foundation will again provide a celebration to the campus with the most employee participation, even if it is a dollar per paycheck.

Have you taken the giving personality quiz yet? Visit to take the quiz and see how we can all play a role in the success of the major gifts campaign!

By the way, I think District will win.

When the governor was here in May for the announcement of the STEM Promise Program, he called TCC “the greatest community college in the world.” I am sure he says that to all of the other community colleges, too. Still, it is nice to hear!

We may be great, but we are also the incredible shrinking community college. I need to switch gears now and speak with you seriously about finances and enrollment.

The circumstances I outlined for you at the 2016 convocation and in my budget memo of April 24th have changed little. Because of declining enrollment and a 4.5% state budget cut imposed on all colleges, we had to absorb $8.5 million in reductions by eliminating vacancies, cutting operating expenses, and redeploying and – regrettably – laying off staff.

Here we are just a few days before the start of the Fall semester, and we are 10% below last fall’s enrollment. First-time-in-college enrollment – the bread and butter of current and future tuition revenue – is down 7%. As many of you heard during the town hall meetings, enrollment has fallen nearly to 2005-2006 levels, and appears to have not yet hit bottom.

Fewer students mean less revenue from tuition and student fees, and that means we will have to continue to look for ways to reduce spending in this fiscal year.

But I do not believe that we can cut our way to prosperity.

We have been around for nearly 50 years. If TCC is to remain strong and relevant to Hampton Roads, we must reinvent ourselves for the next 50. This work has been under way for a couple of years now, and it has never been more urgent than it is today.

We’ve been talking about Guided Pathways -- an umbrella term used to describe highly structured experiences that guide a student to completion -- since a statewide meeting of ASAC [VCCS Academic and Student Affairs Council] since 2014.

These changes are about our students completing degrees. I acknowledge that not everyone at TCC is supportive of this approach, and I am aware of their concerns. I urge those of you who have concerns to express those through constructive and professional discourse that is fitting with the focus of student success.

In February 2016, the VCCS launched a 14-month initiative known as the Virginia Student Success Leadership Institute, during which all 23 colleges learned about Guided Pathways and developing action plans.

Implementation of Guided Pathways is now just on the horizon, thanks to the hard work of many faculty and staff. It is, in fact, the foundation on which our QEP is built.

In a Guided Pathways approach, incoming students are given support to clarify goals for college and careers, choose a program of study, and develop an academic plan with predictable schedules.

The focus turns away from a student’s preparedness, and toward our preparation as an institution to welcome students, start them on the right foot, and move them to completion.

This is a complex challenge that requires total institutional alignment of structures, processes, people, and culture. It also requires commitment from all of you: our faculty, staff, and administrators. We must stay the course.

This graphic provides an overview of Guided Pathways for TCC. It has 6 components:

  • an Advising System
  • Structured Programs
  • an Aligned Structure for Academic and Student Affairs
  • Co-Curricular Competencies
  • Progressive Academic and Career Experiences, or PACE, and
  • the Virginia Integrated Program of Planning & Advising for Student Success, or VIP-PASS 

The new Advising System will guide students toward TCC’s career pathways and intersect with the core competencies for student success:  co-curricular, general education, and soft skills for workplace readiness.

The Advising Task Force presented its recommendations to the President’s Cabinet on June 29. When it is implemented, the new model will require all of us to change the culture of TCC from a bureaucracy to a nimble, customer-focused enterprise.

The plan calls for:

  • Admissions Teams, trained in best customer service practices, to handle all student intake on each campus
  • General Advisors to advise students up until they are ready to register for their third semester – or halfway through a 2-year program
  • Faculty Advisors, who become primary advisors as planning begins for students’ 3rd semester
  • And a case management system to track student progress and interactions.

The task force was led by Dr. Christine Damrose-Mahlmann, Dr. Karen Campbell, and Dr. Sorey. They, along with 17 staff, faculty, and administrators, accomplished this work within 6 months.

Thank you to all of the task force members. There will be more presentations by the task force chairs to the college community in early fall and rigorous training for all who will be involved.

Here is why this is urgent: By itself, this new approach to student intake and advising has potential to improve our results when it comes to the VCCS Performance-Based Funding Model.

Under this model, the VCCS withholds a part of each college’s state allocation, and then distributes it based on results in 15 categories in 3 main areas:

  • Connection/Entry, which looks at the number of entering students who successfully complete college-level English and math within their first year;
  • Progression/Retention, which considers how well and how quickly students are earning college-level credits;
  • And Completion, which includes degrees and certificates awarded each year and the number of students who transfer with 16 or more credits and earn a bachelor’s degree within 6 years.

The criteria are much more detailed than these brief descriptions. Points are awarded in these categories, and funds allocated on a percentage basis to all 23 colleges.

In the first year of this program, TCC underperformed the system average in EVERY measure. Compare this with NoVa, with 3 times our students and 5 campuses. They outperformed us in 12 of 15 categories in year-over-year metrics.

In the coming year, if we do not improve in both enrollment and performance metrics, we will lose even more funding. I do not have to tell you what that would mean.

The news is not all bad. Compared to our baseline in 2015, TCC improved in several areas:

  • Students achieving college readiness;
  • Full-time fall-to-fall retention;
  • Part-time fall-to-spring retention;
  • Student progress in credit hours earned; and
  • Degree completion.

But here is a startling statistic: As a whole, the VCCS has lost 56,000 students since 2012. TCC accounts for 20% of those losses. In other words, we are dragging down the entire system.

Frankly, I am mortified by these results. They do not make Chancellor Dubois happy, either. I would like to keep my job, and I imagine you want to keep your jobs, too. This is that critical.

So if you are sitting here in the Roper or at your computer thinking, “This is just the flavor of the month, and it will not change how I work,” think again.

The second component of Guided Pathways is Structured Programs, which is part of the VCCS Guided Pathways framework. These are streamlined programs of study with clear choices, appropriate electives, and relevant course work to create a clear roadmap to the career or transfer destination of each student.

Dr. DeMarte announced the 9 pathways deans earlier this week.  Logistical details will be worked out throughout the fall before full implementation begins in January. Updates will be shared on a regular basis, and there will be plenty of opportunity for engagement in the process.

The third component of Guided Pathways is the realignment of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, which redefines relationships among central administrators, campus administrators, and academic and student services deans.

These first 3 components are the Pathways Drivers. This initiative will not work without them.

The other 3 components – Co-Curricular Competencies, PACE, and VIP-PASS are Pathways Reinforcers.

Co-Curricular Competencies include co-curricular, general education and “soft” skill employability competencies — to improve retention and career readiness. They have been mapped and now need to be implemented.

P.A.C.E., the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan, will help students achieve career success through self-awareness, academic planning, experiential learning opportunities, and co-curricular experiences. I am delighted that Dr. Campbell is leading the development and implementation of P.A.C.E., and plans are well underway.

In spring 2018, we will launch P.A.C.E.  Students will explore their career interests and assess their strengths in SDV courses. Advisors will then help students choose a career pathway that suits them. You can see how this will dovetail with the new advising system.

The rather tortured acronym VIP-PASS stands for Virginia Integrated Program of Planning & Advising for Student Success. It encompasses processes, policies, and technology support systems that take the pathway initiative to the next level and guide students through their academic programs and on to college and career.

All colleges in the VCCS will be implementing VIP-PASS. TCC’s launch is scheduled for fall 2018 to spring 2019.

Will all of this return us to that golden age of double-digit enrollment growth?

I do not believe so. The forces that are shaping higher education are too powerful and mostly outside our control. What we cannot do is sit by and stick to old ways of doing things.

As Matt Reed wrote recently in his Confessions of a Community College Dean blog on Inside Higher Education:

“Digging in heels and opposing anything new won’t bring the old days back. In fact, the old days led inexorably to the new ones. Had the old ways been sustainable, they would have been sustained. They weren’t.”

We are taking steps to shape our future rather than letting the future happen to us.

We have it within us to improve our performance-based funding results. We have it within us to put students on a path to retention and completion. We have it within us to stabilize our enrollment and our finances.

Virginia’s Community Colleges began in 1966 with a simple concept: locally based, affordable education for anyone who wanted it. Tidewater Community College came along in 1968 and has ably served this region and its students for nearly 50 years.

This time next year, we will be kicking off the college’s golden anniversary, and I want us all to be in a celebratory mood!

As I mentioned earlier, I have met with dozens of current and prospective donors who have the wherewithal to support TCC in very meaningful and impactful ways.

Each and every one has good things to say about TCC – they know us either by reputation or because they or a family member have a TCC connection.

You as faculty and staff also have expressed positive feelings toward the college – let me once again refer you to the Appreciative Inquiry process in 2013 in which 400 of you identified TCC’s strengths: dedication, innovation, and collaboration. Those qualities formed the basis of the 5-year strategic plan, “One College, Once Voice, One Future.”

2018 seemed a long way off in 2013.

Now, it is around the corner and we have still much to accomplish. Let us work as “one college” to ensure our “one future” – a successful and sustainable future!

Thank you!

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