Understanding of and support for the mission pervade Sauk Valley Community College.
The cross-institutional nature of Sauk’s planning system ensures that every level of the college community regularly encounters the Strategic Directions, not as mere slogans, but as the underlying foundation for the continuous quality improvement that drives the institution.
1C.1: Learning Organization Context
In 2006, the Focused Visit Report made clear that Sauk understood that success of its new systems required a context in which the Mission could be consistently understood and carried out. To that end, Terry O’Banion’s Learning College model had been adopted as the philosophy to provide the foundation for Sauk to become a learning organization that practiced continuous quality improvement. Through the period of change that followed, the system has proven itself able to meet the HLC Focused Visit Team expectations that it is “flexible enough to respond over time to changing needs.” While Sauk no longer claims to be operating under the O’Banion model, many of its principles have become embedded in the college community.
As a learning organization, Sauk’s strong commitment to continuous improvement can be evidenced in its policies and practices, as well as in the expectations of administrators, faculty, and staff:
Procedural integrity/routines: The college understands the importance of systematic quality improvement and has embedded the concept in its processes. The organization makes and implements plans, evaluates the results, makes adjustments, and repeats the cycle. Documentation ensures that what was learned, both from successes and failures, is available in the future. Presentations on the integration of the planning systems have been made at the ACCT’s 2010 Leadership Conference in Toronto, the 2011 Illinois Assessment Fair, and at the 2011 HLC Annual Meeting.
Data-influenced: Underlying every Sauk process is the expectation that data is a necessary starting point for decision-making. The use of qualitative or quantitative data is embedded in assessment, in operational planning, and in program review. It is foundational in OPIC’s charge and the development of the Strategic Directions.
Outcome-based evaluation: From course outlines to operational plans, the college evaluates success not by its inputs, but by the results that are achieved. Carefully balanced with capacity concerns and environmental scan data, student learning remains a central concern for the entire planning process.
Shared governance: Sauk’s committee structure involves employees in shared governance. Although there is no expectation that all academic areas and offices will be represented on all committees, most committees have a cross-institutional profile. The Operational Improvement and Planning Committee (OPIC) is a cross-institutional body that ensures that strategic planning has broad community input. Other committees, including Curriculum Committee, Assessment Core Team, Program Review Committee, Developmental Education Committee, and hiring screening committees, incorporate a cross-institutional membership appropriate to their charges. In addition, annual operational planning is done by employees for their respective areas and offices, allowing each employee a voice in how to carry out the Strategic Directions.
1C.2: Mission-Linked Budgeting Priorities
The Strategic Directions provide the fundamental structure for all of Sauk's planning processes and budget priorities. Based on congruency to the Mission and Vision Statements, the Board approves the Strategic Goals and Objectives, which have been recommended by OPIC after college-wide input through the strategic planning process. These goals and objectives are broad in scope and pertinent to multiple college functions (Appendix).
In order to ensure the intimate connection between the planning processes and the Strategic Goals, Operational Plan Templates guide each office or academic area to consider all of the Strategic Goals and Objectives during annual planning discussions and forces each planned activity to be linked to a specific Strategic Objective (Appendix). This process results in everyone’s having a role in moving Sauk toward achieving its Vision.
To ensure that each planned activity is aligned with a Strategic Objective and has a measurable outcome, the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning reviews each Operational Plan and requests changes be made if needed. The results of the planned activities are reported at the end of the fiscal year at the same time that next year’s Operational Plans are made. This timing allows conclusions drawn from last year’s planning to influence next year’s planning.
In addition, the college’s full Operational Plan and the end-of-year results are posted for access by the Sauk community in FAST, beginning with the FY10 report. The reported Operational Plan results are also the major source of information for the Sauk’s Annual Report (Appendix), which has become a “status report” on the progress toward achieving the Strategic Goals and Objectives. This report is posted on the website for access by the general public.
The Budget Process:
The strategic planning system links the component processes of assessment, operational planning, and program review to state-mandated budget deadlines. The strategic planning system also orchestrates a planning feedback loop that is linked with the budget process, as shown in Figure 1i below.
Key to the system is a timeline that coordinates data flow, decision-making, and action (Appendix):
The Dean of Business Services initiates the budgeting process each spring by presenting current budget information and financial projections to the Board of Trustees, administrators, and OPIC.
Administrators construct their budget requests in keeping with the projections and based on needs identified through operational planning. They submit the forms along with the completed Operational Plan. Program review data is also used in years when a review has been completed.
The Dean of Institutional Research and Planning monitors the planning and review processes, ensuring that budget requests can be directly linked to the Strategic Goals and providing status reports to OPIC and administration. Once the review and Operational Plans are approved, the requests are forwarded into the budgeting process.
Members of the President’s Cabinet represent their respective departments as they consider the budget requests against the Strategic Directions. The group creates a recommended budget that the President approves and forwards to the Board for approval.
1C.3: Mission-Linked Strategic Decisions
The effectiveness of Sauk’s planning system to keep college actions aligned with the Mission are evidenced in the following changes that have occurred over the past few years:
Wind energy: Initiated based on external scan data on the local and national job outlook for sustainable energy technicians, the Wind Energy program constituted a way to “develop and expand programs” (FY07 Strategic Initiative 1.2). Plans to develop this program were a part of the Technology area’s FY08 Operational Plan.
One-stop service enrollment: An Admissions’ FY08 Program Review finding indicated a change in the process and flow for students during enrollment would help the college to meet FY07 Goal 3, to be “responsive to the learning needs of our students.” That finding was incorporated when architects developed the institutional master plan to occur in phase 5A of the plan.
Testing center: As early as FY07, Operational Plans identified a need to improve testing services. In the FY09 Program Reviews by both the Learning Assistance Center (LAC) and Developmental Education, a testing center was listed as a top-priority opportunity to contribute to the FY07 Strategic Initiative 3, “Expand learning opportunities and support services.” By combining various campus testing functions into a single location, Sauk opened the Testing Center in June, 2010, which answers the concerns identified in the various planning documents (3D.4).
Additional evidence that the strategic and tactical operations of the college flow from the Strategic Directions is found in the existence of ideas that surfaced, but were dismissed because of a lack of congruence with the Mission. For example, the Sauk Valley College Foundation approached the President’s Cabinet at its November 4, 2008, meeting about paying the fees for local immigrants to take the U.S. citizenship test. When measured against the Mission, there was no directive to provide such a service, and the college declined to take this specific action. However, Sauk later collaborated with Trabajando Juntos, a local group that works to empower the local Hispanic community, to offer two Citizenship Clinics, which addressed the educational needs of those desiring citizenship in a way that does carry out the Mission.