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It's great to be here.
And thank all of you for taking time this afternoon to spend a little time with me, and hopefully we can have a little dialogue as we talk about not only where we've been as the Dallas County Community College District but where we're headed in the future.
You know, I've spent the last year, it's hard to believe that this is officially months since I came to Dallas.
And it has been such a great period of time.
I've been able to talk to thousands of people over the course of the last year.
Both many of you and those within the Dallas County Community College District family, community members, business leaders, political leaders, others that really care about what we do and why we do it.
And over the course of the past year I've come to really realize something that I think is important that I have started to call kind of internally to our folks - the DCCCD way or the Dallas County Community College way because I think there is something very special about the district, about our colleges, out about people that make us unique not only I think in community colleges, but really unique in higher education and every business.
And it really comes down to what we stand for, what we're about, and it's all of you.
And it's our faculty and staff and others who make us who we are today.
And as I have reflected on it.
I am going to try to kind of condense down what I think is the very reason why that was mentioned years ago.
The citizens of Dallas County took forth on a journey that they didn't know what the outcome would be.
But they knew full well why they were starting that journey and what they wanted to see accomplished.
And I am going to try to summarize that today maybe in some comments and statements and then how we've gone forward from that point in time and how we'll need to go forward in the future in order to meet the needs of the individuals that we serve, our employers throughout the district, and most importantly perhaps our neighborhoods and communities.
And that's kind of where I will start.
In fact, I was reminded this morning as I was meeting with the mayor of one of the towns within Dallas County and talking about their community and what their vision was for the community, I realize that number one reason why we were created is really to prepare communities to succeed.
It was realized that they were changing and that we needed to be a part of it.
Number two also came up this morning is that in order to be successful today, businesses also need to prosper.
And part of our reason was to help businesses prosper by working with them.
The third reason we were created was to inspire individuals to achieve.
It was coming up on a time when higher education was more and more important to everyone, and we were really put in place not only to be accessible but to be inspirational to others.
And then to ensure a high quality of life for all, which is what we want for ourselves and our families.
Does that make sense?
Any of those items?
And I want to talk about each of them just a little bit more if I could.
And I'd love to get your thoughts as it relates to it because I do think this really describes why we exist not only today, but why we were created years ago in order to meet the needs of the community.
And I think as we look to the future, it's really time to fall back somewhat and make sure that we are continuing to emphasize those areas and the reasons why we were created to begin with.
Well, let me start.
I think that preparing communities to succeed, you know, as we look at the changing demographics that's occurring throughout our district, I've talked before about the growth of poverty at the same time.
We see tremendous job growth.
Meeting with some mayors that aren't sure what they're going to do to provide the employees to meet the needs of their changing community, how are the houses going to be built while others are saying we've got lots of space, we just need more jobs for people in the area.
And so that part of what we need to continue to work with is to really focus on how do we deal with the poverty issues?
How do we deal with literacy issues of our communities?
How do we work with the lack of education and partner with public schools in order to make sure that we are not only preparing people for higher education, but we're preparing them for life as well?
And what about the skills gap that exist between the skills of individuals and the needs of employers.
So, as we look at preparing communities to succeed, it means that we need to have our antenna up all the time about the new challenges as well as the opportunities and how we can partner in unique ways to make sure that we're responding to the needs of the communities that we serve.
And as I travel throughout the district and I talk to elected officials, they always put this at the top of the list that we want to be a vibrant community and that we want to be thriving and we want to be growing.
And they always say, "And you're our primary partner in order to get there.
" And then invariably they start naming the names of individuals who are helping them achieve their goals and objectives of where they're going.
And then let's kind of, that really moves right into something similar but different.
And us helping businesses to prosper.
When we were created, Dallas was a very different economy than it is today.
Many of the businesses that are now big business today were small businesses then.
Some that were big business then don't exist today in our community.
We've seen companies come and go.
Right now we're really in a unique time when we're seeing tremendous job growth.
Depending on who you talk to, we're either number two or number three in the nation in terms of job growth.
And that's, will probably continue for the few years even though they're predicting a slow down.
But what that means is that businesses are prospering.
And it's when business prosper that they create jobs.
It's when they create jobs that we are able to have the, support the needs of our students, our family, and be able to really build the communities that we want to live in.
So, increasingly we're finding ourselves as we work with businesses more today than perhaps any time in history that this needs to be more closely connected to their goals and objectives than ever before.
And that also businesses are going to migrate to communities where they believe that they can be successful.
Why would you go somewhere where you didn't think you could be successful?
Well, they're not.
And what we need to be is a part of that conversation.
Again, as I have talked to mayors and other elected officials, they tell me over and over again, number one concern of companies wanting to relocate to our communities is can they find the workforce they need in order to be successful.
And if we don't fill that role, who will?
There really is no Plan B.
The third is inspiring individuals to achieve.
Who doesn't like to be inspired?
And I suspect if I were to go through this room today and ask you to reflect back on your educational journey, many of you, if not all of you, could probably tell me about someone at a point in time that inspired you.
Have you had that experience?
And you recall that happening?
Well, me too.
And I can tell you I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for several people in my life including my mother, to begin with, but to teachers in high school, to faculty members in college, to counselors in college, advisors, others in my career that along the way inspired me to do more and to do better and to achieve and to set goals.
And, you know, one of the things that I am struck with each year as I participate in commencements throughout the district, I talk to students who walk across the stage as they shake my hand, and we'll often not have a time for a conversation, but I'll follow up after that.
And they will begin to tell me a story.
And their story almost always involves an individual faculty member, a staff member, sometimes a professional support staff member who went out of their way.
I can recall students telling me how they showed up and they had no idea where to go.
They walked in the wrong door, and if it wasn't for someone walking out, taking them by the hand and saying, "Come with me.
I am going to take you to where we can help you enroll and register for classes," they wouldn't be graduating that night.
Sometimes it's that single act of inspiration.
And as I have talked to students, I've talked to former students, I've talked to employers, and time and time again they said, "What's special about the Dallas County Community College District and our colleges?
" And it's that people inspired me.
You know, I saw that years ago when I stepped into a classroom at Cedar Valley College as an adjunct family member.
And on one hand I was terrified.
On the other I saw that the students inspired me, but I realized I had a role to play in inspiring them as well.
And it's a role that I took seriously as I worked on my career.
And so today, if you think about our colleges, often when we talk about access, it really is about how do we create an environment that is void of barriers, that is inviting to all and inspirational to all?
And fourth, I think we're created to ensure a high quality of life for everyone.
You know, I, and I think about this because we see this come up and surveys over and over again about why people choose communities.
They want a high quality of life.
And Dallas scores very high on that today for a lot of reasons.
And I think especially because of the Dallas County Community College District.
Because it's not just about theater.
It's not just about fine arts.
It's not just about shopping opportunities and recreational opportunities.
It is also an important part of that or about educational opportunities.
And especially related to programs in which we play a role.
You cannot have a high quality of life in a community unless you have good health care.
Well, who provides the nurses?
Who provides the health care professionals today?
Most of them come from the Dallas County Community College District.
Teachers, you can't have high quality of life unless you have a good educational system.
Who provides the teachers today in Dallas County?
They start in our doors, and they transfer to a four-year college or university where they earn a degree.
We also, through our fine arts programs, through our community engagement and recreational programs, through our athletic programs all contribute to the quality of life and all make it a better place for everyone to live.
So, as a I think about the Dallas County Community College District and what I started to call the DCCCD way, that way is really about why we exist and what we do.
To prepare communities succeed, to help businesses prosper, to inspire individuals to achieve, and to ensure a high quality of life for all.
Does that say who we are and what we're about?
I think it does.
And I'm, you know, as I have said over the year, I've really been trying to gather this in so I could summarize what I think is special about us so that not only could I communicate that to others but so that we could communicate it and share it with each other because I think from time to time, it's real easy to get bogged down in the day to day activities and forget the why, why we exist, why we were created, and why we will be here in the future in order to meet the needs of the people that we are so blessed and honored to serve.
And I thought I would also share, OK, so this is why we exist.
And as I reflect back, we've gone through years of investing in facilities, building campuses, creating colleges, starting new programs, closing programs, adding and growing all the while as we serve more and more people until this year, we're serving about credit students this semester.
We're going to be serving about another non-credit.
And as we add adult education in, we're going to see this growing to the point that we're going to be serving about a year for the upcoming year.
That's a lot of people that we touch and that we impact.
And frankly that's really in our care as we look at helping them meet their needs.
But it's not just that.
It's our responsibility going back to the communities we serve, to the employers as well as the individual and ultimately the neighborhoods that exist where we want our children and grandchildren to live and to thrive.
So, as we look at continuing this mission, it occurs to me that there are four ways, things that we need to be really focusing on in order to get there.
And I thought I'd share those with you today as well.
I believe that in the future it's going to be able personalization, alignment, innovation, and scale.
And let me tell you what I mean by each of those.
Let me start with personalization.
I think all of us know that as we live our life we kind of want things on our terms, right?
I know as I get older that's certainly the case for me.
And we find that our students increasingly are coming to us on their terms as well.
Everyone is unique.
Everyone has a different background.
I was just talking to two of our students who are out of the military.
And so there's a unique set of experiences that they bring with them into the college.
And so as we look at, I believe, more and more the need to personalize the educational experience, I think that's going to be disruptive somewhat to the overall district and to the way we do things so that we're making sure that individuals meet their needs as well.
And so we are, as we know, students come to us every single day wanting a fresh start.
I was talking to some students just last week that described their experience in high school.
It wasn't good.
And as they got ready to transition they said, "You know what?
I'm going to start all over.
I have a chance to come to college and rewrite my future.
" And they did.
And they took what, if you looked at their high school background and compared it to their college background, you wouldn't even know they were the same person when you look at their transcripts and what they've done.
That's the beauty that we play that what you did in the past doesn't determine your future.
We also know that many people have accumulated years of learning and experience.
Certainly that's the case if you've been in the military.
You had a little bit of training, right [laughter]?
Along the way.
And educational programs as well.
Well, one of the things that I think is about to be another very disruptive aspect to higher education is competency-based education because competency-based education is basically saying everyone has equity in their educational experience in life.
And it's all about how do we recognize that previous equity whether it was learning that was done on the job, in the military, whether it was training at work, or just learning that I took up on my own initiative to acquire a knowledge, skill, or ability that would make me feel better about myself.
In fact, now we have a way to convert that into college credit that the equity that you've gained throughout your life doesn't have to be lost.
You know, we've always looked at starting college was kind, of like starting all over, right?
You finish one thing.
You started another.
And you built on that.
Well, that doesn't have to be the case.
And what's really changed with that is the fact that the federal government now says that there's a way for students who are going through competency-based programs and receiving credit for direct assessment to get, be eligible for Title or financial aid benefits.
So, that's exciting for us as we look at the future because we know the military has been used competency-based education for generations.
We know that the employers have been using it for years and built their training on it.
We've stayed away from it because of one simple fact.
Students couldn't get financial aid.
That barrier now is being broken down and eliminated which gives us the opportunity.
And then so as we look at personalization, it goes far beyond even competency-based.
It goes beyond being able to recognize students where they are and on their own terms.
It also means that we're increasingly mobile and using devices, handheld devices, mobile devices, and others to meet the needs.
So, we're going to be looking in the future at really how we can leverage technology, how we can leverage the past experience of an individual, and how we can build towards success for all student and meet the needs of not only the students, employers, and communities as well.
The other is alignment, second on it.
And alignment is so critical today that when we first started out as a district, I think alignment meant one simple thing.
It meant, how do we align our programs with school districts so that students graduating from high school can walk through our doors?
And we had a few other areas where we may have thought about alignment.
But today it is much broader, and I think more important in that area.
And, of course, we've got to continue to align with the public schools.
That's very important.
They are our largest partner through our early college high schools, through Richland Collegiate High School, through dual enrollment programs throughout the district.
We now serve somewhere around students every semester who are in high school.
So, this means that alignment can't just be good, it's got to be perfect.
Otherwise we waste their time and money and our resources as well.
So, we're going to continue to work closely.
And one of the things we want to see is expanding early college high schools, adding more because they work.
And they create an alignment that is as close to perfect as anything that we've ever had with K.
The other is with employers.
If we are going to really help businesses to prosper, we can't just guess at what their workforce needs are.
We have to know what they are.
And we have to spend time with them.
We've invested in a convening center that Mary Brumbach is now heading back.
We've trained I think about people here at the LeCroy Center to be able to do compression planning around the district.
And we're starting to really roll as we're meeting with employers throughout the area and talking about their workforce needs and the challenges they face finding the skilled people that they need in order to prosper as a business.
And we know that when we get that right, our students will also prosper.
I'm really astounded at the salaries that many of our students can and graduates can make if they are closely aligned with the needs of business and industry.
And I think we also have to have clear pathways within our colleges.
That's another aspect of alignment that when a student starts, they often don't know what the end goal is going to be.
I mean, if I were to ask all of you today how many of you knew that at the moment you graduated from high school and you could project into the future to today that this is where you would be and what you'd be doing and this is what your job would be, well, no.
We don't know, do we?
We don't know.
What we know is that we start on a journey, and we hope someone is looking after us on that journey to create a pathway that we can follow that we don't have to figure out.
That someone is thinking for us.
So, we're going to be looking more closely at what pathways are available to students so that if they start at one place and they have the opportunity to end up where they might not have ever dreamed they could be, but we need to be dreaming for them and frankly helping them aspire as part of that inspiration, that we want people to scale up their dreams, that most people have the opportunity to succeed that's greater than their vision.
And what we need to do is help them see that vision.
And, of course, we'll continue to partner with the universities also for alignment.
That's another one as we look at the transfer.
We have more and more students that are transferring.
And we've got to make sure that those align.
So, number two is alignment.
Number three way that we will move to the future and meet the needs is through innovation.
And I believe this is really about creating programs and services that meet the needs of a changing workforce, of a changing society, of a changing culture, of changing demographics, and the changing needs of our students.
You know, I am struck today that we have five generations of students enrolled at our colleges in the Dallas County Community College District.
No one set of programs or services can meet the needs of five generations.
It's going to mean that we are going to have to become innovative at how we work with various individuals, various groups, and to be able to sit down and to freely discuss in a way that we haven't before that I think the barriers and challenges that different populations, different individuals face, that those that employers face.
You know, I think we sometimes realize that we are not seeing certain students enroll from certain backgrounds, or we're not working with certain employers, but we really haven't stopped to ask why is that the case.
And we've got to do that in the future because our entire community depends on it.
You know, we've, I've talked before about the need to serve what I call the non-consumers.
Those individuals who just aren't buying what we're selling.
And they haven't connected the dots between where they are, which is generally not good, to where they want to be, which is a lot better, and that we play the role in making those two come together by providing them the educational opportunity in order for them to be successful.
We'll, we've got to figure out ways to do that.
And I think we've got to be able to take some risk in order to do that.
We've got to try some new ideas.
And we've got to find some ways to bring people in at a starting point that we might not have done in the past because we are realizing that many of these individuals don't have the academic background, the educational background.
They don't have the confidence in themselves in order to be successful.
You know, even when they come in the doors I think sometimes we've got to find innovative ways to include them.
I talk to students all the time.
And I've started asking a question occasionally to students how many of you have ever felt like that you were sitting in a classroom and you were an imposter?
Some of you may have felt that when you were in school.
I don't belong here.
Well, it turns out that's a lot of our students.
And of the non-consumers, it is most of them because the reason why they don't come is they just don't believe they belong.
They don't believe they fit in.
They don't believe they're welcome.
And they don't believe that we're the place for them.
So, we've got to find ways to reach out and make that happen, how to partner, collaborate, to share ideas, to work together.
As we look at meeting some of these needs, we're changing how we do funding as we go forward so that we're making available what I am calling risk capital or innovation dollars that's in the budget.
This year we set aside money in the district budget just for colleges or for others within the district who have great ideas of how to do something new, how to do something different, how to reach a new population, that we want to be able to fund that without going through a long bureaucratic process.
And without having forms to fill out.
But basically, let's get out and try something to see if we can make a difference because it's too important for us to wait in this case until we know we need to know.
We are not going to get this one perfect.
We may need to get alignment perfect.
But when it comes to reaching others, we've got to try things and see what works and help meet the needs of individuals.
We also need to continue to figure out how to remove barriers and find innovative ways.
We are going to be doing something here coming up related to a contract with our bookstores that's very different.
We have said that no longer will we take dollars from the bookstore vendors.
Rather, we're going to pass that savings on to students.
So, you'll see coming up an item whereby we're going to be saving students over $ in the course of their degree in the cost of books by just how we do the contract.
And we're going to free up our own faculty and staff and give them the ability to tell students when they can get a book cheaper from some other source.
We have not been able to do that in the past.
So, this is just an example.
And then as we look at down the road, I think what I am calling or others have called the creative comments.
How can we open source and share content in different ways so that we continue to provide high quality education and reduce the cost?
I don't know what we'll come up with.
But I am convinced that our faculty, staff, and professional support staff as well as administrators all have great ideas.
And what we need is a way to cultivate those, and to grow those so that we can make them come to life.
And the fourth, scale.
And in some ways that's the hardest and perhaps in many ways the most important because today we're still not having the impact that we need throughout the entire community that we serve.
We know that today that's one out of ever four individuals, adults that we see in Dallas County does not have a high school diploma.
We know that those individuals are underemployed.
We know that we can't grow the economy if we can't find a way to reach more and to bring them in the doors, which means going back to innovation, alignment, and personalization.
It is going to be part of how we get there.
So, it comes together so that while I'm proud of the fact that we're going to be serving about students this year across the district, I really look to a future when we can see that number grow, that we can impact more.
And that we can not only bring more in the door but more importantly have individuals leave us with the credentials, the awards, and the degrees that they need in order to have the life that they want.
So, as we look at kind of where we are headed as the district, our board is now engaged in an annual planning process.
And they have really focused for as we look to the future, and they are putting together the plan now, on focusing on how we can personalize the educational experience not only for students but for employees as well.
Alignment with the needs of both employers, school districts, and universities.
Innovation through the Board Innovation Fund that has been created.
And grow the scale.
So, as we look at the priorities, what we see is that those are really the focus of the board.
So, I think for the district, as I look where we've been over years, look to the future to where we are going, I really think now is the best time to be a part of the district.
Now is a time for us to look at and build upon the past, but point to a future where we can really make a difference in the lives of individuals, growing our business partners, helping the overall quality of life improve throughout the county that we serve.
And so as we look to the future, we're going to be looking for ideas that you may have.
We're, right now the board has agreed that we need to look at four-year degrees as we go forward.
And something very different for our community colleges.
So, we're going to be proposing the implementation of a four-year degree in early childhood education to address the area of teacher shortage.
We're also going to be looking at expanding training and opportunities in fields such as construction, such as automotive technology, health care, and others.
One of the proposals that we will be bringing back to the board very soon is to implement something that we call single stop U.S.A.
And you've heard me talk about that before as a way of really personalizing the educational experience of every student by taking them exactly where they are and pointing them towards services that we may not have available in the district but that are available in our community whether it be food stamps, whether it be transportation vouchers, whether it be health care assistance, whether it be legal assistance.
Whatever that is, we can make that available to them through that program.
And then also we want to make sure that we are using the taxpayers' dollars wisely.
We are going to be investing in a labor market intelligent center within the district that will give us up to date information about where the jobs as, where we'll see them go in the future, and how we need to align our resources to meet the needs.
You know, as I look to the future, I do think this DCCCD way will guide us as we go forward, as we prepare communities to succeed, as we help businesses to prosper, as we inspire individuals to achieve, and as we create a high quality of life for all people within the district.
I'm excited to be a part of it.
And I'm looking forward to seeing what happens not just next year but as we build the pathway for the next years as well.
Thank you so much.
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