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BCC President Jim Richey Details Vision, Goals for College


February 22, 2012, Brevard County, FL - Dr. Jim Richey, the new President of Brevard Community, detailed his vision and goals for the college during an address Feb. 22 to faculty, staff, students and the public at the King Center for the Performing Arts on the Melbourne Campus. The following is a transcript of the speech.

Good afternoon everyone and thank you all for coming.Today is a special day!

It is my distinct honor to stand before you as the new president of Brevard Community College, following five previous presidents who devoted themselves to building this outstanding institution.

Since the Board of Trustees named me to the position, I have been looking forward to this moment because you are the reason BCC is among the top community colleges in Florida and the nation.

Let's take a minute and consider our impressive achievements:

  • We are the 29th largest producer of AA degrees in the United States.
  • We are the 91st largest producer of AA degrees for minorities in the Unites States.
  • We have the second highest graduation rate in the Florida College System, with 48 percent of our students earning degrees or certifications on time vs. the state average of just 18 percent.
  • Out of 1,700 community colleges in the nation, we are the 94th largest in terms of enrollment.   If you consider all colleges and universities in the country, over 4000, we are the 251st largest college or university in the nation.

Every one of you has played a part in our success, every one of you has helped make this happen, and I am extremely proud of the dedication and professionalism you bring to our campuses every day.

BCC is a great college with a rich history that stretches back a half century, an institution that has educated generations of Brevard County residents and helped our community grow and prosper

Today I want to share my vision of the future and what we need to do to make BCC stronger at a time when our community and state are facing profound economic change and are looking to us to help lead the way forward.

I'm confident we can meet any challenge together, all the while addressing the new demands that are facing our students, ensuring they have the skills to find jobs upon graduation, and making certain we have the best faculty to get that important job done.

So what does our future look like, and how do we get there?

In my judgment, we need to focus on at least four key areas that can make an immediate difference in the lives of our students.

First Key Area of Focus: Improving Academic Performance

The number one focus area is to continue to improve our academic performance.

But, before we consider ways to improve, let's understand how well we have done relative to our peers. I reviewed recent data of three similarly situated Florida public colleges in our region.

Here is what I found.  Out of 12 areas that relate to performance, we were number one in nine of the categories and number two in the remaining three categories.

We are number one in graduation rate, total graduates, graduates per enrollment, associate degrees awarded, overall retention rate, smallest executive staff, graduation rates for minorities, most institutional aid awarded and smallest loan burden on students.  We are number two in the number of full time faculty, full time faculty per FTE, and overall cost per FTE.

The bottom line is that we are doing very well.

With that said, we are still losing hundreds of students who start here but don't finish.  Too many!

For example, 27% of Full Time students don't return after one year.

46% of Part Time students don't return after one year

The numbers decline even more after two years.

Why?  Lots of reasons, but, generally many students are not prepared for college level work.

55% to 62% (depending on semester) of First Time in College students at BCC need basic skills level course.

23% of all class sections offered throughout the FCS are remedial courses. A lot of folks get frustrated and get disengaged because they are not making measurable progress towards completion.  We should also realize that most of our students have a lot on their plates. 75 % are balancing school, family and jobs.

We can and must do better, and here's how:

  • First, we should explore and implement many, if not all, of the ideas our faculty and others recently developed as a possible "basic skills" Quality Enhancement Plan.  The plan proposes a comprehensive, cost effective, student peer oriented program to improve our student's basic skills.  The concept would entail a true campus based learning center approach which would address the unique challenges of each student.

Our research states: "Imagine This:  A comprehensive, focused project could be undertaken in strategic areas in manageable phases at BCC to improve our students' basic skills through the development of a True Teaching and Learning Center paired with refocused preparatory coursework and a re-energized SLS course (Student Life Skills). These Teaching and Learning Centers on each campus could provide combined tutoring centers with full-time faculty tutors, staff, and part time student/peer consultants that are available to students.  The tutors for the most commonly repeated courses could be paid and embedded, meaning they actually attend classes so that they understand any specific challenges students might have in a course and would be responsible for organizing study groups on the course material.

Students, staff, and faculty would be working closely together in a concentrated effort to improve student learning in a measureable way that benefits all involved.

In short, it could create a sense of community at our college, benefitting all of our students by focusing on the basic skills students need to succeed."

To me, this is an approach worth undertaking.

I look forward to involving the entire college in turning these ideas into reality for our students.

  • Secondly, we also need to improve our student advisement using a more proactive approach.  The problem in this area as defined in our research is that "if a student does not become engaged in the first few weeks of school, they are less likely to develop a goal and less likely to graduate."  According to our research "students do not have a clear path for the future and are not integrating socially.  Therefore, if a student is not integrated academically or socially, their motivation seems to lessen."

I look forward to working with all of you to implement a more successful approach which would "focus on engaging a student in the first few days of class, developing a clear, concise template for all advisors to use to create consistency, and a team of faculty and peer advisors that will engage the student early on and continue to work with them throughout the first semester."

To me, this is also an area where we can and will make substantial gains.

  • Thirdly, as a component of our shared governance model and in support of our outstanding  faculty and staff, it makes sense to me that we need to have  in place a strong organizational structure that will enable faculty to provide high quality instruction.

That includes the creation of a Chief Learning Officer who we hope to have in place by the end of the Spring Term.  I'm glad to report that the search has begun.

  • Lastly, we need to develop a new 3-year agreement with the United Faculty of Florida – Brevard to set the stage for continued success. To that end, we will begin negotiations on a new contract in March and I am confident we will find common ground to prepare the college for the future.

Second Key Area of Focus: Making Students Ready For Job Market

The second area of focus is to make absolutely certain our students will be ready to meet the demands of a competitive job market in the global economy. We want our students to be highly competitive when it comes time to find a job.

  • There are several ways to accomplish this needed result. We need to make sure we offer students access to the programs that are now in demand, and will be in the demand, for employment in the future.
  • That's why we're nearing completion of a study that potentially would add one or more 4-year degrees and new 2-year degrees and other programs to BCC's list of offerings.
  • We will present a final report to the Board of Trustees on March 19 and, if they approve, our target is to begin some new programs in August 2013 or before depending on the program.
  • This kind of workforce program review should be done routinely and is essential to meet the rapidly changing workforce requirements our students are facing.
  • Equally essential is the outreach we have used in the research for new programs.  We contacted hundreds of employers and then heard back from small, medium and large entities, with a combined workforce that exceeds 10,000 employees which identified the kind of workers they need. This information will be invaluable to us in our attempt to stay more closely connected to the needs of the labor market.
  • We are also launching other exciting initiatives in this focus area such as the creation of a vibrant internship program.  Some of the internships could be paid or unpaid, but all will be valuable to our students regardless of the variations of the particular job. Creating more of these vital programs will help students learn job skills, hone interpersonal skills (critical), better understand work environment expectations, help them gauge their interest in a certain fields and also provide them important networking opportunities with possible employers.

In my view, all students can benefit from these types of opportunities.

  • We are also reaching out to our community to create a robust mentoring program that will keep our students connected with people who are actually in the labor market.
  • This will give students regular interaction with people who work and succeed in various disciplines.  I could envision a list of mentors in a wide variety of disciplines. It seems to me that sometimes an established leader telling you that they have confidence in you is the extra encouragement some people need to succeed. In addition to words of support, mentors will provide guidance on topics in a host of areas and will provide networking possibilities for our students. Lots of professions utilize this concept with great success and I will expect similar positive results for our students.
  • To that end, we took a major step in promoting these initiatives earlier this month with the opening of the new college-wide Career Planning & Development Center on the Cocoa campus that will provide a host of important services.

This new college-wide center will serve as the centralized center for career services orientations, career assessments using "my plan" and "choices" software, job searching options using "college career network". We will teach resume writing, promote career shadowing opportunities, engage in career counseling, hold career workshops and host campus job recruiters and job fairs. Each campus will have a smaller career center as well.

We need to guide our students into the career center as soon as they begin their studies at the college, not at the end of their journey here.  They need to be knowledgeable about career opportunities before they spend their hard earned money and time.

  • Representatives from more than 40 businesses attended the Career Center's grand opening, showing the strong partnerships we're forging in the community.
  • The center is a landmark for BCC, and helps lay the foundation for success in the years to come.

Bottom line in this overall focus area is that we want to be the first place employer's contact when they are looking for new employees.

We want the reputation as the place where you will find the best prepared and most qualified new employees for your business.

Third Key Area of Focus: Improving Students' Collegiate Experience

Our third area of focus concerns improving our student's collegiate experience here at the college.

  • The best way to do just that is to listen to the students themselves by routinely seeking their opinions with regular surveys to keep us strongly connected.
  • For instance, one such survey last year showed 92 percent of the nearly 2,000 students responded wanted BCC to offer 4-year degrees - something we are now exploring.
  • That leads to a critical point: We can't just listen to what students say. We must also implement their ideas where possible.
  • For example, and in response to recent surveys, we will budget for and systemically expand WI-FI on all campuses. We will also support the creation of the new clubs and organizations students want, including more in academic disciplines, scholarly Greek associations and Athletics.
  • Furthermore, I intend to continue both my campus visits to speak with students directly and the regular dinner meetings I hold with SGA leaders to provide another forum for their input and ideas.
  • To further advance our shared governance model, which includes an enhanced student voice, we have moved forward to formalize the SGA Council of Presidents.
  • You should also be aware that on March 19, we will launch our new Web site that will allow students to better connect with each other and provide the social media tools that are an integral part of their lives.  Of course, the website redesign will benefit all of us, as well.
  • Finally, I think it is critical to all our stake holders that I keep you well informed on the issues of the day, and therefore, I will constantly look for ways to enhance our lines of communication.

Fourth Key Area of Focus: Improving College's Financial Position

Our fourth area of focus will be on improving BCC's financial position both from the college's perspective and from our student's perspective.

  • As you know, our state funding has been severely cut the past few years because of the recession, and we expect another reduction from the Legislature this spring.  We anticipate our state funding to shrink to less than 50 per cent of our overall operating budget.  Just 4 years ago, state appropriations accounted for 65 percent of our overall budget.  To make matters worse, our facilities funds, also known as PECO funds, are virtually non-existent.
  • To compensate, we have to take action.
  • We must keep our administrative costs low by running lean and smart.  We continue to search for creative cost effective solutions in everything we do.  We are and continue to be relentless in that regard.
  • We are moving to create a comprehensive enrollment plan - the first in BCC's history - that will lead to more students attending and staying to complete their degrees.   In addition to the obvious benefits to our students, this initiative will help us keep our revenue more consistent.
  • Additionally, we are working to create both a profitable Alumni Association and Athletic Booster Club, reaching out to BCC graduates and supporters, and taping into new resources that could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit our students and programs.
  • We are also striving to significantly increase money we receive through GRANTS, a figure that now stands at $2.3 million. We should have lofty goals in this area by striving to more than double our totals with a major effort that is already underway and paying off.
  • Year to date, we are up over $1 million from last year's total.
  • Another effort under way in the financial area is our community engagement which will lead to the establishment of business partnerships that result in the creation of new programs and sharing of costs.  Within the last few weeks, we have identified several possible Multi-Million Dollar opportunities in this regard.  These are very exciting developments for our college and we will keep you informed as information becomes available.

For students, I will do everything within my power to keep tuition as low as possible.  We will monitor the events in Tallahassee and will only recommend tuition hikes as the very last resort.

Also from a student's perspective, we need to continue to find better ways to help our students afford the text books they need to succeed in their courses. In fact, you may be interested to know that 70% of community college students nationally do not buy text books for at least one of their classes because they do not have the money.

In recent times, I know we have made some inroads by promoting the rental of text books and other options to help our students save money, but clearly we need to do more.  One promising idea is in the use of e-texted books.  We are currently in a pilot project which shows students realizing savings of up to 70% of the costs of new text books. Another area that the FCS is looking at, and we are participating in, is the open access text book idea.    When implemented, the net result of these initiatives will hopefully save students substantial money for their course materials.

Finally, you should know that we are hosting events for community based legal and financial services professionals to promote and increase revenues for scholarships from charitable gift annuities and planned giving opportunities.   Our first event will be in April of this year.   In my opinion, there is a potential for a high dollar return through these events and other programs as sponsored by our BCC Foundation.

Turning these goals into reality is a big job, and I can assure you I will pursue them with great passion.
However, it is plainly obvious to me, and hopefully to you as well, that I will need your help – your best ideas, your best efforts, and a genuine sense of teamwork to accomplish these worthwhile goals.

Together, we can make a difference in improving the lives of our students and making BCC a name that everyone equates with excellence.

Together, we can educate a new generation of Brevard residents who will then lead the economic revival of our county.

Together, a unified BCC, will lead the way for our region and state.

I thank you for your time today and I look forward to working with all of you to advance the interests of this outstanding college.

Thank you.