SHERIDAN — During a business meeting Friday, the Northern Wyoming Community College District board of trustees discussed several topics, including the district’s upcoming accreditation process.
Members from the Higher Learning Commission will visit Sheridan College and Gillette College Oct. 8-10 for accreditation.
HLC members will have an open forum with the public; a forum with faculty and staff; and a forum with the board, mainly to discuss the board’s role in the district’s strategic plan.
The accreditation process occurs every eight years. NWCCD administrators submitted a preliminary portfolio to the HLC last September and received feedback in March.
Jason Browning, assistant vice president for institutional research, said NWCCD was rated adequate or better in all five accreditation criteria but that the HLC responded with four strategic challenges, mostly related to having more well-documented academic processes in place.
Sheridan College President Paul Young said the NWCCD processes are lagging because the district is working on so many different things at once, a similar situation to where the college was during its accreditation process in 2010.
“We’re doing a lot of things,” Browning said. “What we’re not doing particularly well is connecting them.”
Young also mentioned that none of the concerns mentioned were related to finances or enrollment, an excellent long-term sign. The college district’s response outlining its steps for improvement is due to the HLC by the end of August.
The board also went over a land exchange proposal with Sheridan County School District 2. The proposal would give 3.61 acres to SCSD2 on the south side of campus next to the Watt Agriculture Center to eventually build a new John C. Schiffer Collaborative School. Sheridan College would receive 4.55 acres of land near Woodland Park Storage, just south of the college campus.
Board trustee Gary Koltiska had concerns about the proposal, specifically easements related to the construction of access roads for a new building, which wouldn’t begin construction until at least July 2020. The board approved a motion to table the issue until its regular June meeting to make sure the necessary easements are included in the transfer proposal.
The board also approved the continuation of an optional fifth mill levy for two more years during the business meeting.
The board then went into executive session for about an hour to discuss legal, personnel and real estate matters.
It came out of executive session for a work session to hear proposals for a new mission statement and core values.
Wendy Smith, assistant vice president for strategic communication and public relations, and Katrina Brown, Sheridan College director of library services, presented options on updating the district’s mission and vision statements and core values. The board provided feedback but took no action on the proposals.
Smith said the mission statement should clearly articulate why the college exists, while the vision statement is more aspirational. A potential change also proposed that the college district review its mission statement at least every five years.
The updating process began in February and eventually expanded to include feedback from all college departments. For more input, Browning helped put together surveys in recent weeks. He sent out electronic surveys with two mission statement options to 308 employees and heard back from 137 of them.
About 80 percent of the respondents chose: “NWCCD welcomes all learners, empowers/cultivates/fosters student success, and creates community partnerships.”
Only one word out of “empowers/cultivates/fosters” would be used in an eventual change. Smith said the phrase “welcomes all learners” is absent from the current mission statement and including that idea was the faculty’s top priority.
There was broad agreement on a vision statement proposal: “NWCCD will be the premier higher education institution for students in the region; we will provide all students with a diverse range of experiences to prepare for a dynamic/variable/ever-changing/vibrant future.”
One word from “dynamic/variable/ever-changing/vibrant” would be used in an eventual change.
Trustee Debra Wendtland agreed with most of the proposal but said she didn’t particularly like the phrase, “create community partnerships,” and would prefer something like “community development.” Smith mentioned “build vibrant communities” as a possibility.
Smith and Brown will take the board’s input and bring it back to all departments for tweaking and present updated options to the board at a future meeting.
The core values — respect, integrity, excellence and learning — would essentially remain the same.
The board then discussed several general topics, including a potential pay increase for employees. Young said the college is still working toward that but it won’t know state funding numbers until July and will then base potential increases on those numbers.