What makes Terra State stand apart?

The term AQIP probably doesn’t mean a lot to the people in our community but it should. While many at Terra State have heard the term, you might not be clear as to what it means to the College. AQIP stands for the Academic Quality Improvement Process – an alternative accreditation process of the North Central Higher Learning Commission.

Accreditation is extremely important to Terra State because it is the process of validation on which we are evaluated. Being an accredited institution, we are viewed as a reputable college – meaning that employers and recruiters recognize Terra State as a quality institution along with offering our students a better chance of having their credits transfer to other reputable institutions.

As part of the reaffirmation of accreditation process, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) requires us to attend the AQIP Strategy Forum once every four years. This year, a team of seven Terra State representatives attended a three-day workshop where we focused our attention on tackling the monumental job of assessing academic program quality and vitality.

Our team consisted of Sandy Berlekamp, Governing Board Chair, Jolene Chapman, Dean of the Business, Communication and the Arts, Assistant Professor Amy Drongowski, Assistant Professor Mark Grine, Dr. Cindy Krueger, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Heath Martin, Dean of Enrollment and Student Services, and myself.

So what did our team uncover in these three days?

To start, we had many honest conversations about our programs at Terra State and realized that we need to establish a reputation for high-quality programs that offer value to our community in ways other institutions do not. We need to be known for something in a world of cookie-cutter educational institutions. When you hear Terra State Community College, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Secondly, we learned we have no determined process for adding a new academic program or eliminating non-vital programs. While eliminating programs is not a fun process, it is necessary. With our limited resources, Terra State needs to take stock of which programs are unsuccessful, which are simply subsisting and which ones are thriving. By objectively measuring the vitality of our programs, we can reallocate much needed resources to the programs that will have the most impact on our community while ensuring our graduates can find and sustain rewarding careers. On the flipside, we have more flexibility than a four-year institution but should we jump on the bandwagon of every new career possibility? What are the costs associated with developing a new program and what is the value this program ultimately adds to our community?

Finally, we discovered that we need to have a measureable means to determine employee engagement and the current climate on campus. Is there a positive organizational climate for employees? What criteria determines this and what are we measuring this against? These are all questions that need to be addressed.

So did we solve these issues?

The short answer is “not yet.” But more importantly the question should be “How do we solve these?” To start, The AQIP Strategy Forum has asked Assistant Professors Amy Drongowski and Mark Grine to chair this action project and over the next few weeks, the action team will determine the next steps to move forward.

We know that tackling these issues will not happen overnight nor will they be solved in a vacuum. The key to an open and objective process is to have the participation of a variety of employees and community members. Each person has a unique perspective that is welcome at the discussion table. Don’t let your voice be missed – your insights may be the key to helping uncover the best solution for one of the topics outlined above. In the next few weeks, you may be asked to help with this project and before you think “What do I have to do with AQIP?” remember we are all working for the betterment of the institution we love – Terra State Community College!

For more information on Terra State’s accreditation status, click here.

To read more about Terra State’s presentation to the AQIP Strategy Forum, click here.