Community colleges possess a particularly close connection with the students, local employers, municipalities and communities we serve.
The word "community" guides us in all that we do.
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Each year as a part of our strategic planning process, I develop a Presidential Action Initiative for Waubonsee Community College to provide clear direction for the college community on emerging issues -- setting the tone and theme for the year.
As Waubonsee enters our 45th year of serving as our community's college, this year's initiative is "Excellence through Engagement." We are committed to continuing the strong engagement we've enjoyed with our community, our students and our employees to deliver on the college's mission and to be a place where futures take shape.
Waubonsee exists to serve our area residents. Community engagement gives us the critical touch points and feedback to continually improve. This interaction occurs with local schools and school districts, employers, nonprofit and governmental agencies, and many, many others.
Our college district includes 22 municipalities. We have developed a community engagement plan that provides a road map of active, consistent involvement by our staff in each municipality.
Once a community member enrolls at Waubonsee, we provide opportunities for the connection with the college to deepen. From the most immediate classroom interaction with faculty to extracurricular activities and competition on the athletic fields, we strive to fully engage our student body. In fact, students find a vibrant student life on par with any other college.
The research demonstrates that an involved student is more likely to graduate and realize success. For this reason, we're embarking on a national benchmarking project this year, called "Foundations of Excellence," that will focus Waubonsee's efforts to deliver a rewarding first-year experience for our students, with the goal of increasing retention and student success.
Serving students and the community well is not possible without dedicated, caring and motivated faculty and staff. We strive to engage our employees and make sure that each and every faculty or staff member has the resources they need to excel.
Two initiatives benefiting our employees are the vibrant Diversity Leadership Council, which formed in 2008, and a new Leadership Academy currently being developed. Together, these initiatives and others help cultivate future leaders for the college and our community.
"Excellence through Engagement" may be this year's theme for Waubonsee, but it is something already ingrained in the college's culture. Engagement is a centerpiece of our institutional priorities as we educate more than 12,000 students a semester, employ approximately 1,200 faculty and staff and serve a 600-square-mile college district.