AHC nominated for national Bellwether award

Allan Hancock College - Photo contributed

Star Report

Allan Hancock College has been nationally recognized for its innovative approach to completing the district’s master and strategic planning process within a nine-month period. The college was nominated for the 2017 Bellwether Awards in recognition of administrators, faculty, staff, students and the Board of Trustees collaborating to link the district’s Strategic Plan, as well as the Education, Technology and Facilities master plans. The prestigious Bellwether honors practices that are successfully leading community colleges into the future and considered worthy of being replicated at other institutions across the nation.

“It’s always an honor when our work at the college is recognized by our peers,” said Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. “More importantly, the process to complete four master plans within one year was truly a campus-wide effort and demonstrated the effectiveness and importance of working together.”

The planning process started in 2013, when the college faced the challenge of updating the Strategic Plan and all three of its major planning documents. Initial plans called for the college to engage in developing a new strategic plan, with the other plans to follow.

“We decided to take a different approach of four tracks, one goal,” said Walthers. “We determined the best method was to set a course for thematic integration of the plans with a focus on changing the odds for our students and our community.”

The first step in that process was to review the expiring Strategic Plan, including the college’s mission statement and strategic directions. The constituency groups collectively added ‘Integration’ as a new fifth strategic direction that focused on community and internal integration.

“If you don’t integrate everything, if everyone is off working in their own silos, then you could end up with a lot of resentment,” said Marla Allegre, president of the college’s Academic Senate and English professor. “By collaborating to complete four plans, everybody bought into the same vision and the same goals of ensuring student success.”

Allegre credited the college’s success to Hancock’s organizational structure, dedicated employees and the internal and external integration. She believes the process implemented by Hancock could benefit other institutions and merits national recognition.

“I’m proud that we were able to pull together as an institution and make it happen. It was a challenge, but I think now we have that as a foundation moving forward. We know that we’re on the same page with the same goals,” said Allegre. “When we talk now about resource allocation, program review or accreditation, we know we can pull together as a team and make it happen because we did it once and we can do it again.”

Recently, the college received confirmation that employee integration resulted in positive cultural change. After four days of reviewing the college’s processes and procedures last month, an external evaluation team representing the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) commended the college for its positive and uplifting culture. Walthers said the uplifting culture is a result of integration.

“You can really look around campus and see almost everybody had a hand somewhere along the way in making the plans successful,” added Walthers. “Everybody on campus had a chance to be represented when we made our statements about what we want to be as a college, which has a big impact on the overall morale.”

The college’s Bellwether Awards application will be reviewed by a panel of nationally-selected judges. Ten finalists in each category will be announced in November. Finalists will be invited to present at the Community College Futures Assembly in January 29-31, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. More information is available at www.hancockcollege.edu.