Success Stories

Dean, Consumnes River College

"Knowing what works matters. Knowing how something works matters more. IEPI gives both."

Alex

With budgets falling – and private competition rising – it is crucial for California Community Colleges to stay ahead of the professional development game. That’s why IEPI focuses on real-world, research-based solutions to the problems that face our two-year colleges.

Cosumnes River College Dean Alex Casareno attended a Basic Skills workshop in Oakland, and left impressed with IEPI’s genuine, no-nonsense approach to professional development.

“I am energized – and that is the word – by the specific practical application of research,” says Casareno. “Knowing what works matters. Knowing how something works matters more. IEPI gives both.”

In contrast to similar initiatives, past and present, IEPI is rooted in a philosophy of solid research, peer collaboration, and real, provable results.

“I have attended a number of workshops and conferences,” says Casareno. “But the IEPI workshop has been the most useful in all my time as part of the community college system.”

Transfer Center Coordinator, Foothill College (retired)

"I have learned at least as much, if not more, than the colleagues to whom I was supposed to provide assistance."

Maureen Chenoweth

It’s no accident that two of the three pillars of IEPI (“Participate. Collaborate. Innovate.”) are dedicated to involvement and cooperation. The entire initiative is founded on a grassroots level, empowering faculty, staff and administration to identify and execute solutions from within the California Community Colleges system.

This “no ivory towers” approach ensures that outcomes are informed by real, relevant information, provided by the professionals working on the front lines.

“Not only are we collaborating with our institutions across our system, but we also are collaborating as a team, with each other,” says Foothill College’s Maureen Chenoweth. “Any effort that makes our system stronger, will also make our individual colleges more effective.”

Chenoweth, who has thus far participated in both a Partnership Resource Team (PRT) and an IEPI workshop, sees the hands-on nature of IEPI as a key component to its success.

“We see the same issues that we deal with at our home colleges, but with a new perspective.”

Chenoweth sees the “Indicators” aspect of IEPI as a valuable tool for tracking project success, but believes that the overall initiative is bigger than the numbers.

“[The Indicators] are beneficial, and a necessary starting point… But much of what we do as educators is less strictly defined by data,” says Chenoweth.

“[The benefit] of the PRT is to meet in person and listen to and address the other aspects that are not strictly tied to the benchmark statistics.”

Dir. of Institutional Effectiveness, College of the Redwoods

"It really has done a good job of bringing us together with colleagues across the system to leverage each others’ knowledge."

Angelina Hill

With any large-scale student success initiative, the key is to home in on real, pressing issues and find legitimate solutions to those issues. That’s why the IEPI Advisory Committee is focused on carefully identifying the most in-demand topics for its Professional Development Workshops. 

“They've done a really good job of selecting topics that are really relevant,” says Angelina Hill, Director of Institutional Effectiveness at College of the Redwoods. “They are really hot topics, really well-attended.”

According to Hill, who has attended multiple IEPI workshops and served on a PRT visit to Lassen College, it’s this meticulous planning and focus that sets IEPI apart from other statewide student success projects.

“You’re with so many peers focusing on the same issue. [It allows you to] delve deeper into some of the issues.”

“The IEPI also provided colleges [a portal] so that we can easily upload the Framework of Indicators, which include short and long-term goals for select metrics,” says Hill. “The framework is standardized across colleges, but it allows us to set our own goals.”

According to Hill, the initiative is unique due to its focus on collaboration between science-minded research professionals and their more right-brained academic colleagues.

“I learned from my non-research colleagues how to better present the data at my college based on what they found useful,” says Hill. “[It’s] a great way to utilize the resources already available in the system for a greater audience.”

Trustee, Butte-Glenn CCD

"A Partnership Resource Team is about more than just a team of visiting experts recommending changes. It’s a give-and-take between education professionals with diverse knowledge and skills."

Bill McGinnisIEPI’s primary intent is not to identify a college’s weaknesses, but to harness its strengths.

Butte-Glenn Community College District Trustee Bill McGinnis believes this approach is crucial in fostering collaboration – as opposed to competition – between partner institutions.

“No one uses the information gained from the visits to take any adverse action,” McGinnis explains. “This program is to help the college, and not judge them.”

McGinnis, who serves on the IEPI Advisory Committee and the Technical Assistance Workgroup, says he is energized by the initiative because it goes above and beyond the realm of theory, and provides real, tangible support.

“The free assistance that is offered to the college to solve issues is a great opportunity,” says McGinnis. “The funding to jump-start a college response is also very helpful.

“I think it’s a great learning experience for both the receiving college and the officials visiting the college.”

Past President, Barstow Community College

"The biggest thing is: there is absolutely no threat in a Partnership Resource Team (PRT) visit. The whole focus is on help and collaboration."

Debbie

The key to any large-scale initiative is cooperation – making sure that all stakeholders are heard, heeded, and when necessary, helped. IEPI was built on this precise philosophy, stressing cooperation above all else.

Barstow Community College President Debbie DiThomas has experienced the project from both sides – PRT leader for a recent trip to Clovis Community College, and as president of one of the first institutions to receive a PRT visit.

“There are a lot of strengths with the people within our system – [IEPI] allows us to share those strengths between institutions,” says DiThomas. “It’s all about ‘let’s help each other’ – and, through IEPI, that attitude is permeating the whole system.”

As a small-college administrator in an independent district, DiThomas knows first-hand the struggles that many California colleges face. The IEPI visits, she says, are an especially crucial resource for institutions stressed by staff time and funding.

“One of the best parts of the whole thing is that the colleges identify their own issues – we know what’s going on with our colleges,” she says. “Then this initiative allows us to call on expertise within the system, in a non-punitive, non-judgmental process to address the issues identified. The biggest thing is: there is absolutely no threat in a PRT visit. The whole focus is on help and collaboration."

DiThomas is especially impressed by the initiative’s organization and leadership.

“It’s just absolutely perfect the way the Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative is organized, and I give the credit to Dianne Van Hook, her team at College of the Canyons, Matthew Lee, and the IEPI Advisory Group.”

President, Cuesta College

"The Partnership Resource Team (PRT) visit was a really pure opportunity to sit down, colleague-to-colleague, and help solve problems..."

Gilbert H. Stork, Ed.D

PRTs help come up with a new project or creative way to approach it. At the same time, PRT members are learning about what other institutions do, which can help when they go back to their home institution. When it was all said and done, everyone described it as a truly a refreshing professional development opportunity.

The Partnership Resource Team (PRT) visit was a really pure opportunity to sit down, colleague-to-colleague, and help solve problems. PRTs help come up with a new project or creative way to approach it. At the same time, PRT members are learning about what other institutions do, which can help when they go back to their home institution. When it was all said and done, everyone described it as a truly a refreshing professional development opportunity.

Former Vice President of Instruction, Cañada College

"What made serving on a Partnership Resource Team (PRT) rewarding was that you actually feel that you’re having an impact. You’re having a pretty profound impact, with a limited amount of work."

Dr. Gregory Anderson

We struggle in our day jobs for hundreds of hours to make incremental change. But sometimes when you’re coming from the outside, with just a few visits and some pretty good interpersonal relationships, we were able to help them make changes in their institution. So, that intrinsic value that you have of helping others change really means a lot.

What made serving on a Partnership Resource Team (PRT) rewarding was that you actually feel that you’re having an impact. You’re having a pretty profound impact, with a limited amount of work. We struggle in our day jobs for hundreds of hours to make incremental change. But, sometimes when you’re coming from the outside, with just a few visits and some pretty good interpersonal relationships, we were able to help them make changes in their institution. So, that intrinsic value that you have of helping others change really means a lot.

President, Shasta College

"The process gave us deadlines and helped us focus on some important areas needing improvement."

Joe Wyse

The old proverb says: “It is the wise man who knows there is much he does not know.” In essence, making a commitment to improve oneself isn’t an admission of weakness – it’s an affirmation of strength.

This philosophy is, according to Shasta College President Joe Wyse, what makes IEPI so effective and unique.

“The team coming to the college is clearly coming with an attitude of helpfulness and from a desire to improve,” says Wyse, who has both hosted and led Partnership Resource Team (PRT) visits. “[It’s not about] admitting problems and weaknesses, but truly helping a college focus on areas that, when improved, will help student success.”

With so many complex factors at play – political, economic, environmental, procedural – improving college success is anything but easy. The strength of IEPI is that it works from the ground up, developing individual solutions that pave the way for big-picture goals.

“Basically, it gave us reason to be able to focus on what [author] Stephen Covey calls ‘the important but not urgent’ category,” says Wyse. “The process gave us deadlines and helped us focus on some important areas needing improvement.”

VP of Student Services, Gavilan College

"[The] focus on the health of the college and the benefit to students will no doubt have an impact."

Kathleen

“Crowdsourcing” is more than just a Web 2.0 buzzword – it’s a way to ensure that a large, potentially unwieldy project is well-rounded and complete. Hence, IEPI’s collaborative approach to meeting challenges and improving processes.

For Gavilan College Vice President of Student Services Kathleen Moberg, this emphasis on give-and-take between experts within the California Community College system is what sets IEPI apart from similar ventures.

“[IEPI is] a great opportunity to work with other colleges and colleagues to improve the student experience and mitigate challenges that lead to systemic improvements and student success,” says Moberg, member of a Partnership Resource Team (PRT) which recently completed its first visit and report.

According to Moberg, the strength of IEPI is in the composition and organization of the PRT, which work together to provide a breadth of expertise that would be impossible in an initiative with less focus on collaboration.

“[It’s an] opportunity to discuss more global, system-wide challenges at our own college and within the host college,” says Moberg. “Everyone’s focus on the health of the college and the benefits to students will no doubt have an impact.”

Past President, Lake Tahoe Community College

"The concept of having funding to jump-start the projects identified is a huge plus, and again reinforces the positive message."

Kindred Murillo

It's one thing to want smoother processes and better results, but real outcomes require real funding and real support. IEPI is an ambitious enterprise that depends not only on the dedication and legwork of its partner institutions, but also the fiscal ability to operate.

Having led one Partnership Resource Team and hosted another, Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) past President Kindred Murillo knows how much work – not to mention budget – it takes for an individual college to take meaningful strides. Murillo, a member of the IEPI Advisory Committee, credits the initiative for going beyond mere lip service, and putting its money where its mouth is.

“As one of my colleagues said, ‘How often do you bring in a consultant to help you that actually writes you a check?’” Murillo says. “The concept of having funding to jump-start the projects identified is a huge plus, and again reinforces the positive message.”

According to Murillo, the IEPI’s focus on honest evaluation, real solutions and real result is what makes it so valuable to the California Community College system.

“The recent team at LTCC asked us several questions that made us really reflect on what we are doing for our students and campus through a different lens,” says Murillo, who was impressed by the visiting Partnership Resource Team's genuine approach. “[It’s] very positive reinforcement for taking an honest look at how you are operating as a college.”

VP of Student Services, Crafton Hills College

"I’m really interested in the idea of collective impact and how systems can work together to improve college going rates..."

Rebeccah Warren-Marlatt

I’m really interested in the idea of collective impact and how systems can work together to improve college going rates, student throughput, degree attainment, and to improve the economic prosperity of the community. And IEPI felt like a collective impact approach for our own system.

I’m really interested in the idea of collective impact and how systems can work together to improve college going rates, student throughput, degree attainment, and to improve the economic prosperity of the community. And IEPI felt like a collective impact approach for our own system.