JCCC Board of Trustees candidates on the issues: Use of advisory committees

Jay Senter - July 17, 2019 5:00 pm

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of the August primary. Based on the (ample) input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for Johnson County Community College board of trustees.

Today we share the candidates’ responses to question three:

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JCCC has dozens of advisory committees for its various academic and technical education programs. Have you been involved in these committees in the past and how would you use these advisory committees if you are elected?

Val Baul

How many voters in Johnson County understand how the advisory committees work for JCCC? Or, even more important: do you know a company represented on these committees? Looking through the list of members of advisory committees, I see areas where a single company can dominate entire advisory committees. I don’t see easy opportunities for new business, diverse business and small businesses to join advisory committees because the process lacks any transparency.

We should break apart the good old boy network and make the advisory committees more transparent and more representative of Johnson County’s diverse business community.

Lori Bell

Advisory committees provide our business community a chance to have input into the education process in Johnson County, making sure that students going through programs are prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. These advisory committees also give members an inside track to know more about students who will be better prepared to work in their company, and as a result, an advisory committee can be the start of a recruiting track for great Johnson County employers.

Right now, however, in reviewing the committees, I find no way to establish why a business was included or excluded from an advisory committee in any area, and the public doesn’t seem to have access to reports of what these committees have actually done.

Still, businesses who are represented in these committees receive numerous perks – that include recruiting advantages, input on how career track functions, as well as the prestige to be able to list the fact that they are a company that is part of an advisory committee – which can help increase their credibility in the marketplace and act as effective marketing to separate them from their peers.

Without seeing reports of what these committees have done or provided, if anything, the question is whether or not any business truly has skin in the game regarding their participation in the program. Most have absolutely nothing to lose – there is no sign that they are expected to contribute to scholarship funds, meeting hiring requirements, or even represent a sales or property tax number for inclusion. Without skin in the game, it is easy for advisory committees to simply become a phone directory of businesses that benefit from the connection.

To fix these problems, the committees should be formal in nature and made up of members from industries with businesses of all sizes, and the results of their work should be made available to the public. These committees can bring a great deal of knowledge of the skill sets they are seeking with graduates, and we should make sure that they are actually working. This helps JCCC be positioned to gear curriculum accordingly and set the students up for success in finding jobs upon graduation. I would expect to see meeting minutes from these committees as a member of the Board of Trustees to ensure our students are on the right path.

Colleen Cunningham

I have not been involved in these committees in the past, and have found during my campaign that information regarding these committees is nearly impossible to access. That said, one of the things that I have enjoyed most about this process has been hearing from various people in our community about what JCCC means to them. From the family who lived in our house before us, who left us a note encouraging us to check out the JCCC pastry program, to our banker whose daughter takes classes during her summers home from KU to stay in “study mode,” to the single mom whose family and community benefitted from a degree from JCCC, this college means so much to our community, and serves many unique purposes. From my work with Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, I have learned that showing up and listening is often one of the most powerful and useful things one can do. As a stay at home mom, I like to say that my superpower is having a flexible schedule that allows me to do exactly that: to show up and listen. As a Trustee, I look forward to hearing from all of the stakeholders in our community about what is working and what areas they see for improvement.

Jameia Haines

While I haven’t been involved in an advisory committee at Johnson County Community College, I believe they can be utilized to ensure that the knowledge and skills students receive are in line with those needed in the workforce. Advisory Committees with a sufficient range of expertise will help to ensure the relevancy and quality of academic programs offered at the College.

Nancy Ingram (incumbent)

Advisory committees are one way to be responsive within our community. Typically, advisory committees meet twice a year, or as needed, and fulfill an important role in collaboration with the business and professional communities. An advisory committee can provide an excellent opportunity for conversation and exchange of ideas, and for attendees to share their expertise. I would expect the feedback on programming, current trends, continuing education and workforce readiness to be helpful in keeping a pulse on the needs locally and statewide.

As a driver of workforce development, intentional and deliberate conversations about the programs we offer should be important to the continued growth and development of an educated workforce. The make up of the committee would be important in order to have broad perspectives discussed. As we review programming and the needs of our community, the input from professionals in the field would be vital to our future planning.

As trustee, I am aware of the advisory committees, and currently serve on a leadership advisory committee in the Olathe school district. In anticipating some program changes, we were interviewed for our thoughts and opinions, held discussions on specific recommendations and provided connections we were able to make to enhance the needs they shared. I have found participation on the advisory committee to be informational, and helpful, and would expect our committee members to feel valued, and their contributions appreciated. It is always wonderful to share our campus with our community.

I have never participated on an advisory committee at JCCC.

Greg Musil (incumbent)

I believe I have led the questioning of the College administration regarding the membership, importance, agendas and meetings of the 40 JCCC advisory committees (which range from Accounting to Graphic Design to Metal Fabrication to Sustainable Agriculture). As part of the College’s responsibility to develop a trained workforce, we need input from business and industry, particularly in career and technical education fields. But we also must then be willing to incorporate those ideas, processes and techniques into the actual teaching and learning curriculum. Johnson County thrives because of its skilled workers and our advisory committees are critical to that effort. If re-elected I will continue to explore opportunities for enhanced recruitment and effective use of these committees and their volunteer members.

Chris Roesel

JCCC has dozens of advisory committees for its various academic and technical education programs. Have you been involved in these committees in the past and how would you use these advisory committees if you are elected?

Once, the president and a vice-president of the college asked me to meet with them. I thought they were seeking my input. Instead, they asked me not to talk with college employees because the employees commonly thought I was somebody they should listen to and it confused the lines of authority.

In short, no, I have not been included in advisory committees, despite having attended the college since 2015 and continually having made suggestions to the Board. In fairness, the Board has acted on some of my input.

First, when I am a Board member, I will ensure advisory committees are put together as Total Quality Management quality circles. That means include every perspective on the concern, say academics, at the table. Second, I will respond to the advice. Third, I will ensure that the decisions are consensual, not imposed.

For instance, key participants in academics include faculty, students, teaching and content specialists, consumers (the business and civic communities), special needs groups, and the administration.

One of the difficulties with advisory committees is balancing their input across committees. I will use large group intervention methods I have used elsewhere and studied in Business school doctoral programs to bring all the advisory committees together with all county stakeholders and facilitate consensual decisions.

Cassandra Peters

I have not been involved in these committees in the past. The advisory committees are compromised of experts in each field of study. They can give us valuable insight into the direction each of our programs should be going to ensure we are meeting the needs of the changing job markets. Creating high quality and innovative programming is what sets us apart from other area colleges. I would welcome their input on what changes need to be made to ensure JCCC programming fulfills our mission to inspire learning to transform lives and strengthen communities.

Laura Smith-Everett

I have not had the opportunity to be involved with any of these committees yet even though I’m aware of a few of them and excited to learn about more. I think advisory committees help offer a detailed perspective on a program, department or group. I also think that it’s important that these advisory groups all have a direct connection with “shared governance” as it stated in the JCCC Strategic Plan. As the college responds to and uses guidance from the Higher Learning Commission’s report it’s important we ensure that various advisory committees are appointed and conducted in a transparent way and can contribute to the college’s mission. At this time, it’s rather difficult to find information about the solicitation of community participants, requirements of them and terms for these committees. As a Trustee, I would certainly work to rotate through and hear from as many of the advisory committees as possible, in order to stay abreast of various groups and perspectives these committees represent. Additionally, I think we can do a better job making the participation transparent to ensure our whole community stays involved with Johnson County Community College.

Farha Azaz

JCCC has 40 Advisory committees who serve to collaborate with administration to enhance the workforce pipeline and provide feedback on curriculum based on local business needs. They range anywhere from 6 to 40 members. If these committees are to be productive, we must create modern, technological structures for information and communication to flow up, down, and across the organization. Based on my experience in the private sector with Governance, Steering and Advisory committees, I anticipate that communication within/across information silos/committees is less than ideal.

We need to set clear expectations – agreed upon between the JCCC Trustees, administration, and the committee leaders – such as meeting minutes uploaded to a shared, searchable document repository (e.g. Slack). These outputs will serve to inform the Trustees of the latest committee work to ensure their votes on policy, decisions and strategic objectives are well-informed and inclusive of community expertise. Creation of these communication structures will also enable Trustees to easily solicit input from community leaders within the committee structure, and community leaders to reach out to Trustees when necessary.

We must create clear participation guidelines, so that the committees are a vibrant representation of an ever-evolving community. Committees with no clear agenda, inconsistent participation, and variable size have difficulty producing coherent outcomes. Meanwhile, I have met many small business leaders who are unaware of the committees (whose membership tends to be invite-only). Technological solutions will allow committee membership to be inclusive of more small businesses who might be productive parts of the workforce pipeline, given the opportunity.

It is my priority to create deeper connections between our student population and our local businesses, so that young adults who study at JCCC enter the Johnson County workforce successfully. As your Trustee, I will provide support and attention to the committees, including new technological resources to serve all the committees and their charters, since they are a crucial communication link between the College and the business community.

Mo Azeem

JCCC advisory committee membership is a privilege and an honor for the community members and a great way for the college to stay abreast with the trends in business and future employee preparedness. While we have wonderful people on the committees we have not been able to utilize them to their full potential. First, the process of membership needs to be well publicized, I for one until recently didn’t know that such committees exist and I ended up volunteering as a mentor at UMKC Bloch School of Management and well as KU Business School. Had I known that JCCC has advisory councils, I would have been able to dedicate far more time to administration and students instead of driving almost an hour to attend the events at both business schools.
Second, the advisory committee membership should be transparent, and membership criteria needs to be well established, expectations clearly laid out and only active members should stay on the committees. The committees can greatly help with internships, job search, entrepreneurship mentoring, donor relations and many other functions that I have been performing for my Alma Maters.

Tomorrow we’ll share the candidates’ responses to question four:

The elimination of the track, tennis and cross country programs has generated a good deal of push back from some members of the community. What’s your vision for the future of athletics at JCCC? Would you support having those programs reinstated?

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