Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for the candidates running for JCCC Board of Trustees.
Today, we begin publish the candidates’ responses to item five:
Johnson County Community College is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and has been widely recognized as vital asset to the county over its first half century. What do you believe the keys to continued success over the college’s second 50 years will be — and what does “success” for a community college look like to you?
Nancy Ingram (incumbent)
JCCC matters to our civic future as much as the individual futures of our diverse student population. Intentional and deliberate leadership is key to advancing this shared trust. As trustees, we must continue to focus on the future and what it will demand of its workforce. Another key to its future is collaborative, responsive relationships, both internal and external, which will help us to identity the right areas of opportunity for community college development in this unique metropolitan landscape. I am committed to anticipating and preparing for changes in the structure and delivery of education, and ensuring the college is positioned to play a powerful and effective role in leading and evolving with those changes, providing another key to our success.
The future of Johnson County Community College is full of potential. At the very core of our mission is “student success”. Our students must receive an education that prepares them to enter the workforce, receive a certification or degree, or transfer with ease to their next institution. Our faculty, staff and administration must feel valued beyond their compensation level. The surrounding community must be informed and surprised by the excellence of their asset. When we accomplish these things, through very specific and targeted practices, sustainability and growth of the college is ensured. This is what success looks like to me.
Greg Musil (incumbent)
In 1967 the Johnson County business community proposed and voters overwhelmingly endorsed the need for a community college in Johnson County. Since opening for classes two years later, your College has fulfilled the three-legged stool of a comprehensive community college by 1) preparing students for transfer to four-year universities, 2) training students for skilled trade and technical jobs after two years, and 3) providing continuing education courses for workforce development and personal enrichment. It has done all that with high quality and at a reasonable cost, balancing the cost to both students and taxpayers. The next 50 years will require the same diligence and good governance. Our citizens deserve a high return on investment of their property tax dollars (remember, some candidates’ policies will inevitably raise your taxes) and our students deserve an affordable education (remember, today’s student at JCCC can get two years of college for under $6,000). There will be other, different challenges in the 21st Century. Our brick-and-mortar facilities are outstanding and well maintained and our faculty is highly qualified. But our physical spaces will have to be filled with more innovative and flexible teaching methods, continually evolving technology, and relevant and nimble curriculum. We will have to further strengthen our connection to employers, our K-12 school districts and our four-year partner universities throughout Johnson County and the metro area to ensure we are alert to the skills and resources our students need for a career (not just a job). And we have to re-emphasize continuous training and teaching opportunities for lifelong learning. Our success has and will continue to be measured by our ability to create an accessible, affordable, welcoming learning environment that is student-focused. If we are successful in reaching those goals, we will become a first choice for students leaving high school and for employers seeking well-rounded, skilled employees.
One of the things that makes JCCC so unique is that it is an institution that sits somewhere between a traditional community college and that of a university. What I think makes it an amazing place is that the faculty and staff are really free to be creative in innumerable ways. Whether its creating programs that have never been thought of (the sustainability program) to finding ways to marry the community’s needs and the college’s skills (Small Business Development Center SBDC) it seems to always be morphing and adapting to meet the needs of both the students in the county and it’s residents. For me, the keys to success are to foster the conditions that cultivate this kind of creativity, to be supportive of disruptive innovation and to seek out the voices of all in our community even when we don’t agree with those voices so that we remain relevant.
In this race, voters have the choice to vote for up to three candidates. Three of the candidates have chosen to run as one ticket, putting their names together on billboards, signs and literature. Nothing screams partisanship in a non-partisan race like running as a unified rubber stamp. I think JCCC has been successful in its first 50 years because it has always had divergent, independent voices working together to make The College successful. Our county is diversifying and changing at a pace we may not fully grasp. At this moment, it is vital that we have a seven member board governing its future from different lenses. In 50 years, I want my children and my neighbors’ children and my students to know that they have advocates who have worked relentlessly to ensure their future is bright. That is exactly what I plan to do. Please get out and vote on November 5th.
The first 50 years of Johnson County Community College saw many wonderful exhibitions, art shows, performing arts, culinary programs and career specific programs that have aligned with business needs. I believe the school did a great job growing during those years and as we move towards the next 50 it is imperative to shore up spending, put rigor to Business Advisory Committees, ensure faculty are heard and included in decisions, hire a new president with a vision, and ensure that Johnson County Community College serves the needs of the entire Johnson County Community.
I believe the key to continued success for JCCC will be responsiveness to changes in community needs. Over the next 50 years, we can expect: large demographic shifts as Baby Boomers continue to retire in large
numbers and Generation Z (and beyond) enters higher education and the workforce, changes in technology that alter job markets, an increased emphasis on sustainability and environmental concerns, as well as continuing conversations over the purposes and value of higher education. Community colleges are in a unique position to be adaptable to these types of changes.
While I expect to see many changes from outside forces, the nuts and bolts of what makes a strong education system will remain the same. Are we helping members of our community lead more productive and fulfilling lives through lifelong learning? Are we fostering an environment that is inclusive and supportive of all our students, faculty and staff? Are students engaged on campus while here, and proud to be alumni after they’ve gone? Are members of the Board being responsible stewards of our tax dollars? Are we listening to stakeholders and being transparent about upcoming changes?
If data supports answering yes to these questions, I feel that the community college is a success. While it is widely agreed that JCCC is a gem in our community, there is room for improvement along each of those dimensions. Yet you don’t have to take my word for it: the Faculty Association has stated that “the time is right for a change in the composition of the JCCC Board” when they endorsed my campaign, asserting that I have “demonstrated a potential for transformative leadership.
As Johnson County Community College embarks on its next 50 years I believe the key to continued success is linked to the ongoing offerings of high-quality, affordable and relevant education. At the Board of Trustees Retreat in August institutional effectiveness was emphasized. Measuring performance in ways that are meaningful and being accountable to the stakeholders as well as implementing accountability measures to determine if we are meeting our mission. That is what success looks like. Among other things this initiative entails: ensuring access and efficient ways to achieve student goals, continuing community partnerships with hospitals and businesses, continuing to expand the number of direct transfer agreements with universities and colleges in Kansas and the Midwest region, continuing community partnerships with hospitals and businesses, remaining focused on sustainability and energy reduction, completing the career technical educational initiatives and budget oversight with financial prudence. By remaining a leader in education, workforce development and economic growth JCCC will have continued success. The College is an outstanding institution and it would be my honor to be a part of its mission to help students succeed.