Sioux Falls: The Final Chapter

by Judi Sciple
Delaware Technical Community College
Dover, DE

My last day in Sioux Falls snuck up on me quickly. It seemed as if I was just starting to get to know people and learn about the good things they were doing at their colleges – and yet this afternoon I would be on a flight out of town!

The morning workshops included a panel session with three adult students from Southeast Technical Institute (STI) who shared their stories and answered questions about their experiences at a community college. All three previously had attended four-year institutions, one having attained two bachelor’s degrees before enrolling at STI. One was a single parent. All were confident, articulate and candid with their remarks. When asked why they chose the community college, their answers were no surprise to the audience – “Because I can attend classes for two years, pay less money and get a job when I am done.” And while no surprise, it was satisfying to hear these students telling us the identical message we have been pushing out from our institutions for years.

One attendee asked them to share a frustration they experienced while enrolled at the college – now things would get interesting! I mentally started ticking off in my head what a Delaware Tech student might say, and I have filed this list away to discuss with the Enrollment Management committee when I return.

I think social media has helped our colleges stay in tune with areas of improvement – students seem to be quick to share their opinions in these venues. We had a student who blasted the cafeteria’s French fries on our Facebook page not too long ago (and we shared the feedback with the cafeteria!), and while that is a very minor complaint that doesn’t affect a student’s ability to complete his or her program, the students on the conference panel had very good feedback to share.

One student worked mornings and needed a class to graduate. That class was only offered in the morning, one semester per year, which made it impossible for her to finish. Another stated that some students go into an area of study with an incorrect assumption about what they can do once they graduate. He suggested we can do a better job, as marketers, communicating this information in our materials and on the Web.

I found this session to be a great opportunity for reflection at a time when retention and degree completion are important focuses for our colleges. I encourage others to walk through the exercise as well. Better yet, if you have the time, conduct a focus group with your own students.

The conference ended with a keynote speaker who actually had been on our website and read the previous day’s blog post. Which blew my mind. And guess what she talked about? The chocolate covered bacon. I have a feeling the bacon is going to be following me around for a long time!

Kudos to District 5 Director Jim Strayer, and again to Margaret and Roxanna for a fantastic conference! I had a wonderful time getting to know everyone and hope to see many of you at the national conference in March. Next stop, the District 6 Conference in Carlsbad, California!

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