In these days of recession and pending budget cuts, everyone at my institution needs to think about how our offices and departments connect to the mission of the institution. We area comprehensive community college, so somewhere in that large mission, everyone can reasonably find themselves. But, as budgets get tight, it becomes even more important that we determine how closely we are tied to the mission of accessible education which is, of course, our bread and butter.
I remember a discussion from a few years ago. The recession was just hitting the news and we talked about our division of student affairs and how closely we were tied to the mission. My department, an operation providing access to students around our county to a wide range of academic and student services, was fairly close to that “access” mission. The children’s learning center (our on site day care)? Not so much. Over the course of the past few years, those operations that knew that they were further from the core actively worked to move into the fold. That CLC now has hundreds of nursing and education students who complete clinical workshops and education practica inside its walls. The International Education Center moved away from providing “fun trips” for the wealthiest of our students and focused on assisting faculty with internationalization. And so, if those offices have moved further to the center, which offices have been pushed out?
That question brings us to the current discussion within my department. As we are throwing around language for our early strategic planning (vision, values, etc) most of my staff has argued for speaking of the “college experience” when referring to the holistic experience that we provide to students. A few, myself included argue instead for the “educational experience,” capturing our promotion of a co-curricular experience in which we provide not only services but learning in the form of social, intellectual, and professional development. When I consider our budget challenges, I recognize the need to be as close as possible to the education of the institution.
So, when you think about funding, what do you need to say to make sure that your department or your programs are no where near the chopping block? How do you communicate not only to your own staff, but also to the rest of the institution that your work is not only important, but crucial to the safe survival of the institution?