Monday, February 29, 2016

Recent ski trip

Happy Leap Day!
In December I marked myself out to take a day off to go skiing in February. I would have never thought that I would end up going hiking instead. Hiking in February is a first for me. It was a beautiful day - but I had to leave my skis behind.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Back from Cheyenne

Remember the line from that Garth Brooks song - "When he told her he would be riding, she said 'I don't care if you never come back from Cheyenne'." I am here to tell you, I am happy to have made it back from Cheyenne!

Last week VP Mark Kitchen and I represented the community colleges at the legislative session with Western Wyoming Community College President Karla Leach. Week two of the legislative session was budget week - which meant several long nights, eating on the run, and lunch at Albertsons.

In addition to the legislative session VP Kitchen, Trustee Nada Larsen and I attended the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault annual awards ceremony where Cynthia Garhart was presented the Partners in Advocacy award for the work she has done to change NWC's culture regarding sexual misconduct on campus.

The following evening, I had the honor of presenting the nominees for the Phi Theta Kappa Wyoming All-State Academic Team. Elijahben Jasso and Makenzie Beck (pictured below) are NWC's nominees. They will compete at the national level to be included on the All USA Academic Team in April. Student Senate President Sam Jones (pictured below) was also honored at the Wyoming Community College Trustee Legislative Reception as Northwest College's student of the year.

Elijahben Jasso, Sam Jones, President Hicswa, Makenzie Beck

HB 80, our stable funding bill, passed in the house this week and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
I am inspired by the fact that in Wyoming we truly have a citizens' legislature. As a citizen, I have the opportunity to talk to our legislators about our community colleges. We are lucky to have the opportunity to participate in the process at this level. I love being a part of the process and enjoy interacting with our legislators. BUT it is always nice drive over the hill, see Heart Mountain in the distance, and know that I have made it back from another trip to Cheyenne.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Update from the President's Desk

The following is an excerpt from my monthly report to the NWC Board of Trustees.

NWC is in the 98th percentile for the percentage of first-time, full-time students who completed and transferred in three years, according to the National Higher Education Benchmarking Institute survey of community colleges. We are in the 92nd percentile for students completing and transferring in two years.

Wyoming’s community colleges have impressive national rankings in the percentage of their students who transfer to earn bachelor’s degrees. A study by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University shows Wyoming to be first in the nation for the percentage of new students who transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree within six years (NWC’s average over the past five years is 69%). Wyoming Community Colleges are second in the nation for the percentage of students transferring to four-year schools (77% of NWC’s degree-seeking students who did not return fall 2015 transferred).

Governor Mead’s Standard Budget included $12M for the Enrollment Growth portion of Community College's State Aid (based upon 2014-15 enrollment), as opposed to submission of annual exception budget requests. While that represents a $2.3M reduction to the seven colleges’ current biennium funding level, I believe it’s reasonable given the state’s revenue situation. I’m pleased that the JAC’s markup of the Wyoming Community College Commission’s budget retained the $12M and will be part of mirror budget bills that go to both chambers this legislative session.

As a result of discussions with incoming UW President Laurie Nichols about the potential for closer partnerships between the University and the community colleges, I have been selected to serve on the UW Provost search committee.

I continue my involvement on the Forward Cody and Powell Economic Partnership (PEP) Boards. One of PEP’s priorities this year is to find ways we can bring the community and college closer. I will be meeting with members of the Powell community to identify “town and gown” initiatives.

We have embarked on a Mission Statement revision process with input from the campus. Data from employees were compiled into a questionnaire, which was given to faculty and staff early last semester. Following employee input as part of our Mission Statement revision process, we broadened our request for input to include area residents at a successful on-campus public meeting October 1. This month we asked for student input. Data from students and community members support input received from employees. We have analyzed results and are in the process of finalizing our work on the new Mission Statement. I will bring it forward to the Board for your approval after going through the campus shared governance consultation process.

In addition to the mission work, I have implemented Future’s Task Forces to review and discuss our organizational structure, faculty and staff salaries, major facilities projects as well as college finances.

We continue the work to refine our college policies. We have identified areas of policy that are missing and are drafting policy language and moving recommended policies through college processes. As well, in working with the College Council, the Board of Trustees’ Rules and Regulations, Employment Handbook, Student Handbook, portions of the College Catalog, and various other documents have been combined into a comprehensive document. I am reviewing this document with College Council to create a Board Policy Manual.

Respectfully submitted,



Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Student Success Story

A student emailed me over the weekend to tell me he was planning to drop out of school. I replied, "NOOOOOOO! Come in and talk to me on Monday."

In the meantime, I talked to others on campus who knew about his situation and found out that they had ALL told him that he couldn't drop out. By the time I caught up with the student, I learned that due to faculty and staff going above and beyond to help, the circumstances that led him to decide to withdraw from classes in the middle of the semester had been resolved.

I am proud of how everyone worked together to help this student. Sometimes that is all it takes to make a difference in the lives of our students when they feel their situation is hopeless.

This exemplifies not only our tag line, "Your Future, Our Focus" but also our Vision 2020 priority to focus on connections.

Please feel to share other inspiring student retention stories. I know they happen every day.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Shrek and Stefani

Stefani Hicswa and Shrek (aka:Troy Hunt)

If you did not have an opportunity to see the Cody Community Theatre production of Shrek the Musical in January you missed an amazing show! The talent demonstrated by the cast, orchestra, and sound crew was amazing. As you can see from the above photo, the costumes and make-up were outstanding as well.

In addition to faculty member Troy Hunt, music professor Rob Rumbolz, current students, and alumni were also involved in the production.

Following the show, I have thought a lot about how lucky we are to have such talent at NWC. I don't know about you, but the I think idea of remodeling and expanding the Nelson Performing Arts building to capitalize on this talent is quite compelling.