January 20, 2011


Northeast Programs Chosen as Bellwether Finalists

Two innovative programs at Northeast Alabama Community College have been selected as finalists for prestigious national awards, NACC officials recently announced. The programs, which focus on student retention and completion, were nominated for the Bellwether Awards, which are chosen by the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida.

“We are honored to be Bellwether finalists for these programs,” stated NACC President Dr. David Campbell. “The nominations demonstrate the hard work and effort that college personnel make in maintaining educational programs of high quality.” Campbell added that the programs focus on helping students complete their goals in education, an issue which has become a national priority.

Each year, the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Florida requests nominations and applications from community colleges nationwide to be submitted for Bellwether Awards in three program categories: Instructional Program Services; Planning, Governance and Finance; and Workforce Development. The applications are reviewed by a selection committee comprised of members of the national organizations the Council for Resource Development, the National Council for Instructional Administrators, and the National Council for Continuing Education and Training. Ten Bellwether applicant finalists are competitively selected from each category. Northeast is distinct in that two programs within the college were selected as finalists among thirty nationwide.

Phillip A. Morris, Program Director for the Community College Futures Assembly, sent congratulations to NACC, stating that it is a very rare occurrence for a college to receive two finalist awards in the same year. Personnel from Northeast will present the programs at a national conference to be held in February of 2011.

Dr. Joe Burke, Vice President/Dean of Instruction, who has been a part of both of these programs from their inception states, “It is exciting to know that these programs have obtained this national recognition, but most of all, to be a witness to the positive impact these efforts have made on the lives of individual students is most gratifying. We are looking forward to sharing our ideas and successes with our colleagues from community colleges all over the country at the conference.”

Northeast personnel will make their presentations at the Community College Futures Assembly, which serves as a national independent policy think tank. Convening annually in Orlando, the purpose of the Assembly is to articulate the critical issues facing American community colleges and recognize innovative programs. Finalist applications addressed at the 2011 conference theme will be The Workforce 2020. Additionally, the 2011 Assembly will feature a number of policy experts who will discuss the inter-connectedness of public, private, and foundation support for workforce development. The Policy Summit-Workforce 2020 will focus on the extent community colleges are prepared to address the needs of the future workforce, identify potential gaps, and develop recommendations for policy-makers.

One Northeast program selected as a finalist is Learners in Transition: Connecting and Creating the Workforce of 2010.This program endeavors to meet the needs of many people in the local area by making the connections to assist their transitions from high school or GED to postsecondary education and training into jobs. “Our research has found that often students drop out of their programs because they cannot find the right career path for them,” Dr. Burke stated. “The Learners in Transition program helps students and potential students find the exact match for them in regard to their career, their interests, and skills.”

The program establishes educational connections in the following ways: 1) Connecting to high schools – informs students in 29 middle schools and high schools of career possibilities; 2) Connecting with college students - assists students or potential students with career planning; 3) Connecting with adult learners - establishes relationships with area adult education programs to identify persons earning the GED and assist them in getting job/career information and training. 4) Connecting with business and industry - cultivates partnerships with local business and industry to ensure training and workforce needs are met; and 5) Connecting with other agencies - coordinates with area agencies to create a synergistic effect in workforce development. The College and Career Planning Center on the NACC campus is the headquarters for this pioneering work and is directed by Sherry Whitten, who will make the conference presentation assisted by Dr. Burke.

The other NACC program nominated for a Bellwether Award is Getting the Horse before the Cart: Early Engagement Strategies for Retaining Nursing Students. This program developed in the fall of 2009 when Dr. Campbell established the Nursing Retention Committee with the mission of analyzing and evaluating retention and success in the practical nursing (PN) program. As a result of this committee’s work several improvements in recruitment and retention of students who are in the pre-nursing program as well as those currently enrolled in the Practical Nursing program were implemented. The program utilizes a Short-Term-Success (STS) Plan and a Long-Term-Success (LTS) Plan to ensure students receive the academic and socio-emotional support they need to succeed in this important health care field. Six seminars are offered during the school year for students who are pre-nursing majors. These seminars focus on giving students the tools they need to be a success in their nursing program studies. Dr. Cindy Jones, who is the Director of Nursing at Northeast, and Dr. Burke will be presenting the program at the Community College Futures Assembly.

“It is our goal to be the best that we can be in providing educational opportunities to students and in serving the community,” Campbell stated. “It is gratifying to see the efforts of our faculty and staff recognized nationally for their work.”

Instrumental in the two Northeast programs named as Bellwether finalists are (L-R) Dr. Joe Burke, Vice President/Dean of Instruction; Director Sherry Whitten of the College and Career Planning Center; Dr. Cindy D. Jones, Director of Nursing Education; and Dr. David Campbell, President.