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The Verdict: A Good Year but More Changes Needed
By Dr. Phil Baird (Sicangu Lakota), Vice President Academic, Career and Technical Education
2 June 2010

BISMARCK (UTN) - A student retention plan, new construction, a self-study in progress, and 113 graduates including a new cadre of American Indian Energy Auditors were among the highlights of a successful 2009-10 school year at United Tribes Technical College.

      Student readiness for college studies, communications across departments, distance education, and more consistent accountability were issues that need to be addressed next academic year.

United Tribes staff members met in working groups May 10 during Institutional Assessment Day.

      These were some of the topics examined May 10 during the second annual United Tribes Institutional Assessment Day. Nearly 150 employees from among the college’s six divisions participated in the day-long event.

      Established last year, the main purpose of assessment day is to provide staff with an opportunity to review and assess evidence about the college’s progress in achieving institutional goals and objectives including student learner outcomes.

      Emerging from the group assessment activities were suggestions and recommendations about implementing changes to make the college stronger in 2010-11.

      The event began with a presentation about the types of data involved in decision-making at the college. Characteristics of the student population were described along with key performance indicators (KPIs) related to student academic performance, retention, completion, and placement.

      Two faculty members, Jeanette Martin and Jerry Zimmerman, explained the findings of two UTTC studies that focused on student writing competencies and computer literacy skills.

      During a working lunch, UTTC President David M. Gipp shared his perspective about the unique role of the college in serving intertribal needs from across the country. He also talked about the accreditation of Tribal Colleges.

      For the balance of the day, the college staff divided into 12 working groups to identify accomplishments (“what worked well this year”), and to discuss potential solutions for the future.

      Among the observations, positive change was very evident in student admissions and enrollment services in 2010. Also identified was the updating of institutional documents such as the college catalog, faculty and student handbooks, and the retention plan.

      According to the group reports, interdepartmental communications and getting staff focused on institutional changes were challenges that will carry into the next school year. Transitioning from a technical college to a “technical and community college” with new baccalaureate programs is presently in progress.

      Most stakeholders are aware that UTTC will be evaluated in April 2011 for re-accreditation by the NCA Higher Learning Commission.

      The working agenda of 2010 Institutional Assessment Day concluded with presentations of group reports. The text of each report was collected with the use of lap top computers and flash drives. The information will be summarized in a final report and shared with college stakeholders and decision-makers.

      The final event of the day was a memorial tree planting for an instructor who passed away during the school year. Anne McLaughlin Kuyper headed the campus beautification committee and had served the college for 35 years. The event coincided with the Arbor Day tradition in spring and allowed staff members to end the academic year by affirming their respect and affection for a colleague and friend with a lasting and living legacy – a long-lived Bur Oak tree.


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