Hayley Vawter | Editor
As of July 2018, East Central College was put “on notice” by the Missouri Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Following that, ECC had hired a new position: Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Dr. Michelle L. Smith. “Institutional effectiveness really has to do with overall, as a college is ECC making thoughtful, data-based decisions. We’re trying to foster a greater sense of [data-based decision making] in all areas of the college,” Smith said.
Dr. Smith currently resides in Owensville, Mo. Prior to being hired at East Central College, she was a teacher for several years and spent 15 years working with school improvement programs at schools like Missouri S&T and Mizzou.
While talking about her job description and what being the Director of Institutional Effectiveness entails, Smith said, “Strategic planning is a big part of my job, largely I’m responsible for helping to monitor the strategic plan. For example, ECC has a goal to attract and maintain more students. The first part of that is attracting and getting people here. The second part is making sure people are successful and that they want to stay here, and they can stay here. So, we look at all kinds of data related to that.”
The article also states that the HLC would be making another visit to the college “No later than December 2019,” and the college must “Provide evidence it has addressed the issues that led to the sanction no later than Oct. 1, 2019.”
Regarding what work had been done since the HLC’s visit last October and what must be done until the commission’s 2019 visit, Smith said, “A huge chunk of work that was done towards making sure that review goes well was done last year. Your faculty, instructors, campus leadership, folks in student services, a lot of folks worked really hard to lay the groundwork for some really good future plans. So, this year, we just need to carry out the plans.”
She compared the process to working a jigsaw puzzle, “If you think about a large, 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that has say trees and grass, so there’s like green everywhere. And if you start that 1,000- piece puzzle the first thing you’ll do is the outside first. So, you sort out the pieces and you work on the edge. You work really hard to build the outside and then you work on the grass and the trees after the outside is complete,” she said. “So, I think what ECC did last year is they built the edges, and now we’re just in the business of taking the 900 other pieces and we’re just slowly and carefully working the puzzle.”
Dr. Smith and everyone else at ECC continue to work hard to make sure ECC maintains its accreditation but also provide a great place for students to learn and continue their educations. “A piece of why my job exists is to work with all those groups [faculty, administration, students]; it’s interesting to get to know the different people. There are so many people here at all corners of the institution that really believe in East Central, that are committed to and have worked really hard to make East Central great.”