Male Student at Casper CollegeCasper College Center for Excellence
Report for activities August 2007 - August 2008
By Laurie Lye and Ebba Stedille
August 2008

For many years Casper College has had excellent initiatives addressing a variety of teaching and learning concepts. The most memorable of those was the “Network for Teaching Excellence” program that Jerry Nelson, PhD., Geography department member and noted instructor, established several years ago. That program, as well as other, similar efforts combined with a significant number of surveyed faculty comments indicated a desire to improve collegiality as well as to emphasize academic excellence. All of those factors suggested a need to create an actual Center that would promote and coordinate such efforts. This Center requires a physical location, a budget to support activities, and an employee assigned to the center to aid in coordinating efforts to promote excellence in teaching and learning. With support from Academic Affairs and Dr. Simone, an employee has been assigned to the Center who will explore solutions based on suggestions for improvement derived from the Campus Climate Survey. This Center will offer its resources to all Casper College employee categories, including faculty, staff and administrative.

The establishment of a “Center for Excellence” is grounded is the Strategic Plan for Academic Affairs as it relates to the following two goals:

  • College-Wide Goal 2: "Continue Implementation of the Master Plan.”
  • College-Wide Goal 6: "Foster Professional Development Opportunities."

Further, establishing a Center will serve to improve instructional quality and campus communication. Action items identified in the Strategic Plan which are noted to be relevant to this project are:

  • Improving retention, graduation, and student success rates
  • Enhancing the use of current pedagogies and technologies
  • Encouraging excellence in advising and support services for students
  • Utilizing, maintaining and improving college facilities and equipment
  • Leverage vision of campus community and promote communication
  • Provide opportunity for leadership

Activity to date:

  • Fall 2007
    • Dr. Simone announced the need to create a Center during the return week all-employee meeting and asked for interested persons to volunteer.
    • A core group volunteered and began brainstorming the first steps:
      • Identify what such a center’s purpose, goals, and active activities might be;
      • Identify members to balance the Advisory Board and approach them with an invitation to join in forming the Center for Excellence;
      • Create a rough draft of a Mission Statement for the Center for Excellence;
      • Develop an identity and a name for the Center.

These steps were accomplished and an Advisory Board was formed in January, 2008 which represented most of the divisions on campus, balanced by all employee classifications of Faculty, Administration, and Staff. Gender balance to the board was also considered.

The Advisory Board began meeting in February and during the spring semester came to agreement on the name, “Center for Excellence”, as well as the following mission statement:

“The mission of the Center for Excellence
is to cultivate a campus climate that recognizes, values, and promotes excellence in lifelong learning.”

Student Reading

In the four meetings which were held during the spring 2008 semester, Advisory Board members established an open dialogue and further explored the meaning and purpose of the Center. During that time, the following activities were accomplished:

  • Created campus awareness about the Center for Excellence through sponsorship of the “Walk to Wellness” program, which received tremendous Administrative support. Ninety-seven employees signed up for this very popular program.
  • Applied for and received notification they’d been awarded a $300.00 start-up grant from: The Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD), an organization supporting Centers for Excellence across the United States.
  • Researched other college and university campus centers, including on-site visits.
  • Co-sponsored a lunch at the end of the spring semester with the Mentoring committee designed to gather “mentees” and mentors together to learn what had gone right during mentees’ first year or first semester teaching at Casper College, and what could have been done to improve that experience.

While there were no Advisory Board meetings held during the summer, volunteers from the original core group continued discussions about the needs and goals that had been identified during those spring meetings. Based on the feedback from those four meetings with the Advisory Board, as well as consultation with Dr. Carmen Simone and other key Casper College employees to whom the proposed activities pertained, the group focused on the following for the fall semester:

  • August 19th, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.:
    Co-hosting a meeting with the Mentoring Committee on August 19th for all new CC employees. Name tags are being made by the Physical Plant and tote bags have been ordered with “The Center for Excellence” printed on them. These tote bags will be filled with many items chosen for the purpose of welcoming new employees to Casper College, raising their awareness of a number of CC entities and the services they provide.
  • September 10th, 2:00-4:00 p.m. and Sept. 11th, 9-12 a.m.:
    “G.I.F.T.S.” a “Teaching Idea Exchange”. “G.I.F.T.S.” stands for: “Great Ideas For Teaching Students” and is modeled after the very popular National Communication Association conference G.I.F.T.S. sessions. Presenters will be current faculty from across campus that have volunteered to present a great teaching idea. These sessions will be open to all faculty, with new faculty members especially encouraged to attend, and any other interested parties on campus are also invited. One of these presenters will be sponsored by the Center (tuition and associated costs) to attend The Yellowstone Master Teaching Seminar scheduled for Sept. 17-20, 2008, near Powell, Wyoming.

In addition, the group also:

  • Initiated the videotaping of award-winning instructors’ oral histories. These tapes have been transferred to DVDs that can be shared with faculty. Retired and former faculty members were the initial focus of this collection, which is an effort to preserve their knowledge, expertise, and perspectives, as well as a bit of institutional history. Faculty members are discussing how to best continue this project in upcoming semesters.
  • In conjunction with Human Resources, the Center for Excellence began to address the concerns voiced in the 2007 & 2008 Campus Climate Surveys. Prior to the last Advisory Board meeting of the spring semester, the Casper College Assessment department sorted Campus Climate survey data, a summary of which Advisory Board members reviewed. The greatest concern voiced was the need to learn how to better facilitate “conflict resolution” and to “improve communication”. After learning that other campuses have found book discussions focusing on specific topic to be a very popular and highly successful activity, the Center collaborated with Human Resources in a book purchase and distribution targeted for the Administrative group. The Center for Excellence and Human Resources identified and purchased two different book titles for distribution to this group. Discussions will be held several times during the fall semester about topics covered in these titles.
  • Started planning “service excellence” training for staff. This training will be geared toward customer service issues.
  • Scheduled 12 sessions of “Moodle” training to be held by the Distance Education department for interested individuals and groups they have identified. These will be held in the Center from during the fall semester, 2008.
  • Opened up dialogue with other departments, including Assessment and Purchasing, about the Center for Excellence’s availability to assist with the organization and arrangement of work space for any needs these departments may have for workshops, seminars, trainings or meetings.
  • Created a physical space in BU 126 and ordered furniture. This space will be ready for meetings in September, 2008.

Current discussions which will be placed before the board when it convenes again this fall include:

  • Review of summer activities.
  • Send at least one employee to the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network & The National Council for Staff, Program and Organizational Development (NCSPOD) Conference, in October.
  • Plan to host an end-of-the-semester celebration. Mentees and mentors and any other interested persons will be invited to contribute how they felt their first semester at Casper College went.
  • Collaborate and write grants to support on-going activities.