Notes by David Heise:

This document is a draft of Eileen White's Dissertation Chapter Three. The highlighting and italics are mine, as is the index of key words

Keywords Occurrences
Program Review 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
21, 22, 23, 24
Openness 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10,
11
Trust 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07
Information 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10,
11, 12

Return to 5b2 Individual Project > Analysis & Representation

CHAPTER THREE

MIRACOSTA COLLEGE

“The culture here is one of cooperation, collaboration, and shared governance, always has been …it’s a thing we value”.

Introduction

MiraCosta College was identified by a purposive sampling process as having an integrated budgeting, program review and planning process.   Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this community college is known among representatives of the WASC accrediting teams and presidents of community colleges in California as being innovative in the ways it coordinates these institutional processes.  In the local community, it is known for its’ responsiveness to student needs.

Budgeting, program review and strategic planning are not new to higher education.  However, they often exist in isolation from one another.  For example, the results of program review aren’t necessarily considered when developing the budget.  Likewise, program decisions and budgeting may not be directly influenced by the strategic plan.  At MiraCosta College this is not the case.   How did MiraCosta develop an integrated process?   How do the various components relate to one another in the overall effectiveness of the institution?  In order to capture the essence of the integrated process, this chapter addresses four critical aspects: history, leadership, institutional culture and the integration process.

History

MiraCosta College like many community colleges across the nation found it’s beginning in response to the “Great Depression” which caused high unemployment and financial distress in many communities. High school graduates had limited job opportunities and even less opportunity for affordable higher education near home.  In 1934, the Board of Trustees of the local High School District determined to provide graduating seniors with an additional two years of education.  They believed that the depression would soon be over and that jobs would again be available for young people with post secondary education.  So they began to develop a junior college department to function within the high school district. 

MiraCosta College began in September 1934 with 115 students enrolled from the immediate county and nearby cities.  Because they were housed in the high school, the new college students shared teachers, facilities, and even the same class schedule.

Despite the absence of a college-campus atmosphere, the curriculum provided an opportunity for students to earn junior certificates, enabling them to transfer with junior-year status to the University of California, which had accredited the junior college degree, the Associates of Arts. (Report of the Institutional Self Study 1997, p.10)

The college department grew until the start of World War II when enrollment dropped to 55 in 1943.  The board, in response to the local and national needs, established pre-flight training courses to assist in the war effort.  After the war, the board was invited to join surrounding high school districts to develop a larger service area but they chose not to participate. . . “preferring to focus their attention and dollars on the residents of communities from which they were elected” (Report of the Institutional Self Study 1997, p.10)

As the baby boom of the 50’s began, the college outgrew the existing facilities and the board authorized the construction of a “College Center” which contained new classrooms and a library. In 1960 with the support of state and local educational entities, the community voted to develop a separate junior college district.  Within a year the citizens approved the purchase of a site overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the construction of a campus reasonably priced and central to the population.  By 1962 construction began and in September 1964, “the new campus opened with few finished classrooms, no landscaping, and more than 650 enthusiastic students” (Report of the Institutional Self Study 1997, p.11).

In order to attract students from all coastal communities, the board and college administration began the search for a name that would represent the larger community.  The name MiraCosta was selected which translated means, “Behold the coast”.  The Self Study (1997) states:

Even before construction began on the new campus, college faculty recognized that moving from a small junior college in a high school setting to a sprawling isolated campus necessitated new lines of communication.  Members of the college faculty began to search for ideas to provide all certificated faculty with opportunities for participation in the development and implementation of college policy.  Working together with and supported by the college administration, the faculty established the Academic Senate in 1963…To date, the Academic Senate has remained a strong proponent of the collegial method of governance which affords faculty strong influence on issues of academic and professional import.  This philosophy of shared governance, established long before the AB 1725 mandate, has helped to assure high quality education for all students by providing a context of cooperation among the board, administration and faculty (p.11).

Through the 1960’s, several buildings were added through state and existing local funds.  Then in the 1970’s, the voters were asked to provide additional tax moneys for the construction and the equipping of buildings to expand the colleges curriculum and programs.  In 1975, The California Community College Board of Governors changed the rules directing the structure of community college districts. In so doing, they assigned the residents of a neighboring school district to MiraCosta College service area—doubling the population and assessed valuation of the college district and providing two additional seats on the board.  This expansion created a demand for an educational center (another campus) to serve this new location. Consequently in 1976, the Solana Beach Center was opened, offering 50 classes in the spring and then 100 classes in the fall.

As the college continued to grow during the mid 70’s, the population began to change from traditional high school graduates to include older students, many of them women, who were returning to complete their education.  Ethnic minorities swelled the campus population to approximately 8,000 students and once again the board began to plan for the increasing enrollment. 

In November 1977, after extensive discussions with the local community, students, and faculty, the board approved a $15-million, five-year building program.  Soon after, the infamous tax revolt of California residents, known as Proposition 13, shifted some of the financial support of community colleges from local communities to the state.  During that time many colleges had to rethink their curriculum and physical plant priorities. Though progress was delayed, MiraCosta was able to complete several building expansions and new projects. 

In 1986, additional planning and construction of a new campus named San Elijo  began  and it opened in 1988  to 2,500 new students, about 1000 more students than anticipated.  During the 1990’s the college continued to experience major changes.  As the administration  

undertook the challenge of remodeling existing facilities and building new ones, enrollment began to stabilize and property taxes began to shrink as the community felt the impact of the nation-wide economic recession… Because MiraCosta has been a “basic aid” district, deriving its income from the local property tax revenues (rather than state allocations), enrollment management had become important in order to balance the effect of diminishing property-tax revenues caused by the downturn in economic growth being experience in the county (Report of the Institutional Self Study 1997, p.12).   

The third president, Dr. Tim T.L. Dong arrived to lead MiraCosta College in 1994.  During the next two years, several high level administrators’ retired and were replaced. As the new administration settled in, it became evident that more stringent fiscal management was needed to align the budget with the operating expenditures.  The administration began to restructure and reorganize the college. For the first time a small number of faculty and staff were laid off due to necessary budget and program changes.

Through out these changes, MiraCosta’s faculty and staff remained true to their mission and purpose, to provide high quality programs and services to their community.  They remained focused on student needs and devoted to continuous improvement and student success.

Leadership

At MiraCosta leadership consists of a team of people who bring various life experiences, strengths and commitments to their work.  This section discusses the President, the Vice President for Business and Administration, the Vice President for Instruction, the Vice President for Student Services, the Academic Senate President, the Classified Council President and the Dean of Research and Planning.

The President

Since the inception of the college there have been only three presidents.  Dr. Tim T.L. Dong, became the third leader of the campuses in 1994 and continued to build on the cooperative and collaborative model already established at the college under the two previous presidents.  When asked about how his organization functions, Dr. Dong replied,

There was a collaborative model when I got here, but there were areas where the challenge of the organization was to look at what “is” and what is rhetoric and either try to change the rhetoric or change the organization to get them to match (V.I, p.13).

With this statement we see evidence of a leader who was aware of the notion of a collaborative culture but who also wanted the collaboration to be “real”.  His previous experiences with collaboration wouldn’t allow him to be satisfied with rhetoric alone.  Dr. Dong or Tim as he was often referred to on campus recounted his unusual history of academic employment. As he was contemplating leaving higher education and his teaching position at Pomona College, he received a call from Wright Institute at UC Berkleys’ Los Angeles branch, inviting him to join them in founding a new school. He had become disillusioned with the elitist approach at Pomona and said to himself, “These are not the type of students I want to spend the rest of my life with, and these are not the type of colleagues I want” (V.I, p.14).

Wright Institute, a graduate school for psychology was being developed for adult learners with extensive social work backgrounds who were not interested in attending research based programs at the local universities. Because of the promise of an open and creative work environment, Dr. Dong accepted the invitation and became part of the core planning group and faculty for four years. Starting a new school gave the founders an opportunity to establish a different kind of school.  They did not want the same structure used by others because they recognized the structures were ineffective.  Instead they chose “a very broad, open, collaborative model where we had endless meetings….” and “ I found out that it did work, we did have a common purpose and we allowed people to talk and so forth (V.I, p.15).  Dr. Dong identified other unique features of this new school:

All faculty were no more than half time, and you had to find something else to do because we wanted you connected with the real world.    And my job there was probably one of the more interesting because I was teaching the general psychology courses, history of psychology. .  . It had very strong women leadership which was very interesting. . .  and it had that strong presence of ethnic minorities (V.I, p.14).

Dr. Dong’s next move was to the University of California at Los Angeles to the Asian American Studies Center where everything was done by consensus, voting was not an option. Dr Dong said, “it’s those sort of philosophies that I have carried” (V.I, p.15).  From there he went to the University of California System Chancellor’s Office where he served as assistant vice chancellor for faculty and staff relations, and state university dean for affirmative action programs where he spent “three of seven years doing program review of human resources at the 20 campuses.” Also he served as associate vice president of student affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.   At that point in his career, he was invited to serve as President of MiraCosta College.   

Dr. Dong came to MiraCosta because people told him it was a good place, it participated in a shared governance model, and they were ready for his style of leadership.  Besides, the Board was willing to take a chance on him.  He shared, “I am not sure how many people are pleased with what I’ve done here because it’s rather subtle, but I think from my agenda, I moved us where I want us to move” (V.I, p.16).  He believes he accomplished this by rather mundane actions.

When you communicate, you have to get people to share in your vision, and you get so busy expounding on your vision, you don’t develop the infrastructure to carry it out and so what I did was, I really just have two mechanisms that I wanted to use to change this institution . . . one is database decision making, and the other is connecting with community (V.I, p. 16).

Connecting with the community is done out of the President’s office, Student Services offices and out of the Office of Instruction where more of the vocational activities are directed.  Database decision making is possible at all levels due to information readily available from the Office of Institutional Research.  Dr. Dong describes that the change process is moving forward very slowly, and that’s part of what’s hard to explain to people, that it’s going to be slow because you are changing the culture.

When asked what management style or theory best approximates how he operates the college, Dong referred to an article in Inc. Magazine by John Case entitled, Open Book Revolution” based on his book “Open-Book Management: The Coming Business Revolution”.  Open Book Management is defined by Case (1998) in his most recent book, “The Open Book Experience” as

a systematic approach to running a business, and it involves far-reaching changes in how a company operates. . . . It’s a way of doing business, and thinking about business, that reshapes an entire organization. . . .  It changes how people think and act every day on the job.  It creates an organization which everyone understands, cares about, and works to further the company’s business objectives (p. x).

Case (1998) states that while this book is a business book  “it’s about how people can work together in ways that are both satisfying and productive” (p. 215).  He suggests that people want to “see themselves as partners in the business” (p.2) and this is accomplished by organizing the company around three principles: 1) create a transparent institution where everyone sees and understands the real numbers of the organization  2) create joint accountability systems that hold everybody responsible for their part in the organizations performance and 3) give people a stake in the success of the organization. (p. 2-3).  As leaders use the open book principles, they report many benefits.  However, the most common theme is

We’re all in this together.  We can see what’s going on, and we have the tools we need to affect what happens.  Most important, whatever benefits the business benefits us all (p.7).

In summary, Case’s (1995) ideas about open book management became a metaphor or mental model used by Dr. Dong to shape the college.  It was an idea that meshed well with his past experiences and one which the college was ready to embrace.

The Vice President for Business and Administration

Although Dr. Dong brings the philosophical concept of open and participatory management to MiraCosta, Dr. Ed Coate, the Vice President for Business and Administration, bears the responsibility of operationalizing the concept in the day-to-day life of the college.  When he arrived in 1995, Ed states there was no master plan and no strategic planning process.  He describes the way the former vice-president of Finance and the President conducted the budget process, “ They got the budget out and told people what everybody’s share was” (V.I, p.74).  When Ed came to MiraCosta, he recognized immediately that the President expected something different.  Ed stated,

When Tim hired me, he said he wanted an open process, and that’s the way I’ve always done it…I think that is the only way to run a ship.  …You have got to let everybody know everything about the money and they don’t think there’s this big secret pot of money that you’ve got.  There’s a limited amount of resources, and they’re entitled to their fair share so going through a process makes sense.  So we started the strategic planning process and the master planning process. And program review really got developed into the master planning process (V.I, p.74).

Ed’s previous experiences in governmental agencies and higher education prepared him for the planning and budget challenges at MiraCosta.  At the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency he had developed a comfort level for strong strategic planning with management by objectives.  At Oregon State University, where he was Vice President for Finance, he “started right out with a master planning process and a strategic planning process.”  While “an old master plan and an old strategic plan” existed, they “didn’t make a lot of sense… and the budget process was secretive” (V.I, p.75).  In the California University System he developed a successful planning model that he has used with other institutions, “each one with its own little unique twist” (V.I, p.75). 

When asked how he came to have this philosophy of leadership he replied,

I think there are two answers to it.  Some of it is reactionary to the military training I got, because I thought it was too hierarchical.  The other part of it was I was deeply involved in total quality management at Oregon State and did a lot of direct work with Dr. Deming.  And he really believed that teams are the right way to go.  And my vision of the days of John Wayne leadership are over.  I mean it is too complicated … so my job is to be a mentor leader as opposed to a dictator leader (V.I, p.75).

Ed Coate’s work with Deming and Oregon State University is referred to by Daniel Seymour in his book On Q: Causing Quality in Higher Education.  Seymour (1993) stated, “According to Ed Coate, OSU’s vice president for Finance, perhaps the most significant finding was that once people began to see most of their ideas for improvement being implemented, they became enthusiastic.  They had spent years working in a system that was broken.  They always had a pretty good idea of how to fix it.  Now they were being asked to speak out--and someone was listening” (p18).

The “quality” movement influenced by the work of W. Edward Deming, Joseph Juran, and Phillip Crosby, represents a paradigm shift that encompasses a cultural, attitudinal, and operational transformation of an organization. It requires the rethinking and redesigning of organizational processes for continuous improvement. It expects a strong relationship between the mission and the strategies of the organization and what and how the organization measures its performance.  This is strategic alignment.  The expected result is always an increase in quality and a decrease in cost.

Tuttle (1994) states  “the implementation of total quality must also recognize that employees are the source of the improvements in operational results and therefore ensure that gains in customer satisfaction are not achieved at the expense of employees” (p. 22). He continues,

Inherent in the philosophy of total quality is that its scope is total in the sense of organizational performance. . . . As a strategic management philosophy, total quality should have a positive impact on the strategic performance dimensions that are critical for organizational success.  Each organization must define its own specific set of performance dimensions as part of its strategic planning process (p. 24).

Quality management principles and quality tools can provide higher education with a framework for collaborative planning and decision-making that involves students faculty, staff, administrators and the surrounding community.  It requires a firm presidential commitment, a champion of considerable authority or influence who will oversee the process from inception to implementation, and a planning team that is devoted to self-study and continuous process improvement. 

When talking of the Rio Salado Community College experience with TQM, Thor (1994) states “There is no question that the implementation of TQM continues to require a significant investment of time and human resources on the part of our college, but we find that the improvement in our college culture and in our ability to produce high-quality educational services is significant. . . We see the human return through increased awareness, expanded empowerment and broadened horizons” (p. 61-65).  Tuttle (1994) summarizes:

Total quality is a philosophy, a business strategy, a culture change, and a management process.  To determine whether such a comprehensive effort is working, it is necessary to make such a judgment from the perspective of the total organization, not just of specific process improvements. . . What is needed are innovative ways of using the resources that we already have in ways that allow us to do a better job.  This will require new management paradigms, new ways of organizing the work of the campus and its functioning.  Total quality provides a framework within which we can develop these new ways of working and living together (p.26, 28).

In summary, Ed is using his previous experiences with total quality as a strategic management process to accomplish the business of MiraCosta more effectively.  He understands that no quality process can be successful without the participatory efforts of its employees. 

Vice President of Instruction

Another member of the leadership team at MiraCosta College is Julie Hatoff, Vice-President of Instruction who has served 28 years at the college. She first joined the college as an active English faculty member, then became involved with the campus Academic Senate eventually serving as its President.  Her leadership skills and willingness led to service at the statewide level as a senate officer with links to other faculty and schools across the state.  Julie is one of three founding members who authored and developed the idea of the English Council at the California Community Colleges, which has made significant contributions to the English discipline.

During her 15 years as Vice President of Instruction Julie has participated in many innovative programs.  The one most relevant to this study is the program review process that she initiated in Fall Semester of 1981.  She remembers a cartoon of lemmings jumping off the precipice that she shared with faculty to begin the process.  It was a way of capturing the idea that program review was new and nobody really understood where it would lead.  It was a leap of faith.  But she told the faculty that the process “promises to help us explain our financial decisions and validate our goals.  It will go a long way toward telling us if all we do is all we should be or if the tree of knowledge needs to be pruned to promote new kinds of growth” (V.I, p.101).  She recognized that asking these kinds of questions increased anxiety levels.  But clearly she had the courage to start the process.  MiraCosta was one of the first community colleges in the state of California to implement some form of program review.  Julie realized the process “requires the trust of committed, skilled staff who have ready access to sound information and who know that the institution of MiraCosta is more important that any single person” (V.I, p.101).  The program review process at MiraCosta will be discussed in greater detail in the section on Integrated Process.

In summary, Julie’s history of the college, her long-term commitment to the college and her involvement with program review provide a key to the integrated process.  It is important to think about the role of senior faculty and staff in learning organizations.  Can an organization be a learning organization, one that grows and changes, without the influence of strong leaders who continue to facilitate growth – who learn from past mistakes and build on successes?  This question and others will be addressed in Chapter Six – The Cross-Case Analysis.  For now, Julie describes where the college is, “We are just in this kind of evolutionary way–things change in a college, and we’re pulling the threads together. . . You have to stay with this.  You can’t come in and out. I think that’s why other schools aren’t where we are because we’ve had such good stability in our faculty and our administrative staff over time” (V.I, p.100,101).  And there is no better example of this than Julie herself!

Vice President for Student Services

Dick Robertson, Vice President for Student Services has been with the college and in his position for 11 ½ years.  He has been a strong proponent for program review and uses the data gathered during the process for his budget request.  With data from internal and external sources, departments can decide if they have serious budgetary needs or if they need to work smarter.

As is the apparent custom for MiraCosta College leadership, Student Services program review was among the first in California Community Colleges.  Dick states,

I started program review at MiraCosta College for Student services.  I thought that because Instruction was doing program review, it only made sense that we should do it.  Interestingly enough, the California Education Code requires that Instruction does program review, but doesn’t say anything about fiscal services, maintenance, student services, or any of the other support programs.  I think that is unfortunate.  I think student services are every bit as important to campus as the instruction process, even though we are a support system to it.  And I am very pleased that we do program review (V. I, p. 47).

Academic Senate President

As previously noted in the historical section, the Academic Senate was established in 1963 because the college faculty and administration wanted to keep faculty actively participating in the governance of the college. 

Dr. Louisa Moon, Academic Senate President has been at the college for eight years.  She leads the faculty as they oversee academic and professional matters from AB 1725. Louisa describes some of her committee assignments “The Academic Senate President has always been on Planning and Budget Council, but the Academic Senate President is also chair of the Academic Master Plan Committee”(V. I, p. 66).  When describing long-term goals for faculty use of planning and program review a faculty members states,“ We want more people to go to the academic master plan and say, ‘What does it say in there”  We would like that to be a central force of helping us make decisions’” (V. I, p.63). While attending an Academic Senate meeting during the data collection phase of this research, it was observed that the college president and other administrators were in attendance.  Tim states, “We are also going through a very big change in the culture of the senate.  It’s being taken over for the first time by the new guard.  The three senate presidents who I’ve gone through were the old timers.  I mean they were people that had been here 20 years, and they were people who were elected into senate council, into the senate presidency.  Lousia is the first of the new guard so we’re going though a whole change on what that means and how they define power, whatever balances were, we’re redoing them, and it’s not an easy process”  (V.I, p.21).

Julie remembers, “we’ve always had a strong Senate here built on administrators and faculty working together and sharing information and coming to consensus”(V.I, p. 102). “when I came here, the Senate talked about dogs on campus and parking.   The Senate hasn’t talked about either of those things for 15 or more years.  They really don’t talk about that kind of stuff anymore.  They talk about general ed; they talk about real issues for the most part. When we don’t have a union, they have to also talk about working conditions and things like that” (V.I, p.104).

Some of the real issues Julie refers to are the Academic Master Plan, the Academic Policy and Procedures Committee (curriculum committee), and the Planning and Budget Council(PBC) all of which require significant faculty representation and participation.  For example the PBC meets for three hours every two weeks.  Each of these committees is described in the section on the Integrated Process.

Classified Employees Council President

Another leader that represents staff in the decision-making processes is Laura Cantrell, President of the Classified Employees Council (CEC).  The council is modeled on the Academic Senate but with elected members.  Laura has been at MiraCosta for 12 years and is currently the secretary for the Creative Arts which includes art, dance music and theatre.

After program review data and preliminary documents are completed in the discipline or student service departments, classified staff are responsible for putting the data in final form for submission to appropriate committees. “  I’ve been involved in the typing, receiving information from departments to get it into presentation format.  . . . I actually have some questions assigned to me that I’ve written the answers for and did research on and so on” (V. I, p. 31).   They have been responsible for several of the  technical revisions of forms used in the program review process.  The Classified Council President also serves on the Planning and Budget council as well as the ____________.

Dean of Research and Planning

Currently, Cosette Lare is the Dean of Research and Planning.  Through the Office of Institutional Research she provides data for the total campus.  Her role on campus is critical to the vision Dr. Dong has for MiraCosta.  More discussion of this office is found in the section, information Rich Data Environment under Institutional Culture.

Summary of Leadership

The leadership at MiraCosta College might best be described as “visionary”.  Each leader brought experiences in innovation and change and exhibited in their past and present positions behaviors that exemplify willingness to challenge institutional culture.  In spite of different experiences, the leaders have a shared vision for collaborative decision-making.

Institutional Culture

Dr. Dong showed insight when he stated, “It is fortunate that up to this point there’s a good match between what I want to do and what the culture will allow” (V. I, p. 23).  With this statement, the President of MiraCosta makes it clear that he understands the critical role of the institutional culture in the change process.  What is culture?  Seymour (1993) defines culture as “a social or normative glue that enables an organization to solve problems. . .every organization has a culture – “how we do things around here” – and because culture is context-bound, every organization’s culture is different” (p. 144).

Schein (1990) stated that

Culture can now be defined as (a) a pattern of basic assumptions (b) invented, discovered, or developed by a given group (c) as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, (d) that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore (e) is taught to new members as the (f) correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems ( p.111).

Historically, MiraCosta has adapted to a number of external pressures – war, increasing student enrollment, reorganization of educational districts and changing financial support structures.   Through this, they defined their assumptions and patterns of behavior.  Chaffe and Jacobson (2000) state that

The learning organization that continuously improves to meet the needs of a fast-paced, changing environment requires a culture that supports shared vision, a willingness to understand the organization and its environment, and trust (p. 240).

Each of these ideas can be found in the MiraCosta data.  The idea of shared vision was discussed under leadership.  A willingness to understand the organization is indicated by the stability of faculty and staff, and trust is probably epitomized most by the idea of shared governance.  Currently, four themes emerged from the data describing some of the ways things are done at MiraCosta: shared governance, information-rich environment, accountability and flexibility.  Each of these is described in the following sections.

Shared Governance – Cooperative Teaming

When asked who is responsible for the success of the integration process Dick said “I think all of us!” (V.I, p.54) and Julie said, “ Everybody, everybody is responsible for the success.  The way it works, it’s built on trust (V.I, p.108).  This idea of shared governance appears to be connected to two major influences.  First, the college is relatively small ( 6,000 students and  _____faculty and staff )  and so people know each other.  Most have been there for a long time and “ whether faculty members or classified staff, they’re very much stake holders” (V.I, p. 91).  Chaffe and Jacobsen (2000) suggest that

Groups that share a common history and have been relatively stable over a period of time tend to have “strong” cultures, in that the underlying assumptions, values, and reinforcing artifacts are widely shared by most participants (p.235).

From its inception the people at MiraCosta have learned to value the idea of shared governance.  They have had a rather stable faculty and staff and folks have learned to trust each other and work together for the common good.  As Julie states, “There’s no adversarial thing going on. There are no unions in the college and folks are satisfied. . . This is the way things have been done here forever as far as I know it has worked for us and continues to work most of the time” (V.I, p.?????).  “The way things have been done here forever” seems to describe a “strong culture”.  Tim agreed that “shared governance or a collaborative model was more real at MiraCosta than anywhere else” and that he “didn’t start it, it was already at MiraCosta when he arrived” (V.I, p. 9).  He continued by saying,

So what I think I brought to the table is to really add the classified employees to the mix.  Usually when we talk about shared governance, it’s the administration and faculty but I think classified folks need to be involved because they’re all over the place (V.I, p. 9).

The idea of shared governance is that structures or processes are formalized so that people have a place to share ideas and concerns.  At MiraCosta this seems to be the case even students feel heard!  One student said, “Having student representatives on major committees and councils makes MiraCosta very student friendly and student oriented.  There is an open door policy where students feel heard” (V.I, p.5).

The second influence on collaboration is related to California Assembly Bill 1725, which requires each of its community colleges to negotiate and approve a shared governance policy. This 1988 legislative mandate, requires greater participation of faculty in many decision-making processes. Many colleges have extended their policy and or practice to include classified staff and students. As a result, “every committee has at least one or two faculty members, a classified representative and an administrator on it”(V. I, p. 74).   Julie believed that MiraCosta was “the first school in the state to pass the 1725 – do all the 1725 stuff – because it really again built on this foundation that we had already developed” (V.I, p.102).   This ability to adapt to changing legal requirements is also an indication of the strength of MiraCosta College.  Seymour (1993) further describes “strong cultures” by saying they are

not only able to respond to an environment, but they are able to adopt to diverse and changing circumstances.  When times get tough, they can reach deeply into their shared values and beliefs for the truth and courage to see them through.  When new challenges arise, they can adjust (p.144).

No doubt, the core value of collaborative/cooperative teaming or shared governance has been a part of MiraCosta for some time.  It has helped them historically through many changing situations.

Information Rich Data Environment

The Institutional Research Office is responsible for providing quantitative data on programs and classes.  This includes “things like retention, grade distribution, costs, student contact hours per FTE’s, number of students in programs and full time equivalent faculty” (V.I, p.58).  The information is available on the web and “everybody at the institution can just point and click and get it”, says Cosette Lare, the Dean of Research and Planning.  But she is not satisfied, “I’d love to have a hundred times more stuff up there, so I feel like we’re really just getting started” (V.I, p.90).  

At the time of my visit the college was planning to implement PeopleSoft, a windows based format that would allow faculty to “go in and run reports that institutional research would have had to do before.  Then people will have even more access to this kind of information” (V.I, p.91).

Tim shared the way people appreciate Cosette.  She “has this great reputation throughout the campus of someone who is very straight with you, who’s going to give you good data, tell you that what you want isn’t what you want because it won’t answer your question -- here’s what you want, here’s what you need” (V.I, p.23).

When asked about the information–rich environment that the college has, Cosette, states, " I can actually find the root source of this idea of an open-book business.  Tim Dong when he first started here had everybody on Planning and Budget Council read this article The Open Book Revolution. . . that was four years ago and I’ve seen a lot of improvement since then” (V.I, p.89)     

The purpose of having data readily available is so that decisions can be made based on the data.  Cosette stated,

Well, I’ll just be frank with you…It certainly can’t hurt to know by discipline, what do those grade distributions look like.  Is there a retention problem? And if there is, why is that? . . .for example, our open-entry, open exit classes, if you looked at the grade distribution, these people are really withdrawing at a higher rate (V.I, p.86).

Data is not used just by academic programs, other campus entities such as school relations use data to make decisions and evaluate their effectiveness.  Dick Robertson shared ways data is used by Student Services.

In 1988 we had 2.1% of African American students in a district that has 4.8% African American adult population.  Right now our African American student percentage is 5.7%.  Our district adult population is 4.9%.  We’re doing something right by targeting groups of people in our district who we had not served the way we thought we should serve them (V.I, p.49).

And when the Latino student groups start to agitate for more rights, data is used to discuss their concerns. Dick Robertson declared,

I drag out those data and say, “When this white guy with the tie came here in 1987, we had 13% Latino students in our student body.  We now have 19% Latino students in our student body.  I’ve been working to address your needs.  When I came here, there were two Latino staff members.  Now there are 30.  I think I’ve hired with your needs in mind.  When you do those kinds of things, when you can put that kind of data in front of people, you diffuse angry people very quickly (V.I, p.50).

But Dick points out that all decisions aren’t made with the use of data

I have the feeling inside of me that says there will always be other things besides data that drive the way we make decisions.  Sometimes we make decisions  because it’s the right thing to do, not because we’ve got a whole armload of data to support it.  This place does things because it is the right thing to do. And I like that a lot.  It’s what keeps me here (V.I, p.49).

Dick described a situation where a student in a wheel chair expressed concern about not being treated exactly like other students at graduation.  Because there was only one ramp leading to the stage, he would have to go up and down the same side rather than being able to go across the stage and down the opposite side as his classmates.  There was no data only an anecdotal report from a student who said “ I will be humiliated and embarrassed if I have to graduate a different way than my colleagues.”  So the Planning and Budgeting Council authorized a new ramp.  It was “ humanly driven not data driven” (V.I, p.49).

Accountability

Everyone at MiraCosta knows that the increasing availability of data coincides with a greater expectation for accountability.  Dick said, “ I think our president brings to us a demand for accountability and I support it” (V.I, p.49). The Office of Institutional Research has worked to refine formulae so that information is “explicit and accurate.”  “In the past, no one really knew how FTE’S were calculated for example” (V.I, p.85).  Louisa Moon, President of faculty senate described the former process.  “Data used to come out of the office of instruction.  The secretary calculated it and no one could figure out which of the data assumptions she was using. . .  so we worked with Research and Planning and the curriculum committee about what the data assumptions should be, and now they’re going back through and doing data for all the programs” (V.I, p.59).

Dick states, “Now everyone is expected to be more accountable, not always to prove that what we do is worthwhile, but in the best sense -- to report to the Board, to other people on campus, to our constituents, and the community that what we do makes a difference” (V.I, p.49).  While it is clear that accountability is an important part of MiraCosta’s institutional culture, at the time of the interviews the president believed that an accountability system was just emerging and that some people still had a hard time with readily available data.  He stated, “I don’t have a hard time telling our trustees where we are – for example, we’re doing awful in certificates and degrees compared to other community colleges,  but we’re doing really well in transfers” (V.I, p.24).   Ultimately, for the president the “solution is simple – all we need to find out is what our students’ needs are.  Why they are here, and then we change the institution to respond to those needs better”  (V.I, p.24).   

Flexibility

Indications that people and systems are flexible at MiraCosta were observed often during my visit at the college.  In the data, this aspect was identified as a theme primarily in the ease with which people changed and adapted on a day to day basis.  Ed Coate epitomized this attitude when he said, “There’s nothing that we are doing right now that I would change unless somebody came up with a new idea, in which case we’d incorporate it” (V.I, p.81).  Julie said, “we hunger for an Academic Master Plan that’s a living document” (V.I, p.104), suggesting that reviewing and changing it as needed was an excellent idea.

A classified staff member said, “A group went to Alverno College during the summer and came back with all these ideas, sent out these memos and so now we’re changing the program review again” (V.I, p.42). “Another classified staff remembers when “we came up with a whole new statement of purpose and procedures and they’re ready to send out” (V.I, p.32).

This kind of flexibility is often not found in higher education.  One must ask, what kind of organizational structure exist?  How are decisions made?  How does the organization itself manage to facilitate change and innovation?  While conducting interviews and focus groups, each interviewee was asked to draw a flowchart showing the way the integrated process worked.  What was most fascinating about these flow charts was that they were all different.  Most were circular in nature.  Only the students portrayed the organization in a hierarchial fashion.  Each group tended to understand the “before and after” them in the process.

Dr. Dong probably experienced the greatest difficulty in drawing two charts – “It is still evolving” - These multiple portrayals demonstrate a rather flexible understanding of the process yet all the major pieces are present and accounted for.

The Integrated Process

The three institutional processes under discussion in this section are: program review, strategic planning and budgeting.  Each process is discussed separately before a more in depth discussion of the ways Mira Costa College is attempting to integrate them.     

Program Review

Program Review had been going on at MiraCosta College for sometime before strategic planning or an integrated process.  The process was started by Julie Hatoff soon after she became Vice President of Instruction in 1981.  It is difficult to understand why a college would start a program review process on its’ own initiative except that the history of this college demonstrates its’ long term commitment to meeting student needs.  And with that as a core value of the institution, it seems inevitable that someone would eventually ask about the kind of learning taking place in programs.  Julie was the person to raise those questions.  In commenting on the first program review in 1983 she stated, “When you look at it in relation to the much more significant work being done now -- much more meaningful work, then you can see why I started with the cartoon of the lemmings” (V.I, p.101).  Leaping into the unknown like lemmings means that processes needed to be developed, skills needed to be learned and rationale needed to  be discussed.  Learning new organizational behaviors require commitment amidst the struggles.

There is an institutional memory of program reviews and efforts to improve the process.  One classified staff member said, “program review has been changed every year since day one” (V.I, p.31).  Julie said,

the process gets better each time we go through it because we listen to what’s not working . . .we’ve gone from a very simple one page analysis to a very complex department-wide analysis to the one we have now, which has basically a handful of questions and an assessment expectation for each discipline.  So nobody gets out of it any more. . . Whether they need substantial change or not, everybody can improve so that’s why every discipline has an assessment” (V.I, p.102).

From Cosette’s perspective, “program review means that you gather information, descriptive information, process information, and outcomes information about a program at the college” (V.I, p.84).  Louisa identified some of the struggles when she said,

I think the first time that I did program review was six years ago, and my chair handed me some papers and said, ‘here is your part’ . . .  I had no idea how to get the information I needed.  My chair did not know.  The next time we did it was a different chair and the chair put it all together, but it was at that point like a series of questions, and there was some data.  I am not sure where they got the data (V.I, p.58).

Another faculty member added, “ I have been through three program reviews, but the very first program review the chair wrote the whole thing.  And I think that is how it was for a while.  I did not know what a program review was.  I was handed something and told, ‘read this’ and my colleague and I looked at it and said, ‘we did not have any input, what are we signing?’  So we made sure it did not happen that way the next time” (V.I, p.58).

For the faculty and classified staff it means a lot of extra work gathering data, typing and organizing.  For the institutional researcher it means “ getting the actual data for the instructional departments and we have done that for quite a few years . . .  It was basically they said, ‘here is the data that we want’ and then we would provide that” (VI, p.84).  For the VP for Business and Administration it means a “review of the academic programs that look at the student needs for the program, the delivery techniques, the cost, and the student response to it”(VI, p.72).   When asked why he singled out academic programs, Ed said,

“When we think of program review we tend to think of the academic programs.  It does not mean we do not have program review in the business part of student services, but the formal structure called program review is the academic one” (V.I, p.72).

From the students perspective “program review would be an evaluation of the different programs and the different organizations or groups we have on campus . . . from administration to student government in the different functions that we do” (V.I, p.2). Another student added, “I know that when we do program review we look at something that we have put into effect. Then come back to it and readdress it and see if it is going the right direction or if there is some adjustment that needs to be made” (V.I,p.2). Students have limited exposure to the program review process.  Most of their contact is through classroom evaluations and in their participation in student government activities or are assigned to councils or committees.

So why does MiraCosta do program review?  The Vice President for Student Services believes it is about accountability – “making sure we are doing what we say we are doing” (V.I, p. 47).  So what are the consequences of program review?  Julie states,

Well, the most savage of course would be associated with the program discontinuance…there are fiscal consequences and in good times you can just keep adding and ignore those programs that are in decline… but in bad times you really do have to prune so that you can get new growth.  And that is really difficult with tenured faculty (V.I, p.103).

Classified staff see the process as one of responding to the recommendations of the previous program review, making new recommendations and commendations.

Louisa gave an example of the kinds of changes that can result from program review.

The nursing program, which used to be only a nursing program as a result of program review, has expanded into an allied health program.  So they added a physical therapy aide program, home health care and certified nurses assistant.  And all of those make the program more cost effective (VI, p.61).

One classified staff member summed it up best when she said,

In the case of program review, people on the committee, even through it changes periodically, have been really interested in getting down to the nitty gritty in finding out how can we improve?  How can we be better at our jobs?  And that’s what they are looking for in program review (V.I, p. 42).

One of the most interesting results of program review was initiated by Dr. Dong.  He takes the results to the board on a summary sheet.  Eventually he wants to take the entire package “with all the warts presented to the world”, believing that “this will encourage departments to care and do something about the work”(V.I, p.13).

In summary, the program review process was no doubt expedited by the open, collaborative culture of the institution.  Processes were in place so that everyone could have meaningful input.   

Planning

Master planning is a process by which institutions envision themselves in the light of experience, current circumstances, and goals.  The plan contains both qualitative and quantative information, and its proposals are based upon both current statistical data and political, social, and educational objectives.  A master plan should identify and achieve its goals for the future (MiraCosta College 1997 Master Plan, p.9).

MiraCosta College’s Master Plan is the umbrella document for three area plans; the Academic Master Plan, the Technology Master Plan, and the Facilities Master Plan.  All three plans are designed to be reviewed annually in order to incorporate new data,  changing circumstances, and new objectives thus creating a “living document” for continuous improvement. The plan is but a snapshot in time as the college identifies its future. The Master Plan (1997) strongly states that “ the academic needs as identified in the Academic Master Plan should drive the District budget and facilities planning” and that decision makers at all levels of the planning process will use this document to implement detailed plans for present and future growth and change” (AMP. p.10,14).

Strategic planning was introduced at MiraCosta by Ed Coate.  He states, “ When I first got here, we had no master plan, and no strategic planning process and a budget process that was done by the former vice- president of Finance and the President, they got the budget out and told people what everybody’s share was” (VI, p.74).  Cautiously Ed continues,

...mission statements in academia are not worth the paper they are written on.  Everybody has to be sure that it says something to justify their program so, consequently, it does not do anything.  So we do a mission statement at the beginning of the process because that’s just good planning.  But we are really trying to get a little more into it, and one way we are approaching it are the Board’s “end statements.”

The Board has said to us “ What we are really interested in is transfer or course development college level skills and critical thinking, information technology sophistication, access and service, collaboration and partnerships adapting to and fostering change.”  That’s what they are going to try to govern us and want us to work towards those.  In addition, we have a vision of where we want to go operationally.  Certainly reflecting the mission; more clearly reflecting the end statements because it is much more specific”(V.I, p.77).

On an annual basis the college has a planning process structure where the mission statement is revisited and the Board identifies end statements or college outcomes.  The VP of Business and Administration in collaboration with the planning and budget council draft goals and objectives based on operational values.  Then detailed action plans begin to emerge from operational groups and are accepted by the PBC and approved by the president.  The last stage is the evaluation of the planning process and the strategic plan.  At the end of the year the questions are asked, Did it work?  What did we accomplish?  How much was accomplished?  What do we need to rethink?

In planning there is a need to be flexible as possible yet rigid.  Flexible to take in every constituent groups ideas but a “little rigid or they will talk you to death and you will never get through” (V. I, p. 81). So you got to move the process along.

Because 85% of the budget is dedicated to faculty and staff salaries and benefits etc, the bulk of the money is not available for action plans.  Thus, additional requests for funds are addressed with dollars, approximately $500,000, set aside for new enhancements to the college.  Dr.Coate states that “ One of the ways to get money for enhancements is to include them in action plans.  So if you have got an action plan that requires $50,000.00 and it gets approved”, because it supports the college goals, objectives and mission, “it is assured that it will get approved in the enhancement list” (V.I, p.79)

Budget

The budget process at MiraCosta has been an evolutionary process.  Historically, MiraCosta was termed “a basic aid district where through local taxes they received over and above what the state would have apportioned to the college so money was not as big an issue” (VI, p. 89).  The college was also serving 10-15% over their state-rated capacity because they had the funds to afford the additional students.   During these years of plenty, the President and Business Manager prepared and then pronounced the budget to the staff. Julie, VP for Instruction remembers,

Budgeting done by the President and VP of Business Services had gone on forever.  When I was a faculty member, I was on the budget committee, and it was ludicrous.  We used to call it the “buffet line system” of priorities.  You know, you take a plate and the other plates pop up.  The instruction wing or the faculty side would bring in 200 requests roughly.  Business Services would have three or four, and Student Services five or six.  And instruction would have all this need but we’d never get beyond the fifth plate.  We’d go around till the money ran out.  And, at that time, I argued that maybe my one hundredth priority was more important that Student Services’ six, so it was that impetus that got me studying about how people do prioritize around instructional goals (V.I, p.101).

The years 1990-1997 proved to more difficult when the real estate values temporarily crumbled and the local funding was drastically reduced, yet the expenses of the college continued.  Thus the “perception” of a financial crises.  Faculty focus group members remembered that  “ For a while, our budget was very odd, and we had big budget crises.  Then people started wanting to know what was in the budget.  “ Okay, what is in the budget?  And why did we cut this rather than that?”(V.I, p.71)

Prior to Dr. Dongs’ arrival, a Planning and Budget Council was formed but it still did not make substantive budgetary decisions. Responsible for only a couple thousand dollars of the budget, they made minor decisions like whether to get new signs on campus. “ The president and the VP of Business Services basically decided on everything else and nobody else had to know anything about the budget,” (V. I, p. 70) stated one faculty member.

When Dr. Dong arrived in 1994 he recognized that “budget has always been one of these explosive things that explode here and explode there” (V. I, p. 13).  He wanted to open it up and so facilitated a process to increase “the groups understanding, where everybody could ask questions” and he thinks that solved a lot. He stated that “it was a process of building trust (V.I, p.13).

“Beginning in 1995 it became apparent that more drastic methods of resource management would be necessary in order to bring operating expenditures in line with revenues and intensive restructuring of the district’s human resources began to take shape”(ISS 1997 p13).  For the first time in the history of the college 2 faculty and several classified employees were laid off due to budget and program restructuring.

Faculty continue,  “ Now we’ve had to learn a lot about the budget and talk about the budget.  And it’s been a really good experience, but there are basically only a handful of faculty involved, and it should be broader because we make great efforts to educate the Board about it” (V. I, p.70).

Closing the Loop
Integration of program review, planning, and budget

Successful integration of program review outcomes into planning and budgeting requires effective processes in each of the three areas.  Also, commitment by faculty and staff as well as a strong individual leading and supporting the use of program review outcomes in decision-making.

At MiraCosta we have heard through the voices of its constituents the description of a continuously improved program review process that produces data that leads to program improvement, program expansion, or program termination. We have observed a planning process that is highly organized and has participation by all constituent groups in the planning and budget council.  This council sets priorities and actions based upon the college’s mission, vision, and goals. And last but not least, we have heard  the communication of institutional data planning and budgeting that open the books of the college so that all who are interested are aware of the opportunities and challenges in their environment.

Both Academic and Student Services Departments complete program review.  After the departments complete their self-studies, the documents travel two paths simultaneously. Duplicate copies of the documents go through the office of the vice president of Instruction and the President of the academic senate. From the Senate office the documents are forwarded to the Academic Policies and Procedures committee which handles curriculum issues.  Recommendations from the AP&P committee go to the Academic Master Plan Committee, Academic Senate and also back to the department.  The Senate then forwards the recommendations to the Planning and Budget council who prioritizes recommendations and actions plans

Student Services departments submit self-studies to the Student Services Council who process them during their staff retreat in the fall.   The Council prioritizes the budget needs using program review data and then the division takes it recommendations to the Planning and Budget Council.  Then the recommendations follow the same path as the academic program review.( See model of both processes)

Below are comments that describe the understanding and feelings of the college’s staff.

“ There are sacred cows that you are not to touch because it is not worth the effort”(VI, p.16).

Dr. Dong when describing the integration process said, “I think that when I came here the cart was in front of the horse.  We budget and then we plan and somehow  . . . that doesn’t get you planning.  And then at some point, we got to where the horse and the cart were side by side.  I think we’re still there where they’re side by side, and I want to move the planning ahead of the cart and then eventually to have planning to pull the cart.  And we are getting there”(V.I, p.22).

Program review is a process that provides a window that allows the college to see it programs and to gather data regarding the programs success and challenges.  It is one of multiple measures that inform the planning process of needs but it does not drive the planning and budget process. “So program review gives you pieces of information that are valuable, but it does not automatically guarantee that budget will follow.” (DickV.I, p.48)   

When asked about the success of the integration of program review, the strategic plan and budgeting Ed replied, “ It is not perfect.  It is evolutionary.  But I think it is been very successful.  And how do I measure success.  First of all, that we get a budget that everybody agrees with is fair.  That is my first one.  Second one, that we accomplish something with it.  That we actually see the things that we have had in our vision accomplished or in the goals and objectives that have been done. (V. I, p. 80)

Laura said, “I did not really realize how good a planning process we have” until she became President of the classified employees and began to a)ttend the meetings, “ the program review does feed into academic master plan which is a subcommittee of Planning and Budget Council”(V. I, p.35)

Ed Coate states “Program review is just simply a part of your evaluation, getting ready for the next year, and then you start the whole cycle over again.”(V.I, p. 77)

Karen, a faculty member stated, “ I do not think it is an intentional mystery as it has been in the past.  I do not think it is an intentional mystery anymore…Know you budget process so that any goals and plans that you hope to achieve have a fair chance of actually being heard in your planning and budgeting committee.”(V. I, p. 69)

Julie mentioned that you don’t really have to have a sophisticated model of your process because actually you trust each other so you do whatever needs to happen,(V.I, p.108)

“Integration, overlap, connectedness, and symbiosis are all necessary parts of being a university.(Seymour,p.162)

Visual Representations

During the interview process each participant was asked to draw a visual representation (picture, diagram, or flow chart) of their perception of the process used to forward program review outcomes into the planning and budget process.  The drawings were analyzed to determine 1) if the interviewees could identify elements of the process and 2) if the interviewees understood the process. 

Although the visual representations varied, administrative, faculty and staff interviewees concurred on the major elements of the process. Only one interviewee was not sure what happen to recommendations at the PBC level. Student focus group members were able to identify elements of an organizational structure used to forward their concerns and requests.  Students also said that they participated in the colleges’ program review process by completing class and student surveys and faculty evaluations. One student serving as interim vice president was a representative on the planning and budget committee and relayed an experience of student services program review recommendation being approved and implemented. 

From the drawings it was determined that there are two similar processes – one for instruction program reviews and the other for student services program reviews.  (See drawings in Appendix ___)

We’re still trying to put It together (V. I, p.26)

Dr. Dong concludes, “ As people understand that that is the way I think, they are going to be really frustrated because they are hoping to reach an end to this, but I have been trying to tell them there is no end.  We are going to keep on modifying the process, not until we get it right, until we get it working.” (V. I, p27)