Recent Blog Posts

To Pilot or Not to Pilot? That is the Question

Missouri Says, “Definitely!”

Missouri began its reverse transfer initiative in Fall 2012, joining the 11 other states participating in Credit When It’s Due. The Missouri Reverse Transfer Initiative (MRTI) statewide steering committee was selected and given its charge to respond to MO HB1042 that required the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) to develop a policy to foster reverse transfer.

MRT logoMissouri has 14 public two-year institutions and 13 public four-year institutions that were required to participate in Missouri Reverse Transfer (MRT).  Additionally, 15 independent institutions signed on to participate in MRT. Missouri is a local-control state making reverse transfer quite a challenge to coordinate among so many institutions. The timeline for a statewide launch was fall 2014, so we spent the 2013-2014 academic year writing policy, vetting technology, crafting a comprehensive implementation manual, and piloting reverse transfer with 6 universities and 5 community colleges.

Missouri decided that launching a one-year pilot program was the best and only way to prepare for the fall 2014 statewide rollout.   The main goals of the pilot program were: 1) to check proof of concept with a limited targeted student population; and 2) to gauge the ease of process for student participation. The pilot institutions were charged with following the steps in the implementation manual to determine the accuracy of the proposed process, compile student responses to the program, and track student progress and success. We needed to know which process steps worked, which ones didn’t, and how we could improve the process. The two-year and four-year pilot Reverse Transfer Coordinators exchanged and shared feedback during the early months of the pilot so we could prepare training for the non-pilot institutions in late spring 2014.

What were the overall results of the pilot program?

We had proof of concept with:
1)      1,263 eligible students were identified and invited to participate in reverse transfer.
2)      98 students opted-in to reverse transfer (8% of eligible).
3)      51 students graduated with associate’s degrees in May 2014 (51% of opt-ins).

What were the lessons learned from the pilot program?

1)      The process worked and technically it was sound.
2)      The process was very easy for students!!  Check the MRT video featuring students at this link!
3)      The institutions wanted some additional standardization for processes going forward (e.g., how often and when to send transcripts, how often and when to contact students).
4)      Support is needed from across campuses in a variety of functions and at a number of levels.
5)      The processes should be automated as much as possible.
6)      This is a dynamic process not a static one.

Missouri institutions were better prepared to launch reverse transfer across the state this fall semester due in large part to our learning during the pilot phase.

We want to thank the Lumina and Kresge Foundations for their support of the “Show Me State” and its efforts to make reverse transfer a real opportunity for the 700,000 Missourians who have earned college credit but no degree.

MelissaMelissa Hattman is the Director of Community College Relations at the University of Missouri – St. Louis and a member of the Missouri Reverse Transfer Initiative Steering Committee.

Concentrated Opportunities: A look at enrollment and credential attainment for males of color between 2001 and 2011

Due to a globalized and knowledge driven economy, the demand for more U.S. citizens with postsecondary credentials is increasing. Scholars suggest that in order to improve postsecondary degree production, the primary focus should be on improving outcomes for traditionally underserved populations with lower levels of postsecondary attainment. The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) echoes these sentiments as it has determined that colleges must better serve underserved student populations, specifically underrepresented males of color (African American and Latino), in order to meet state and federal degree completion goals. For underrepresented males of color, community colleges are often the point of entry into postsecondary education which puts community colleges in a critical position to address credentials gaps and improve the outcomes of underrepresented males of color as well as other underserved student populations.Figure 1

The ninth issue of Insights into Equity and Outcomes, Enrollment and Credential Attainment Among Underrepresented Males of Color Attending Community Colleges in Illinoisexamines the distribution of enrollment and credentials by subgroups, namely underrepresented males of color, in 2001 and 2011. Findings from the analysis show that the likelihood of African Americans males to be enrolled in associate’s degree programs is comparable to that of White males and the total student population. However, African American males are more likely to earn a less-than-one-year certificate and less likely to earn associate’s degrees than White males. Similarly, whereas the number of Latino males who were enrolled and conferred degrees improved over this 10-year period, these males behind their White male counterparts and the total student population. Yet, Latino males were more likely to receive an associate’s degree compared to African American males. From your perspective, what barriers do underrepresented males of color experience that account for these trends? In what ways does your institution seek to improve outcomes for traditionally underserved students?

edmund_graham_occrlAbout the Author: Edmund Graham III, M.Ed., is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a specialization in Higher Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant for OCCRL.

Using evaluation to grow impact: Part 10 of the TCI blog series

This is the tenth post in a series about the Transformative Change Initiative (TCI) and is based on the 2014 TCI booklet. This post discusses the seventh guiding principle in the TCI Framework. Read the other posts in the series: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine.

evaluation-blog-photoUsing multiple forms of research and evaluation is important to scaling innovation. Comprehensive approaches to evaluation are also especially important when capacity building is undertaken, such as with TAACCCT. With respect to TAACCCT, comprehensive evaluation designs include performance evaluation wherein data are gathered to track and report on myriad education and employment indicators. Evaluations associated with TAACCCT also focus on program implementation, especially in conjunction with evidence-based programs and strategies.

Quasi-experiments or experiments may be valuable to assessing impact if circumstances allow for credible use of these designs. However, “rigorous” evaluation has limited utility if the data that are gathered lack validity, reliability, and utility.

Using multiple forms of evidence to inform practitioners and stakeholders about how implementation and spread is happening contributes to continuous improvement and scaling.[1]


How does evaluation expand the impact of your work?  What should evaluators do to help practitioners to spread and sustain transformative change?

dbraggthumbDebra Bragg, OCCRL director and endowed professor at Illinois, researches the transition to college by youth and adults, especially student populations that have not attended college historically.


[1] Schorr, L. (2012, Fall). Broader evidence for bigger impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from


Strategic Strength of “Embedded Community Colleges”

Before I begin, I would like to congratulate the faculty and staff at OCCRL on your 25th anniversary.  I commend you for the work you’ve done over the past 25 years as you have contributed to raising the profile of community colleges and I look forward to the next 25 years as you continue to advance our field while producing scholars and practitioners who will strengthen the strategic position of community colleges.

When Dr. Bragg invited me to contribute to this blog, I wondered if my research would connect with the research being done at OCCRL.  Having read through what the center has produced and most recently through the Transformative Change Initiative this spring, I have found some areas where we envision a very similar future for community colleges.  My research and new book are about the strategic positioning of community colleges in response to reduced financial resources.  Naturally, this is a topic that is very close to the hearts of practitioners as they are living through the great state divestment in community colleges.  Receding state support has forced community colleges to make some very difficult decisions regarding the prioritization of programs, staffing, support services, tuition increases, and many more.  Ultimately, the decisions we make during these challenging fiscal times will impact the strategic direction and position of community colleges well into the future.  Prior to the release of my book, I spoke to a number of groups at different institutions and as a presenter at different conferences (League of Innovation and NISOD).  Considering the potentially depressing topic of my research, one might expect my book to resemble a Greek tragedy.  Rather, my book is about resilience.  It is about the creative strategies employed by community college leaders to manage the crisis of receding state support.  States like Arizona, Illinois, and California were particularly hard hit by these reductions at a time when research and history showed that we would be experiencing record enrollments; and we did.  Droves of students flocked to community colleges to be retrained as victims of the great recession.

CCStrategy-Front-Cover - LargeMy book titled “Community College Strategy:  The Innovative Leader’s Handbook” has recently been published and released by NorLights Press and presents the findings of my research for an intended audience of both practitioners and scholars alike.  I write about the strategic strength of “Embedded Community Colleges”, institutions committed to establishing and maintaining strong, enduring relationships with their local community stakeholders.  These institutions are deeply invested in sustaining mutually-beneficial, symbiotic relationships with community entities like K-12 school districts, local chambers of commerce, local hospitals, military installations, local law enforcement entities, and more.  It is these types of institutions that will thrive during difficult financial times because their strategic orientation is no longer so reliant on the whims of state funding sources but rather on the economic, educationally-driven vitality of its local community.  As I read about OCCRL’s Transformative Change Initiative (TCI), I commend the Center for its contributions in the area of Transformative Leadership (Guiding Principle #1), Networks and Professional Development (Guiding Principle #3), and Targeted Sharing and Dissemination (Guiding Principle #6) as each of these calls upon community colleges to participate in embedded activities.

As a researcher and community college leader, I remain optimistic about our future and look forward to how we as scholars and leaders will help to shape that future.

Clyne Namuo Color-CNDr. Clyne G. H. Namuo is the author of Community College Strategy:  The Innovative Leader’s Handbook published by NorLights Press.  More information about his book can be found at  His book is available on Amazon, ibooks, among other locations.  Dr. Namuo holds a Ph.D. from the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona.  More information can be found at

Improving Employment Outcomes for Students Through Employer Engagement

Are your programs aligned with what employers want?

Business and industry involvement in the development of programs of student and the ongoing improvement of programs of study is an important strategy to ensure that students who graduate from these programs have the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to secure living-wage employment. As information and accountability around graduate employment rates are becoming increasingly commonplace colleges are looking for models to improve engagement with business and industry to ensure their graduates have a competitive in the job market.

BILT Team MembersMatt Glover, Senior Director, Global Information Technology, AMX and BILT Chair; Ann Beheler, Executive Director of Emerging Technology Grants, Collin College; and Glenn Wintrich, Dell Innovation Leader, BILT Chair Emeritus.


The National Information, Security, and Geospatial Technology Consortium (NISGTC) have embraced the strategic engagement of business and industry through their development of Business and Industry Leadership Teams (BILTs). These diverse teams of business and industry leaders provide valuable insight on both what skills and abilities they are looking for in new employee and the trends that will impact employment among their graduates. “The BILT allows college to get industry leadership on curriculum to better prepare students to be workforce ready upon graduation,” explained Matt Glover, Senior Director, Global Information Technology, AMX and BILT Chair.

The guidance provided by these national BILTs is combined with that provided to colleges by their local advisory committees. In combination, the guidance from business and industry is used to improve the rigor and efficacy of their programs of study and to capitalize on new emerging trends in the industry. Read the Business & Industry Leadership Team Strategies for Transformative Change Brief to learn more about the BILT model.

What strategies are you using to engage business and industry in program development and enhancement? Have you seen improvements in employment for graduates?  How did you capture and report these results to your employer partners and other stakeholders?


30.thumbnailHeather L. Fox is a doctoral student in Human Resource Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently serves as project coordinator for the Pathways Resource Center and OCCRL.