Recent Blog Posts

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.

Moving from Objective Outsider to “Critical Friend”

The US Department of Labor is awarding Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grants to community colleges to implement innovative career pathway training programs. Rather than relying on traditional government-funded implementation study methods, both Hezel Associates, LLC and Social Policy Research Associates incorporated aspects of Michael Quinn Patton’s developmental evaluation (DE) approach to their evaluations of these grants.


This graphic shows the benefits of applying DE concepts—particularly related to shifting the evaluator’s role to that of a “critical friend” and using “reflective practice” in evaluation products—to government-funded projects. Read more on this topic.

What do you think about this idea?  Does the idea of “critical friend” resonate with you?  Do you have experience applying DE to government-funded projects like TAACCCT?  We would love to hear from you.


Attending the Core Curriculum Institute

H2P LogoApproximately 65 representatives from 21 community colleges and 14 affiliate organizations attended the Core Curriculum Institute, led by the Health Professions Pathways (H2P) Consortium. The H2P Consortium, a recipient of a Round One Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT), is comprised of nine community colleges in five states and is led by Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Two major strategies of this consortium are to help establish a “competency-based core curriculum” for health professions programs in community colleges and in doing so, “galvanize a national movement to improve health professions training.” In their effort to galvanize the national movement, each of the nine colleges in the consortium brought at least one representative from another college not a part of H2P to expand the network and increase the opportunities to scale the adoption of core curriculum for health professions education.

Held September 24th, 2014, faculty, administrators, industry representatives, and leaders of health-related professional organizations shared models of health occupations core curriculum, previewed newly created open educational resources (OER) learning modules, and discussed national trends in credentialing. Of special interest to colleges just beginning the journey to establish a core curriculum, conference attendees brainstormed issues and problems and actively contributed to potential solutions to issues related to establishing a core curriculum.

As part of the third party evaluation team from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and as a former health occupations instructor at a community college, I was fortunate to have participated in this ground breaking event. The concept of offering a standard core curriculum is a potentially transformative innovation for community colleges that are tasked with finding new ways to recruit more diverse populations, helping them make better informed career decisions, retaining them to completion, and more. These issues are being addressed by some of the early adopters of core curriculum.

Transformative innovations face many hurdles, and core is no exception.  The innovations this consortium is undertaking have the potential to transform healthcare education at a time when it is critical to better prepare diverse populations seeking credentials in the industry.  Meeting attendees discussed the obstacles of gaining faculty buy-in, expanding outreach and recruitment efforts, adding competencies requested by employer partners, and staying within program credit hour limits, to name a few. To add to the complexity, the consortium in its efforts to scale this innovation is addressing the issues associated with creating a core curriculum that is consistent across colleges yet flexible enough to accommodate specific college and employer needs. Within the nine colleges in the H2P consortium there is variability in the numbers of courses that comprise the core curriculum and in the content, though all colleges have crosswalked their curriculum with the Department of Labor’s Allied Health Competency Model. As a leader of the core curriculum movement, Sondra Flemming of El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, advised the attendees, “If Core [curriculum] is based on competencies, eventually it will all look very similar.”

Has your college attempted to scale a transformative innovation?  What barriers have you faced, and what successes would you like to share with our Transformative Change Initiative network?  We invite your input.

For more information about the H2P consortium and how core curriculum is transforming health occupations training, see OCCRL developed materials at and

Cathy ThumbCatherine Kirby is a research information specialist at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL), where she provides leadership in evaluation, research, and development projects related to the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grants and Perkin’s Programs of Study.

Moving STEM Forward in Career, Technical, and Adult Education Symposium: Reflections

Joel and Dr. Hackman

Pathways Resource Center Director Dr. Don Hackman and Pathways Resource Center Curriculum Specialist Joel Malin in Washington DC.

On September 29-30, Pathways Resource Center (PRC) Director Dr. Don Hackmann and I had the good fortune to attend the Moving STEM Forward in Career, Technical, and Adult Education Symposium, which was hosted by the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) in Washington, DC. This symposium was focused upon discussing key issues in STEM, education, employment, and the economy, with a particular emphasis on the improvement and advancement of teaching and learning strategies in career, technical, and adult education. About 70 invited guests, representing a variety of key stakeholder groups from across the United States, were in attendance.

The symposium ended with small group brainstorming around three key questions:

  • What can be done to make STEM education more accessible to traditionally underserved populations?
  • What are the most significant barriers preventing alignment of STEM curriculum from cradle to career?
  • In what ways can employees take a more significant role in ensuring STEM education meets the needs of industry?

OCTAE officials have pledged to produce a summary document or framework in the near future, and also plan to bring this group together next year for a follow-up meeting. In the meantime, the highlights and most salient points can be quickly gleaned by searching on #octeastem from Twitter. Some of the most prolific posters were @prcIllinois (PRC), @STEMldr (Dr. Lazaro Lopez, Asst. Supt., D214), @ddimmett (David Dimmett, SVP and Chief Engagement Officer, PLTW), and @camsiemcadams (Camsie McAdams, Deputy Director of STEM, U.S. Dept. of Education).

Dr. Hackmann and I left feeling validated for the work that PRC does, and that Illinois Race to the Top educators are doing, to address each of the above questions in our own ways within our state. We stressed to other participants the importance of intermediary organizations like PRC and the STEM Learning Exchanges to provide technical assistance and support to educators and to forge cross-entity partnerships. Meanwhile, we were heartened by the intense and sustained focus on equity. We are keenly aware of the importance of ensuring access and success for ALL students. We have found the Office of Community College Research and Leadership’s Pathways to Results process to be unparalleled as a resource to equity-minded educators.


Joel R. Malin is a curriculum specialist at the Pathways Resource Center. He is passionate about creating pathways to future college and career success for all students.  He would love to hear from you: