Six years ago, Northwest College developed a five-year strategic vision plan. Now as the college moves into the next five years, it sought community input from around Park County in a series of …
Six years ago, Northwest College developed a five-year strategic vision plan. Now as the college moves into the next five years, it sought community input from around Park County in a series of listening sessions, including one on Thursday in Powell.
“Your feedback is really important, especially as we look at the college’s position in Powell,” NWC President Stefani Hicswa told the couple dozen people at the Powell meeting. “Certainly we serve the whole Big Horn Basin, but our relationship to Powell is really special.”
Greg Thomas, dean of student learning, provided a presentation on the college’s challenges with respect to enrollment, as well as strengths with regard to graduation, retention, and student satisfaction rates.
The college has struggled with enrollment drops, which are following state and national trends in community colleges. This has impacted the school’s budgets and reduced some services it provides to students, such as healthcare.
Thomas showed a series of graphs of the college’s retention and graduation rates, which are among the best in the state, he said. He also provided survey data showing a high degree of satisfaction among most students who have attended NWC.
During the discussion, Hicswa stepped out of the room to give people space to talk freely.
Amber Simon-Power, owner and consultant with Power Business Strategies, led the input session. Sheets of paper were placed around the walls of the room. These were labeled with categories, such as student achievement, facilities, rebranding, community events, campus housing, and academic programs. Simon-Power then asked people to write their suggestions on notes and stick them to the categories they best fit under.
Retention efforts were among the highest priorities, with suggestions aimed at improved customer service, financial aid, and soliciting more information from students who leave to create better retention strategies.
Audience members also suggested that to improve enrollment, the faculty help with recruitment efforts outside the departments in which they teach, new facilities be constructed and alumni become more involved with recruitment efforts.
Suggestions to improvements in the school’s academic programs were also a high priority. There were points about expanding offerings within the trades, such as CDL certifications, HVAC and plumbing offerings. There was one suggestion to bring back the college’s journalism program and student newspaper. Another suggested the college improve its history offerings and offer more internships and online courses.
There was also quite a bit of discussion about rebranding the college with a “Trapper” theme that follows something similar to the University of Wyoming’s Cowboy-themed marketing campaign.
Some suggested either tying marketing to Yellowstone National Park or renaming the college Yellowstone College.
Listening sessions were also held last week in Cody and Meeteetse, in addition to sessions for area business leaders, students and employees of the college.
Speaking after the session Thursday, Hicswa said it was too early to provide firm data on the feedback from all these events until it’s been properly coded. However, she said early indications suggested the priorities for the community were academic programing, recruitment and facilities.
Hicswa said students were very engaged during their session, but their priorities were more focused on specific services, which she said was understandable. Otherwise, the themes of their suggestions were similar to the other sessions.