President's Letter to Faculty and Staff

July 8, 2016

Dear Colleague,

In May, I shared the exciting news that Suffolk County Community College had been chosen as a member of the 2016 Achieving the Dream (AtD) cohort. Last month, our core team attended the Kickoff Institute that served as the beginning for this new partnership.

The Institute incorporated three intensive days of team-specific work sessions and College presentations. The agenda provided everyone with the opportunity to discuss and reflect upon, in a strategic way, the concept of student success and the almost limitless number of approaches that can be developed to enhance the holistic student experience within an institution. While a considerable amount of work and collaboration lies ahead, the team came away confident in the College’s ability to strengthen student learning and success. Through the Institute, our team was able to catch a glimpse of what the future can be, and this has triggered a real desire among the team members to fully engage in college-wide conversations that will challenge the status quo and, ultimately, strengthen our institution. 

It is my goal to see the AtD effort serve to forge a collective legacy, one we will be able to point to proudly as the moment in time when we refined the student experience through the use of data in full collaboration with our faculty and staff. Our data, when viewed through the prism of student success, will inform our strategy and the combination of well-managed action plans necessary to influence the experience enjoyed by our entire diverse community of students. In turn, this will inform the values held most dear by our College.

Our partnership with Achieving the Dream comes at a most opportune time, as this effort can bring focus and cohesion to the student success efforts we already have in progress, effectively using information from work already underway and related to our institutional assessment through self-study. Working efficiently, we will utilize, as best we can, already extant committees to support the work of AtD, including the Student Engagement Committee, Strategic Planning Council, Developmental Studies Advisory Committee, Freshman Seminar Advisory Committee, the Middle States Standards Committees, Faculty Governance, and others. We will integrate AtD efforts with the Middle States Self-Study, and operational and strategic planning, just to name a few. I agree with Dr. Karen Stout, President of AtD, when she stated, “This effort is not another project”—instead, it is an opportunity to focus, build, and sustain the leadership capacity of our faculty and our team around principles that can make things better for students enrolled at Suffolk County Community College, across the various touchpoints where we interact with them as part of our day to day processes.

When everyone returns in the fall, we will begin the Suffolk AtD conversation by examining data and engaging in deep discussions that address challenging questions related to our institutional mission and the concept of student success. I will expect us to include conversations on the AtD topic of equity, and ensuring that all students finish what they’ve started here. Shortly, I will be able to share information with you regarding upcoming opportunities to hold these group discussions as part of our Professional Development Day on Tuesday, October 11th.

Our full-time and adjunct faculty have a tremendous responsibility — and a great opportunity — to enhance the entire student experience through engagement with this effort. The teaching and learning environment leaves the greatest single impression on our students’ experiences with, and opinions about, this College. Faculty-led changes to our teaching and learning model are the best way to improve retention and completion, as our faculty is responsible for what occurs in our classrooms, libraries, and counseling centers. I hope you will join us in developing select interventions that are most likely to create a meaningful impact upon the student success experiences throughout our College.

The AtD coaches that have been assigned to Suffolk are:

  • Dr. Christine McPhail, Leadership Coach. Dr. McPhail is the Managing Principal for the McPhail Group LLC, a higher education consulting firm; Emerita Professor of higher education and founder of the Community College Leadership Doctoral Program at Morgan State University
  • Dr. Donna McKusick, Data Coach. A lifelong educator, Dr. McKusick was most recently affiliated with the Community College of Baltimore County as Dean of Developmental Education and Special Academic Programs, overseeing developmental education, learning communities, academic support, honors, libraries, tutoring, high school college partnerships, pathways, and equity initiatives.

These coaches specifically cited our team’s honesty, strong communication skills and cohesiveness, as the main characteristics putting us way ahead of team collaborations typically seen at this early point in the AtD process. They will visit the College on October 13th and 14th to discuss the initial planning stages.

I stand here, with great enthusiasm and energy, hoping you will join me as we begin this important work. Our collective effort will be critical to smoothing the pathway our students must travel as part of their academic journey.


Dr. Shaun L. McKay