Smith: Smart planning builds a strong future for McHenry Co. College

McHenry County College is in the midst of revising and developing our Strategic Plan – 2013-2018.

A strategic plan is needed to create renewed awareness and refocus the college community on the importance of planning, to prioritize initiatives, and to align our efforts and our resources. The strategic plan for 2013-2018 will implement the college’s mission by giving broad direction and providing the overarching goals that will keep the institution focused.

Decisions to dedicate college resources are not made in isolation. Such decisions are made that will further implement the college’s Educational Master Plan, the Facility Master Plan, the Infrastructure Deferred Maintenance Report, and the Sustainability Strategic Plan. Decisions also are driven by these ongoing planning efforts, which align with needs identified by county and nationwide research.

A cross-representative team from all areas of the institution formed a strategic planning committee last fall and focused on soliciting ideas, suggestions, history and data shared by parties inside and outside of the college. This collective content will inform the final strategic plan and establish an aligned direction for all college departments that move the college toward meeting our mission: “Learning is our focus. Student Success is our Goal.”

The committee reviewed the 2012 McHenry County Labor Report, the Environmental Scan conducted by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies, student focus groups and survey results, the above master plans, and employee input as well as other relevant research to help establish a clear direction and prioritize goals in order the make strategic and informed decisions. Based on the research gathered, there are some primary areas on which the college will focus in its planning in order to respond to the needs identified. They include health careers; manufacturing (robotics, engineering, industrial maintenance); technology; services to veterans; diverse populations; returning adult students; and certificate and degree completion.

The college already has been working in a variety of ways with manufacturing companies, including its newest initiative to incorporate robotics into the curriculum. We recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for more than $500,000 to train out-of-work individuals and veterans in manufacturing and robotics. This builds on the partnerships we have with many area manufacturers with which we share space and equipment to train their employees.

Across all programs, MCC’s strategic goals will include the ability to implement courses quickly in order to support community members and businesses in training those who desire a career and need either full degrees, certification or some level of skill development.

Meeting facility needs for all: There have been discussions at the college regarding space and where our new programming will find a home, particularly manufacturing. Over the past few weeks, we have examined off-campus solutions and on-campus solutions. The off-campus solution requires an initial investment and ongoing costs. Our on-campus solutions will require the displacement and reconfiguration of one of our fine arts programs – theatre. The upfront investment cost in providing new space for the displaced theatre program will see a five-year return investment, including revenues from the additional classes offered, that will cover over 75 percent of these costs. The board heard an update on these options at the April board meeting and might make a decision as early as May.

Welcoming new ideas: MCC continues to share its story of how we impact the lives of McHenry County residents. Over the next few months, we will be holding community forums where we will share our story and hear what the community says. Go to to find the time and place for the forum in your community.

Thanking those who provide leadership and support: As our board transitions, I would like to thank the outgoing trustees for their years of service to the college.

Dennis Adams worked hard on the finance and branding committees. Carol Larson’s 24 years saw her work hard on implementing the needed expansion of college spaces. Barbara Walters focused on fiscal responsibility over her 30 years and saw the implementation of new academic programs. Paola Rueda, our student trustee, was a strong voice for student views.

I welcome and congratulate the new trustees – Chris Jenner, Molly Walsh and Tom Wilbeck – and student trustee Michele Lambert.

I look forward to the new and fresh ideas they will bring through open dialogue and collaboration, focused on achieving the mission of the college.

• Vicky Smith is president of McHenry County College.

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