Jo Alice Blondin, Ph.D., President, Clark State Community College

Commentary: 10 things that are working to make Clark State strong

Clark State Community College was honored to receive the American Association of Community Colleges Award of Excellence for CEO/Board Relations. This recognition really highlighted five years of strong, successful, and sustained collaboration among the Clark State Board of Trustees and the President, with the benefits of this relationship accruing to Clark State’s students. Clark State’s Board of Trustees is deeply committed to the success of our students. Appointed by the Governor of Ohio, Clark State Board of Trustee members serve six-year terms.

MORE ON CLARK STATE: Clark State is growing with more state funds and giving out more degrees. Here’s how it’s happening.

As we reflect on our recent AACC Award of Excellence, as well as the president’s past five years of leadership, best practices and characteristics of our effective, engaged, and energized Board of Trustees and President have emerged, including:

1. Fiscal Oversight: One of the primary roles of the Board of Trustees is financial oversight of the college. Clark State’s Board and President are strategic in investing in student success initiatives and balancing these investments with a conservative fiscal approach that ensures careful stewardship of tax dollars.

2. Communication: Communication is the cornerstone of Clark State’s Board and President’s success. The president consistently and appropriately communicates with the board about strategic initiatives, challenging issues, and situations that either require their attention and/or expertise.

3. Focus on Student Success and the Students: At the board’s request, a student presents his or her success story at every Board meeting in order to keep the focus on “what matters most,” students. Board members are active in their student advocacy, whether serving as mentors for students, supporting scholarships, or putting into place policies that reflect Clark State’s commitment to its students. A good example of this is the board’s championing of the Tuition Challenge Program, a rebate program for students who move to full-time status and maintain a specific GPA. Should these students enroll full-time, they will receive a 10% discount on their tuition for that semester.

4. Attendance and Collegiality: Clark State Board members have made a commitment to be present at college events to support the faculty, staff, and students, such as Phi Theta Kappa inductions, Athletic Banquet, Student Recognition Night, Scholarship Luncheons, and various events throughout the year that showcase student success.

5. Strategic Planning: The board leads, reviews, and approves the college’s Strategic Plan. The president and her Executive Council report regularly on progress on the plan at board meetings and events. The board takes the mission, vision, and guiding principles of the college to heart, and codifies these documents in policy form.

6. Diversity and Equity: The board, with the president, sets high level diversity and equity goals for the college to ensure that Clark State is recruiting, employing, and retaining top talent -both employees and students— that is reflective of the diverse communities we serve. The board and president also set goals regarding diversity and equity for student outcomes as well.

7. Shared Governance: The Board of Trustees is strongly dedicated to shared governance among faculty, staff, and students. The board hears reports from the chairs of the faculty, staff, and student senates at every board meeting. Having an open and regular line of communication with all campus stakeholders has built trust on campus and demonstrated to the campus community that the board acts and listens.

8. Community and Legislative Advocacy: The Board of Trustees strongly advocates for students at the state and federal levels, through organizations such as the Ohio Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Community College Trustees. One example of federal advocacy is the Board’s vocal support for Pell Grants, including access to Pell for short-term certificates through the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act.

9. Professional Development: The Clark State Board of Trustees is committed to professional development. Board members regularly present statewide and nationally on topics ranging from Ohio’s 100% Performance Based Funding Model and Mentorship. Board members attend the Association of Community College Trustees and Ohio Association of Community Colleges’ meetings. Several trustees have served nationally on ACCT committees, and one trustee serves on the OACC’s Executive Committee. Board members and the president hold an annual retreat as well.

10. Celebration and Recognition: Clark State is committed to recognizing the achievements of our trustees and President at the local, regional, and national levels. Annually, the OACC awards an Ohio Trustee the Maureen C. Grady Award for Special Achievement. This award was named after a former Clark State Board of Trustee Chair, and is awarded to trustees who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership throughout the term of their service. Within the last three years, two current Clark State trustees have been honored with this award.

Clark State’s Board of Trustees and president work collaboratively within a shared governance system and with external stakeholders to provide access to higher education and improve student success. The benefits of a strong, energized, committed, and responsive board go beyond significant increases in state funding or grant dollars-the benefits are the increases in student completion and graduation.

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