Mitchell Technical Institute is one of 10 colleges and universities nationwide being honored by University Business magazine in its Spring 2015 Models of Excellence recognition program. Sponsored by Higher One, a leading provider of financial services and data analytics to more than 1,900 college and university campuses across the U.S., the Models of Excellence program recognizes innovative approaches to encouraging and nurturing student success on campus.
“Soft professional skills are not inherent, and they can help an applicant stand out in a sea of qualified choices,” says University Business senior editor Tim Goral. “Mitchell Technical Institute’s required non-technical course gives students a solid lead in the exceedingly competitive professional world.”
The advisory boards of Mitchell Technical Institute’s 34 programs delivered a simple message to the school’s administrators: You’re doing a great job turning out talented, skilled workers, but when it comes to “soft” skills, much more is needed.
The problem, observes Carol Grode-Hanks, dean of curriculum and instruction, is finding a way of developing those skills at a technical school.
“Showing up on time, adhering to a dress code, staying the extra 15 minutes to help the customer–it’s hard to teach that kind of stuff,” she says.
Mitchell’s solution was to create a required course for all incoming freshmen that confers such nontechnical skills as professionalism, critical thinking and effective communication. Student Success, as it is called, is a one-credit course students take in their first semester at the school. Student surveys, industry input and faculty feedback helped to enhance the curriculum, which covers such topics as time management, financial literacy, diversity, teamwork, work ethic and career readiness.
Several offices–Curriculum and Instruction, Admissions, Student Services and Career Placement–contribute to the development of coursework, and Institutional Effectiveness provides data to strengthen the offerings. This cross-functional approach extends to assessment, with Curriculum and Instruction, Student Services and instructors meeting weekly to evaluate each lesson. This is critical, says Grode-Hanks because some of Mitchell’s programs are as short as nine months.
“We have a lot to do in a short amount of time to get these students prepared for life,” she notes.
Mitchell surveys students to determine the relevancy of topics covered in Student Success coursework. According to the school, these data show a yearly increase in students reporting that the topics covered are relevant and meet their needs.
Because of the nature of technical education, many Mitchell students aren’t comfortable with what Grode-Hanks calls “seat time.” For students used to tactile learning, deskbound instruction can be frustrating.
For that reason, she says, every class in the Student Success program “has an activity where the students get up and move and have manipulatives and projects and teamwork activities.”
Mitchell hopes Student Success prepares graduates for jobs as well as for life on their own. The skills it confers ideally make for better employees and more well-rounded citizens.
“We embed a lot of those activities within the technical courses, but Student Success is where it all comes together,” says Grode-Hanks. “If you want to do well, these are things you pay attention to.”
In addition to the Mitchell Technical Institute, Spring 2015 Models of Excellence honorees include: LDS Business College (Salt Lake City, Utah); Central Piedmont Community College (Charlotte, N.C.); Indiana University (Bloomington, Ind.); Paul Smith’s College (Paul Smiths, N.Y.); University of South Carolina (Columbia, S.C.); Southern Illinois University (Edwardsville, Ill.); William Rainey Harper College (Palatine, Ill.); Eastern Kentucky University (Richmond, Ky.); and University of Baltimore (Baltimore, Md.).
“The Spring 2015 Models of Excellence honorees demonstrate an admirable dedication to student success, as well as a deep understanding of how to best utilize campus resources,” says Andrew Crawford, senior vice president of campus services & operations at Higher One. “We are pleased to recognize their efforts alongside University Business.”
Launched this year, Models of Excellence is a national recognition program which honors colleges and universities that have implemented innovative, effective and inter-departmental initiatives that are bolstering student success. The program is sponsored by Higher One, which offers a wide array of technological services on campus, ranging from streamlining the institution’s performance analytics and financial aid refund processes to offering students innovative banking services, tuition payment plans and the basics of financial management. Higher One works closely with colleges and universities by allocating resources more efficiently to provide a higher quality of service and using data to impact success with a focus on empowering students.
University Business is the leading publication for senior managers at colleges and universities throughout the United States, reaching 75,000 leaders who manage enrollment, technology, business, finance, facilities and academic affairs. More information is available at www.universitybusiness.com.