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Program Review Advisory Committee Plans for the Future

by OCCRL / Nov 6, 2023

The 2023-2024 Program Review Advisory Committee (PRAC) held its first quarterly meeting of the academic year in October with an in-person get-together at Olive Harvey College, an institution within the City Colleges of Chicago.

The goals of PRAC are to improve the efficiency and efficacy of program review and identify challenges, redundancies, and omissions. Committee members look for opportunities to refine the process, craft professional development, and assist in providing supplemental resources to support institutions and practitioners, with the goal of improving the program-review process and outcomes.

Michelle Adams, a PRAC member and dean of student services and staff development at Olive Harvey College, served as the meeting host. The committee of 11 community college administrators, faculty, and practitioners were welcomed by Dr. Brandon Nichols, vice president of academic and student affairs at Olive Harvey College, who reflected on the legacy of the committees work. Dr. Lorenzo Baber, director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL), gave opening remarks that included a call for the committee's continued commitment.

The meeting marked the onboarding of four new members:

  • Dr. Ashley Becker, Southwestern Illinois College
  • Barbara Leach, Kishwaukee College
  • Dr. Kenneth Thompson, Joliet Junior College
  • Dr. Kristin Shelby, Shawnee Community College.

The new members joined the following seven continuing members:

  • Michelle Adams, City Colleges of Chicago
  • M. Lynn Breer, Lake Land Community College
  • Dr. Cherie Meador, Moraine Valley Community College
  • Dr. Lonetta Oliver, Illinois Central College
  • Lori Ragland, Rend Lake College
  • Dr. Amanda Smith, Rock Valley College
  • Cathy Taylor, Elgin Community College.

The meeting kicked off a yearlong focus on strategic planning and vision-casting goals for the committee’s future. Members are striving to embed collaboration and collective responsibility as they return to in-person engagement after the last few years of conducting mostly virtual work due to COVID. They underscored that for the program-review process to be successful, more collaborative energy from community colleges in Illinois is needed. With this in mind, the committee members dedicated themselves to serving as an example of collaboration and furthering their work together to support institutions.

In previous PRAC meetings, committee members emphasized the need to reprioritize their direction and mission. They shared that the decision to prioritize strategic missions allows the committee’s institutional stakeholders to become informed about the committee’s purpose, values, vision, and strategic plans while inviting continued investment. As a result of this guidance from the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and OCCRL staff, the meeting centered on the importance of a strategic plan. 

In the first meeting segment, attendees discussed the steps toward a strategic-planning process and developed a timeline to implement and complete a plan before the end of the year. The advisory board members engaged in reflection questions from the perspective of their institutional and/or departmental strategic-plan processes. Facilitator Jewel Bourne, a senior research assistant at OCCRL, said the questions “were designed to help us think through what we should be doing and not doing, as well as how we do it.” Inquiries included:

  • What questions did you have in developing the plan?
  • What informed your institution or department’s decisions and priorities for the plan?
  • Was there anything you felt should be included that was not?

Attendees affirmed that the strategic-planning process is a way of confirming their values and assessing the workgroup’s mission. The process also served as a tool to provide directions and goals for the next three years. For this reason, the second segment of the meeting consisted of attendees engaging in an assessment of the committee’s progress toward its goals. The committee members were asked to envision where they see PRAC heading in five years’ time. The question generated ideas such as starting projects to help determine the effectiveness of program review supporting institutions to meet their goals, creating resources that provide more support for institutional resource-building, and generating processes for improving and increasing institutional buy-in for the committee’s work. The discussion also spawned contemplation on where the committee wants to focus resources. Other discussions covered what equity would look like in the strategic-planning process as well as general committee work.

The final segment of the meeting covered a review of the content and progress on the committee’s forthcoming Program Review Peer Review process and the findings from a recent focus group at the annual ICCB Forum for Excellence.

The next PRAC meeting is scheduled for February 7, 2024.