Innovation, change, and growth were some of the main themes of Dr. Stuart Van Horn’s annual State of the District address, kicking off the Fall 2018 semester in advance of its Aug. 10 start date.
Van Horn, Chancellor of the West Hills Community College District—which includes West Hills College Lemoore, West Hills College Coalinga, and North District Center Firebaugh—spoke about plans for the new academic year, district goals, new projects and initiatives, and welcomed new staff and administrators.
Van Horn highlighted the work West Hills does to move students “from the margins to the mainstream”, including projects such a prior learning assessment, certification programs, and adult education. He also emphasized the goals for the new 2018-2019 school year.
“We are tactical in our directions, are now strategically aligned, and realizing growth gains through diversification,” Van Horn said, addressing a crowd of staff and administrators from across the district. “Diversification to grow student demand, management accountability, and prudent preparation for the future are top goals for the 2018-2019 academic year.”
Van Horn welcomed new staff, faculty and administrators at each campus as well as congratulating staff with new assignments.
The new state funding formula for community colleges was also discussed, including how it could affect West Hills and the need to align with state expectations, follow a comprehensive plan and utilize funding to support rural students.
Van Horn also discussed budget plans for the WHCCD, gave an update on Accreditation, discussed the recently developed Facilities Master Plan and Educational Master Plans—which outlines plans for WHCCD’s physical and academic growth—and talked about upcoming construction projects.
Professional development was another big topic. Van Horn reiterated the importance of professional development to him. He highlighted that a work group was being developed to organize a training calendar for deans and directors and an in-house leadership development program was in the works.
Van Horn discussed the WHCCD’s plans for its Broadband Initiative, which aims to implement better broadband access throughout the WHCCD service area through partnerships and collaboration.
“The information highway in central California is a rutted, dirt road. Without broadband, nothing works. There is no high tech adoption or employment in agriculture or other industries, no healthcare delivery, and no distance learning,” he said. “Having access to broadband is, quite simply, keeping up. Our project intends to deliver reliable broadband to rural, disadvantaged communities in our district, where educational attainment is low, skills gaps are high and living wages are too scarce for too many of our students and families.”
Van Horn spoke about difficulties facing WHCCD in implementing the initiative, but also highlighted successes and reiterated that the goal to deploy high-speed, low-cost reliable access to broadband was still being worked toward.
Van Horn highlighted changes in organization throughout the district including the creation of a registrar position at each college and implementation of men’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams at West Hills College Lemoore.
Finally, he discussed the district’s efforts to encourage completion and job success, including offering training across the district in residential electrical, truck driving and more. He also discussed partnering with companies like Bitwise Industries of Fresno for training and Faraday Future, who worked with West Hills College Lemoore to develop a new Introduction to Industrial Automatic Certificate of Achievement in order to meet training demands.