RECAP of the April 2018 Governance Institute for Student Success

Southern Regional State Systems GISS in Birmingham, Alabama


Over 67 attendees (trustees, presidents, executive staff) from four Southern States posed along the staircase at Lawson State Community College, in Birmingham, AL, during the first State Systems GISS, April 9-10, 2018. All photos by Lawson State Community College Media.

The Governance Institute for Student Success (GISS) works with trustees and presidents of community and technical colleges to establish a culture of accountability and evidenced-based planning through effective and collaborative governance to achieve student equity, success, and completion. GISS is an initiative originally founded in 2009 by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Now with support from the Strada Education Network, GISS administered its first State Systems institute April 9-10, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama, for four Southern states: Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi.

A total of sixty-seven (67) participants from the four states attended the GISS. Of this number, 37 were state system trustees and chancellors/presidents and CEOs. The remaining 30 participants were campus presidents and executive staff and a representative from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) who provided extra materials for attendees. Of particular note, participating in the GISS to welcome the CEOs and trustees were Alabama’s Governor The Honorable Kay Ivey; Alabama Community College System Chancellor, Jimmy H. Baker; Lawson State President; Perry W. Ward, and ACCT President and CEO, J. Noah Brown, who also presented some of the highlights of the program.


J. Noah Brown sets the stage for the 2018 Southern Regional State Systems GISS.


Lawson State Community College President, Perry Ward concludes his welcome to Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana participants for the first State Systems GISS as Alabama Community College System Chancellor, Jimmy Baker, rises to introduce Alabama’s Governor and President of the Board, the Honorable Kay Ivey.


ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown addresses Governor Kay Ivey as he begins his opening remarks at the GISS. Lawson State President Perry Ward is to his right and ACCS Chancellor Jimmy Baker is to the Governor’s left.

Guest Speakers

Special guest speakers included Dr. Madeline Pumariega, Chancellor of the Florida College System, Dr. Diana Oblinger, President Emeritus of EDUCAUSE and author of Game Changers.

Dr. Madeline Pumariega

Dr. Madeline Pumariega, Chancellor of the Florida College System, spoke at the first State Systems GISS on how boards deal with seismic change and bring others with them.

Jeff Lynn, Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development in the ACCS system also spoke about local workforce initiatives. Dr. Susan Price, Vice Chancellor for System Development and Strategic Advancement served as the key liaison from the ACCS to plan parts of the program including selecting four current students from four different Alabama colleges to tell their individual stories.

Dr. Diana Oblinger
Dr. Diana Oblinger, President Emeritus of EDUCAUSE, spoke about how technology is changing education.


KCTCS President and CEO, Jay Box, center, is flanked by several Board of Regents members and Alicia Crouch, Vice Chancellor of Research and Policy Analysis.


ACCS Vice Chancellor for Workforce & Economic Development, Jeff Lynn (center), poses with Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Russ Rothamer and Southern Union State CC President, Mark Ellard, at the State Systems GISS.

The most important learning of the day Over 78% of survey participants shared their thoughts on the most important learning of the day which often focused on the value of learning that other state systems had similar concerns and challenges. Many appreciated the sharing of ideas and open communications and learning that every system focuses on student success. Engagement and attainment interaction with other states Similar concerns/challenges from state to state

For new board members, exposure to the other states’ processes and policy was extremely beneficial in determining best practice. Comments included:

  • Learning about performance-based metrics from Florida and the importance of evaluations of effective measures and programs for tough decisions.
  • The lack of completion for cohorts was alarming.
  • The importance of alignment of programs with business and industry
  • The opportunity to network.

Of particular note, more than half of the respondents highlighted appreciation of Madeline Pumariega’s presentation about the Florida College system. Learning about the metrics of performance-based funding were significant to many in the room.

For some executive staff, the opportunity to interact informally with Board about policy and a better understanding of our Board were the most important learnings from the institute.

State Systems GISS--Birmingham Banner

Respondents also indicated what they learned at the institute that they would like to use or implement to sustain the student success agenda at their institutions, including having the courage to have the system president and college presidents to make the necessary changes. Several comments referred to the student success journey (detours, roadblocks, guiderails, and good jobs), an early exercise at the institute:

  • That we are not alone, nice to see what other systems are doing
  • We have to reach potential students and tell our story and that we offer in mediums that they will engage in
  • Determine pathways to success and eliminate the roadblocks
  • Continuous review of institutional barriers, roadblock and supports
  • Systemwide career pathways/broadband expansion
    Rethinking dev-ed math.

Reviewing disaggregated student data and using it to make policy decisions was important to many respondents. Comments included:

  • The importance of data and data collection
  • Stop making excuses. Use the data—rethink student success.
  • Cultural shift at institution—how to use our data
  • Alignment/Performance-based funding metrics
  • Student support initiatives
  • What you measure matters
  • The importance of having good data and using it


Participating in this first State Systems GISS were the following institutions and organizations:

  • Alabama Community College System (ACCS)
  • Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • Bevill State Community College
  • Calhoun Community College
  • Central Alabama Community College
  • Chattahoochee Valley Community College
  • Coastal Alabama Community College
  • Gadsen State Community College
  • Ingraham State Technical College
  • J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College
  • Shelton State Community College
  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Lawson State Community College
  • Lurleen B. Wallace Community College
  • Southern Union State Community College
  • Trenholm State Community College
  • Louisiana Community and Technical College System
  • Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS)
  • Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB)
  • Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)

Other pictures of the 2018 Southern State Systems GISS Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, were provided by the Lawson State Community College ‘s Media department.

GISS Director Norma Goldstein begins the GISS program after Governor Kay Ivey welcomed trustees and regents from Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, and many college presidents and executives from across Alabama’s 26 community colleges.
From left to right, Dr. Jim Purcell, Executive Director of the Alabama Commission for Higher Education, Patricia McGriff, Commissioner, and Charles Ball, Commissioner, listen and refer to resource materials provided at the GISS.
Over 67 participants worked to identify barriers for students as well as listened to speakers about national best practices.
Interim President of Bevill State Community College, Kim Ennis, front left, and Natale Harder, Chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, center, work at their respective tables during the GISS.
Calhoun Community College Board Member Crystal Brown, VP of Student Services, Patricia Wilson, and VP of Academic Affairs, Alan Stephenson, review GISS materials and sign video release forms.
Russ Rothamer, Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, sits with Vice Chancellor of Workforce and Economic Development, Fred Lynn, to review ACCT Leadership Congress materials. Centered is Cheryl Blanco representing SREB.
Mississippi Community College Board members, from left to right, Director of Special Projects, Rachel M. DeVaughan, Assistant Executive Directors Audra Love Kimble, and Raul Fletes, focus on their Policy Action Agenda during the GISS.
Kentucky board members and their President Jay Box pay attention to the video screen reporting on student success metrics.
Among the 67 attendees at the GISS, were Dr. Susan Price, Vice Chancellor for System Development and Strategic Development, facing left, and other executive members of the Alabama Community College System. Dr. Price helped coordinate much of the GISS program.
Almost 40 of the presidents and board members of Alabama’s community college system participated in the GISS, including members of the Calhoun Community College leadership.
Pamela Little, Dean of Student Support Services at J.F. Drake State Community & Technical College poses a question.
Raul Fletes, Assistant Executive Director, Mississippi Community College Board, explains his state’s success strategies at the GISS.
ACCT President and CEO, J. Noah Brown, describes the “digital divide” for millions of students who do not have access to sufficient broadband in their educational districts.
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GISS Director Norma Goldstein summarizes a GISS activity about the student journey to student success.


Leslie Reeder, Dean of Instruction, Wallace Community College


LCTC’s Chief Academic Affairs Officer, Rene Cintron, describes his state’s plans.


Bill Ashley, President of Shelton State CC, also explains his table’s student success goals.