HLC Self Study
Chapter 2 Graphic

Overview of Planning at Estrella Mountain Community College

As a future-oriented institution, planning has always played a critical role at Estrella Mountain.  The 22-year history of the College is marked by the following six distinct planning stages:

Stage 1: Planning for the College, 1988-1992

This stage includes Phase I construction planning and the establishment of planning directions that served as the founding principles for initial College development. These efforts guided the operation of the College from its first courses offered in fall 1990 until the opening of the Estrella Mountain campus in 1992. Planning for Phase II facilities development started during this stage in 1991 and continued through 1994.

Stage 2: Ensuring Institutional Effectiveness, 1993-1995

The next stage of planning focuses on organizational development and preparation for the College’s first Institutional Self-Study. The organizational development accomplished during this stage included forming a connection to the community through the establishment of customer market segments, customer research, the creation of institutional values, the College vision, mission and goals (purposes), a commitment to becoming a customer-driven organization, and a College service strategy – Your Success is Our Success.

Stage 3: Engaging Operational Strategies, 1996-2002

The College received initial accreditation in the spring of 1997.  Challenges identified in that initial self-study served as the foundation for subsequent strategic planning activities, including the development of the following College plans:

  • Strategic Plan: Building on the original set of planning directions from 1988, a strategic planning model was developed to enable Estrella Mountain to achieve its mission and goals and position itself as a developing community college through the year 2003.
  • Institutional Effectiveness Plan: Institutional Effectiveness at Estrella Mountain was patterned after a national model created by the American Association of Community Colleges. The Estrella Mountain plan included locally developed measures combined with nationally recognized measures suggested by the model. This approach resulted in a comprehensive model to assess the Institution’s effectiveness in achieving its mission and goals.
  • Student Academic Achievement Plan: The Student Academic Achievement Plan established the student learning outcomes by which student academic achievement is directly measured at the Institution. Recognizing that traditional benchmarks of student success (i.e., graduation rates, course completion, grades, and student persistence) are indirect measures, Estrella Mountain faculty and staff adapted an outcome model that was originally inspired by Alverno College’s (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) ability-based learning program.

Stage 4:  Planning for Efficiency and Effectiveness, 2003-2007

This stage includes Phase III construction planning and the update of the College’s Master Plan and Technology Plan in preparation for a 2004 General Obligation Bond election and 10-year capital development program entitled Building the Future.  During this timeframe, the Institution also focused on strengthening the linkages between division planning, staffing requests and the budget development process. This included revising the Budget Development Steering Team structure in an effort to provide more transparency related to budgetary issues and capital development proposals.

Stage 5: Becoming a Learning College through Integrated Planning, 2008-2010

During spring 2008, Estrella Mountain began the transition from a planning culture driven by full-time student equivalent growth to one focused on learning as the core driver in decision-making processes. This Learning College Journey placed an emphasis on changing the College culture in an effort to become more learning centered.

A task force led by employee group presidents, in collaboration with Senior Leadership, conducted research into both strategic planning and the Learning College initiative. Recommendations of this collaborative effort include the modification and realignment of the College’s six strategic directions with the five foundations of a Learning College. Itemized priorities were established during the fall 2008 Leadership Council Strategic Planning Retreat.

In spring 2009, there was additional review and assessment of institutional planning processes. Conversations about planning and how to improve planning processes filtered down to every level of the organization. As a result, changes were implemented and improvements were made. Institutional outcomes data (i.e., core indicators of effectiveness, student academic achievement and unique institutional outcomes) are now formally linked in the College’s mission, purposes and the Strategic Plan. Participation in college planning was expanded in an effort to be more inclusive, and the planning cycle was adjusted to provide better linkages to program review, division planning and budget development.

Also re-examined were the College’s mission, vision and core values. Based on substantial employee, community and student input, the mission, vision and core values statements were revised to reflect Estrella Mountain’s commitment to learning. They were introduced to the College, the community and the Governing Board in fall 2010. Estrella Mountain officially adopted and celebrated the College’s new mission, vision and core values in January 2011.

Stage 6: Looking into the Future, 2011-2015

The current economic crisis and sharp decrease in state funding are challenging the ability of all community colleges within the Maricopa system to provide high quality education and workforce development for students. Without appropriate levels of funding and with performance funding models that focus on transfer and degree/certificate completion, efforts of the Maricopa County Community College District and Estrella Mountain Community College to increase access, especially to students who are at a fiscal or educational disadvantage, may be jeopardized.

In spring 2011, the Arizona Community College Presidents’ Council presented its long-term strategic plan for the next 10 years. Arizona Community Colleges: 2020 Vision outlines the following three goals:

  1. Broad access to education and training
  2. Improved retention
  3. Greater completion and transfer rates

In the plan, each goal is discussed in terms of background, key indicators of progress, achieving the gold standard, and strategies for excellence. The ways in which Estrella Mountain meets these goals will emerge throughout the 2011-2015 planning phase.