HLC Self Study
Chapter 4 Graphic

Assessing Institutional Climate

As part of the continuous improvement effort, Estrella Mountain Community College utilizes several institutional assessments to evaluate how well the College is doing at recognizing and valuing the diversity of its learners and constituencies.

Core Values

As a core value at Estrella Mountain Community College, diversity is regularly assessed as part of the effort to evaluate the organizational climate. Estrella Mountain’s core values have been assessed through the use of all-employee surveys in 2000, 2004 and 2008.  In all three years, diversity received higher than average ratings. While the majority of employees reported satisfaction with the way Estrella Mountain employees exhibit behaviors conducive to creating an atmosphere supporting diversity, the last two administrations of the survey included a number of detailed open-ended comments that suggested Estrella Mountain can still improve. Specifically, in 2004 there were a number of comments related to a lack of diversity training, perception of preferential treatment of certain minority employees and a need for a wider definition of diversity. 

The employee comments on the 2004 core values survey resulted in the College forming a core values Diversity Team to address these and other diversity issues.  From 2004-2009, the Diversity Team was one of the most active groups at Estrella Mountain and responsible for the expansion of campus diversity-related events. Examples of activities conducted by the team include all-employee book discussions, viewing and discussion of the movie Crash, mix-it-up luncheons, and participation in a mapping project related to the National Genographic Project.  In spring 2007, the team’s efforts were recognized when it received the Maricopa County Community College District Diversity Advisory Council Award for Excellence.

In 2008, the Diversity Team reviewed results from the 2008 core values survey and noted there were still a handful of negative perceptions related to preferential treatment of minority employees. This information was shared with the college community to help remove perceptions not based in fact. In addition, the newly revised core values statements include a more expansive definition of diversity. In fall 2011, the College plans to launch a core values awareness campaign, starting with diversity and finishing with a college core values assessment in November 2011.


Estrella Mountain utilizes the national assessment tool, the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Survey, as part of its institutional assessment efforts. The Noel-Levitz includes six questions related to responsiveness to diverse populations. The spring 2003 administration of this survey showed that Estrella Mountain students rated all six questions statistically higher than the national average for community colleges. In spring 2007, five of the six questions were numerically higher, with one category being statistically higher. All of these categories received numerically higher satisfaction scores, with the exception of commitment to evening students (spring 2007), which was numerically lower yet not statistically significant. The questions on the Noel-Levitz Survey include commitment to part-time students, evening students, older learners, underprepared populations, commuters, and students with disabilities. Figure 22 features the Noel-Levitz categories related to diversity.

Figure 22

Spring 2010 results show numerically higher scores in the Institution’s commitment to part-time and evening students in comparison with the national average. A slight decline was seen with the Institution’s commitment to older, returning learners, under-represented populations, and students with disabilities, although the rate of decline is not statistically significant. Several individual question results exceeded the national satisfaction mean scores concerning cultural diversity. Respect for cultural diversity by faculty and staff members produced statistically high scores as did the question concerning students’ understanding of their role as citizens in a global society.  Figure 23 represents additional questions related to diversity in terms of spring 2010 data.

Figure 23

Community College Survey of Student Engagement

Estrella Mountain Community College also participates in the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) as part of its institutional assessment efforts. The spring 2004, 2006 and 2009 administration of CCSSE included questions related to diversity. Overall, survey results relate positively with the frequency of serious conversations with students of a different race or ethnicity, compared to the national average of other CCSSE institutions. A consistent higher degree of engagement has also been indicated in encouraging contact among students from different economic, social and racial or ethnic backgrounds. The 2009 administration noted a slight decrease in the national average comparison levels responding to the frequency of serious conversations with students who differ in terms of political opinions, religious beliefs or personal values. CCSSE findings have been shared with the college community and the Diversity Team. Results from the spring 2011 administration were not available at the time this document was published, but data for 2004, 2006 and 2009 are featured in Figure 24.

Figure 24

Graduation Exit Survey

The Student Affairs Division is concerned about the extent to which students feel they are being respected by staff as they participate in various student services. The data from the Graduation Exit Survey of May 2011 indicates that almost all students were satisfied to very satisfied with the respect shown by staff in the service areas with which they interacted. The Graduation Exit Survey is described in greater detail in Chapter 8: Criterion 5.