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Board of Trustees Update: November, 2020

Submitted by on November 10, 2020 – 5:11 pm
repurposed classroom with four comfortable chairs and desk with two people talking

The Center for Health Professions is on the first floor in the El Hefni Bulding room 133.

Education Report: Center for Health Professions Transitions to Online

The Center for Health Professions, which opened in July of 2019 in the El Hefni Health & Technology Center in Lawrence, is part of the college’s Integrated Student Experience, a reorganization of the way students access Northern Essex services, designed to build communities around like majors.

Kathy Welch Hudson, who is the faculty lead, along with her other roles as department chair, health care technology and ambulatory services and coordinator of the medical assistant program, explained to trustees that the center gives students in the college’s 22 health certificate and degree programs a physical space where they can feel more connected to both faculty and other students from their major.

“It’s a gathering place where students can hang their hat and feel comfortable,” she said. “Students came in to get help with advising, do homework, charge their phones, attend career events, hang out between classes, or grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

In the months it was open before the pandemic, the center had 2,955 student visits.

Since March, the center has continued to serve students online, registering and advising 504 students from April 1 to Sept 7 of this year.

The center is run by Welch Hudson and faculty lead, Dawn Wheaton, program coordinator, medical billing and medical coding, and includes a full time advisor, Cristina Nuncio, and a part-time advisor, Linda Comeau.

Currently located in a classroom on the first floor of the El Hefni Health & Technology Center, it will be moving to a larger space off the lobby of the building, where the Career Planning and Advising Center (CPAC) is currently located. CPAC will be moving to the Dimitry Building on Franklin St.

Education Report: All College Assembly Plays Key Role in Addressing Pandemic

The pandemic drove much of the work that was done by the All College Assembly over the later part of the year, according to Professor Sheila Muller, chair of the executive board of the ACA, who provided trustees with her annual report. The ACA includes all Northern Essex faculty and staff, except the president, and plays an advisory role, reviewing operating policies before they are adopted and after implementation.

Here are some highlights:

The Executive Committee worked to identify areas of the charter that may need amending and to develop a sustainable framework for documenting committee activities and reporting that will allow for more accountability and transparency.

The Academic Affairs Committee approved two new certificate programs, 8 new courses, 28 course revisions, 17 program remissions, and 19 course in-activations.

In addition to a budget review and inquiry, the Finance Committee was involved with the hiring of key positions including a human resources director, a comptroller, and a deputy police chief; transitioning to a new child care provider on campus; and the campuses Return to Campus Plan in response to the pandemic.

The Information Technology Committee helped assess the resources that would be needed for transitioning successfully to a semester that was 90% online as well as online training to make sure faculty, staff, and students had the technology needed to be successful.

Before the pandemic struck, the Student Affairs Committee was focused on making sure that student services are being delivered equitably between the Haverhill and Lawrence Campuses, looking at issues such as the shuttle, the bookstore, and food service.

Enrollment Trends Over the Last Three Years

In response to a request from Trustee Pati Fernandez at the October meeting of the board of trustees, Kelly Saretsky, dean of institutional research, planning, and effectiveness, reported on how our students’ choice of majors has shifted over the past three years.

The percentage of students enrolled in associate in science programs has increased from 45.1% in the fall of 2017 to 50% this fall, while the percentage of students enrolled in associate in arts programs has decreased from 46.7% in 2017 to 42%, according to the data Saretsky shared.

Here are some other trends:

General Studies: Health Specialization enrollments have increased from 20.3% to 21.3%

Biology majors have increased from 2.9% to 3.8%

Business Transfer majors are on the rise, increasing from 7.4% to 8.2%

Liberal Arts majors are declining from 10% to 5.2%

Engineering Science (4.6% to 3.9%) and Computer Information Science: Information Technology (3.1% to 2.8%) are experiencing slight declines

The most worrisome shift is the decline in liberal arts programs, said Bill Heineman, vice president of academic and student affairs. “This isn’t just at Northern Essex. We are working hard to make students aware of the many viable career options available to liberal arts grads.”

Improving Health Care Education

President Lane Glenn shared Creating More “Pockets of Good”: Fostering Innovation in Post-Pandemic Healthcare Education”, a report funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education through its Higher Education Innovation Fund, under the sponsorship of Northern Essex.

Focusing on community colleges and frontline allied health occupations, the report will help community colleges, employers, and policymakers address changes in the way allied health professionals are trained in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This report will help us secure the funding and the partnerships that will lead to improved health care education,” said Glenn.

The report was written by Volta Learning Group, a higher education consulting firm.

Trustees Add Two Committees

Trustees are adding two new committees: Advancement and Alumni, chaired by Trustee Shalimar Quiles ’08, and the Equity Imperative, chaired by Trustee Marianne Paley Nadel. These committees will be working with Vice President Allison Dolan Wilson and Vice President Noemi Custodia Lora respectively to support Northern Essex in both of these two areas.

Already existing trustee committees include Audit & Finance, Nominating, and Presidential Evaluation.

Report of the Administration

Budget Status

President Glenn reported that Governor Baker has put forward a level-funded higher ed budget for FY21, which Glenn said “is better news than we could have expected.”

While there are still several more steps in the process before a budget for FY21, which began July 1, 2020, is approved, Glenn told trustees “Early indications are positive. We are in a better position than we would have thought and we are grateful for that.”

NECC Adopts Handshake, Premiere Career Networking Software

In July, Northern Essex became the first community college in Massachusetts to adopt Handshake, a career network that is comprised of 500,000 employers, including all of the Fortune 500 companies.

Northern Essex recently became the fiscal sponsor of a $44,693 grant from the Boston Foundation and SkillWorks to lead the effort to implement Handshake at all Massachusetts community colleges.

Campus Projects

The college is seeking funding to resurface the Spurk Building parking lots, which is a $2.5 million project.

The college is also hoping to upgrade its athletic facilities and is looking for a community partner.