Convocation 2019

The future

Imagine a shore, says the clairvoyant, when I ask
about the future. Imagine a river emptying itself
into the sea. It’s dusk, she goes on, but light enough
that you can see the river moving out, its direction sure.

I can see it, in fact I’ve been there recently. Overhead,
terns wheel and cry. Walk downshore, where the sea
moves in, the salt giving it greater weight. The slap
and churn, cold and immediate, of this meeting

of waters is an inevitability. I watch the sun fall,
its theater of blaze. I’ve come to her to ask
about the future and its brightness, by what measure
we might predict or calibrate it. I’ve come to believe

that everything depends on this, so when she replies,
Imagine you’re at altitude, flying across an ocean from
one continent to another,
I’m impatient, but I do it,
depart the shore, see myself in a metal capsule,

at a window that frames nothing but sky upon
more sky, and in my mind, we’re in it and of it
and above it, somehow, and also drowning in it,
perhaps swimming to a far-off shore—l even hear

the voice of the cabin attendant intoning in
the unlikely event of an emergency landing, and outside
the imagined window, the firmament dissolves
into blue mist, diffracted light, a structure made

for holding nothing but its own airy figment:
I look again, and the clouds fissure into a sheet
of ice, floes adrift, more and more water. I want
to believe in a better ending, to believe that we tilt

toward hope. I fret in the near-silent alcove
where this oracular stranger tells me, in figures,
what can be made of this moment, this now,
deposited like river matter, the dregs of the past. 

The coins to pay her clink in my pocket. I should not
have asked about the world, or the future, at least
not directly. I should have asked her, is there form
or efficacy, or beauty, still to be made in this world?

Even though I already know the answer: yes and no,
the sea roars in salt and the river meets it, its sediments
suspended and dazzling. A plane flies miles above earth,
combustible device, and in so doing plunders

the world. The wreck of an old fishing boat, there,
in the mud, is the past, falling apart now and for years
to come. The inexorable silt the river carries makes
and undoes this estuary. When the harbor seal bobs up

to inspect me, that’s the now and also the future:
we are momentary peers, investigating one another,
as I disturb his habitat. When I paint the future,
it is luminous but with a wash of gray, 

and when I spell out its sentence, it is an anagram
for insurmountable. That’s not quite right:
the anagram is made of reckoning. I say
to the clairvoyant, The world is on fire, which is not 

a question, and she replies, but the world
has always burned. This answers nothing, though I know
it is a kind of truth, yet devoid of the particulars
that lend a divination its requisite weight.

The world is burning now, I say. She doesn’t need
to repeat it: it has always burned, but at least I know
this blaze has history, and that I must learn it.
From that shore I might pick up two stones: one

for ballast, and one to remind me of the past,
already here, as I go forward, and that,
in a burning world, we’d better be prepared
to carry water.

Convocation Welcome and Introductions

Welcome to Convocation and the new academic year!

Over the past year, as we’ve revised our strategic plan, we’ve focused on the what we are going to do and the how we’re going to do it. In fact, today, we’re going to really focus on the how - the tactics we have collectively developed to guide us to meet our strategic goals, and the way we use data to make informed decisions about our work and move the needle on the strategic plan.

But we should stop long enough now and then to consider the why of our work. And for me, as I’m guessing for you, the why is always the student. The sheer glory we get to relish in when we hear stories of the students we serve and how they have grown, changed, transformed, realized their dreams. We are fortunate to be engaged in work that has a tremendous positive impact on individuals, their dreams and the community at large.

And probably more than any other industry except maybe faith leaders (which in many respects perhaps we are) …we often hear words of gratitude from our students whose lives we’ve changed.

I’m grateful to witness extraordinary things each day as we meet our students where they are and support them in reaching their educational dreams and full potential. Hold on to that notion of Gratitude…we’re going to return to it later this morning.

Some of our most engaged students are with us today; those who are leading the student association to strengthen the student experience. Please stand as I introduce you: 

  • President – Mary Flanagan
  • Executive Vice President – Mason Bancroft
  • North Region Vice President – Gerald Swinson
  • South Region Vice President – Justin Fullmer
  • Central Region Vice President – Vukota Johnson
  • Publicity and Advertising Vice President – Lina Nguyen
  • Clubs and Organizations Vice President – Wyatt Bringhurst, and
  • Special Assistant to the President for Inclusivity and Equity – Joey Du Shane-Navanick

Let me shift introductions to our Executive Cabinet members:

  • Provost for Academic Affairs - Dr. Clifton Sanders
  • Vice President for Business Services - Jeff West
  • Vice President for Student Affairs - Dr. Chuck Lepper
  • Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness - Jeff Aird
  • Vice President for Institutional Advancement - Alison McFarlane
  • Vice President for Government and Community Relations - Tim Sheehan
  • Special Assistant to the President for Inclusivity and Equity – Dr. Lea Lani Kinikini

This year’s Faculty Association, Faculty Senate and Staff Association Leaders are:

  • Justice Morath
  • Katerina Salini
  • Sean Crossland

If you’ve joined the College since the last Convocation, please stand. Welcome to SLCC!

State of the College

SLCC's current strategic plan was created collectively in 2016. The plan was intended to guide our work for a seven-year cycle ending in 2023 when the college will turn 75 years old.

Our $40 million-dollar comprehensive fundraising campaign goal was set to bolster and sustain the strategic plan as we build and secure a strong future for the college. I’m happy to report that we are ahead of schedule with $15.3 million dollars pledged and realized toward that audacious goal, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Over the last year, we've evaluated the strategies we've used to progress to this midpoint of the 7-year plan. We have spent the last year working together to update and adjust the plan with new strategies to meet our five goals:

  • Increase Student Completion
  • Successful Transfer
  • Workforce Alignment
  • Equity in Achievement
  • Improved Institutional Sustainability and Capacity

Through research and feedback from the entire college community supplied during several forums held earlier this year, the plan has been updated and outlines a clear path for the college through the year 2023

It has also been influenced by emerging data and analysis that we are much better at mining then in the past.

Thanks to Jeff Aird and his Data Analytics team as well as others across the College, we've gotten much more sophisticated about using data over the last several years. We've been able to track our progress on our strategic plan better than ever before and watch the needles move…at least most of them…in the right direction.

In a few minutes you'll hear from Suzanne Walsh, our keynote speaker, who will touch on how we all use data to meet our students where they are and how each one of us, in our distinct and various roles, can use data to make better decisions about our important work. 

As we worked to update the plan, one of the data sets we considered was from the new student survey we conducted. We learned:

  • 83% of our students expect to earn an associate’s degree and transfer to a four-year institution
    • Younger students prefer morning and afternoon classes.
    • Older, working students like online and evening classes.
    • Students were highly satisfied with campus services and with their courses
    • We learned students chose us because of affordability, ability to transfer and academic quality.

I’m happy to share that after all that work, data analysis and synthesis and college wide participation, our new strategies have been finalized and you will all get a copy of that new plan today.

As you review the plan, you’ll find our vision, mission, values and goals areas haven’t changed, but we have 19 new strategies to meet those goals and to guide our work for the next four years. Collaborative work teams will guide and implement several of the strategies, and some will be led by the leaders in functional areas. I would encourage you to look deeper into this in the printed strategic plan or online. (strategic planning site on screen).

 So, of the 19 strategies, five will be led by CWT’s. Those strategies include:

  • Implementing SLCC Pathways
  • Increasing the number of graduates in high wage programs
  • Deploy strategic course scheduling
  • Embracing equity-mindedness and inclusive practices in our workplace and academic culture, and
  • Increasing college participation

Implementing Pathways

Our number one strategy in the plan is to Implement Pathways. Over the past few years, early indicators show completion rates are climbing, but this trend needs to continue.

Our goal is a 40 percent completion rate. And to get there we need to support an additional 1,000 students through to completion.

Our Pathways initiative is geared to increase those completion rates and provide a more holistic, engaged and integrated learning environment and more guided student support. It is a multi-year initiative geared to student success. There has already been a tremendous amount of groundwork completed on Pathways to get us to where we are today. For the past three years we have worked on enhanced learning principles that have included: assessment, curriculum, high impact practices, and the learning climate. We have worked on guiding students better by revising orientation, implementing case management advising, recreating and streamlining the application process, and integrating career services.

So, first, congratulations and thank you for all of your hard work to reach this point of the Pathways model. From here, a Pathways CWT will be created that will coordinate the design and creation of our eight areas of study and general education enhancements. Eight Areas of Study Design Teams or sub-committees led by our academic deans and faculty co-chairs will be established to build the framework for each area of study.

This work will include, among other things, creating an introductory course to the area of study, incorporating high impact and inclusive practices into instruction for the area of study, developing a statement for the aspirational climate within each area of study, and creating a learning assessment plan.

There is so much more material and associated research on the Pathways model that I encourage you to dig into on the Pathways website at your convenience.

Increasing Graduates in Key Fields and High Wage Programs

Another focus area this year is to increase the number of graduates in high wage programs. To that end, we plan to scale the strides we've made in Competency- Based Education (CBE), continue some of the deep work accomplished this year in Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), and encourage enrollment and completion in high demand majors.

Our students come from many different backgrounds with a nearly endless range of experiences. Some students already have knowledge and skills in their fields of study and just need to have that credit considered through Prior Learning Assessment or showcase their competencies through our CBE efforts.

Giving students credit for their knowledge encourages college completion by speeding up the timeline for earning a certificate or degree.

We plan to look for opportunities to increase the number of awards in these fields and raise the number of students who earn a certificate or degree in state-identified education programs that align with high-wage occupations.

We’ll also conduct a comprehensive review of program advisory committees to ensure their work is better aligned with the needs of our regional workforce. 

Deploy Strategic Course Scheduling

How we create the semester schedule has a significant impact on a student’s capacity to persist as well as on the college budget. And at times, competing values and priorities have contributed to an incoherent or inconsistent scheduling process. We must be much more strategic in developing a course schedule that better fits student needs, incentivizes higher credit loads, and, most importantly, improves retention.

The CWT will analyze and maximize scheduling effectiveness and enrollment for all of our sites and establish guiding principles, policies and procedures, as needed, in order to optimize schedules and resource allocation.

Embracing Equity-mindedness and Inclusive Practices

We are proud to be the most diverse higher education institution in Utah and we’ve done great work at the college to ensure that inclusivity and equity are more than just talking points.

But we still have ground to cover, to increase enrollment, retention and achievement numbers of students who have historically been underrepresented in higher education. 

One of the key ways we will be successful in this is to continue to diversify our workforce. National research confirms that student success increases when students can see their racial, ethnic and gender identity reflected in faculty and staff, and our workforce should reflect our student population.

Our strategy includes:

  • Scaling our search advocacy model and implementing it across the institution to encourage hiring committees to create a more inclusive and equitable search process when filling open positions.
  • And expanding our diversity fellowship program to include administrators in addition to faculty.

You may have read in one of my recent president's message that during interviews for our Special Assistant for Inclusivity and Equity position, each of our finalists were very complimentary about our search process. From strengthening the language in job descriptions, to creating an inclusive search process, to the communication and interview schedules we plan for our candidates, we must continue to take important steps to expand inclusive and diverse practices at the college.

Increasing College Participation

Finally, in our CWT work for the coming year, we plan to continue working in earnest to increase higher ed participation. As you know, rates have been falling in Salt Lake County during the last several years. This fall we are currently ….% from last year. This is in part due to:

  • Low unemployment
  • Rising wages
  • Changing demographics in our service area

There is also more competition than ever before in the higher ed industry, including online schools and universities.

SLCC is going to rededicate developing the college pipeline in Salt Lake County by:

  • Engaging in a robust P-20 effort that includes outreach to and engagement with elementary, junior high and high schools in Salt Lake County to share with students and their parents the value and importance of higher education and the pathways forward for them through SLCCPromise, concurrent enrollment, and the physical sites that reside near their home.
  • We will also re-engage former students and focus on reaching out to older and non-traditional learners with some targeted online programs.

Facilities Update

If you attended Convocation last year you will remember we were preparing for the opening of our Westpointe campus. Hard to believe it's been a year since we opened our CTE-dedicated space that has been an incredible environment for our students to experiment and experience learning and for our amazing faculty to instruct and teach. We have earned some wonderful recognition during the course of the year for the workforce development programs and the facility at Westpointe. Community partners have stepped up to share their resources and their employment needs as we continue to address the pressing need for skilled employees in critical industries.

If you were on any campus over the summer, you've seen the multiple projects – minor to major and the enormous amount of work happening in our facilities. With applause for the tireless facilities crews that manage our buildings and grounds, let me mention a few projects.

Our landmark signs … the gigantic SLCC letters … are now installed at the South City, Jordan and Taylorsville Redwood campuses. Watch for variations of these signs at Miller and Westpointe in the upcoming year.

We're designing and bidding construction for the new Student Pavilion on the Jordan campus with an expected completion date of January 2021.

Farther afield, we continue our efforts to secure funding from the legislature for the first building on our Herriman property. We received permission to begin programming last year. Once funded, the building will be a joint site with the University of Utah so that a student in the southwest quadrant of the valley will be able to complete an associate’s degree with us and continue to complete a bachelor’s degree in the same building with the University of Utah.

Computer science, information systems, nursing and teaching training are programs that will be taught at the campus. Shared student services of advising, tutoring, financial aid, admissions and transfer support will also be on site.

Community Engagement: Practicing Community as a Value

And let me wrap up this part by turning attention for a moment to the college value of community…both the internal community and our external community.

Last year the President’s Council on Inclusivity and Equity commissioned its second campus climate survey. I am happy to report that overall participation rates were higher than previous survey. We’ll release the full report this fall after PCIE has a chance to review and digest the findings. But I’ll share a few findings with you today.

  • Overall, the current campus climate is relatively healthy. On average, the response is a 4.3 out of five stating that people are somewhat comfortable with the current climate.
  • But we must be careful with averages. Climate isn’t just about what most people are feeling, or what the average person feels. Climates need to be holistic and inclusive. And when we dig deeper, we see some trends that need further attention. 
  • For instance, even though generally people feel very positive about the climate there are still students, faculty, and staff who felt like they didn’t belong, or didn’t feel safe, or felt unwelcome at the College.
  • When we investigate more, we see these feelings are not unique to any particular class or group.
  • So let me be clear: our goal is to have any of you who for some reason are feeling unsafe or unwelcome in the current climate know that you have value, that you have a place with us and to find opportunities for you to share more deeply how we improve your sense of belonging or safety. While I am grateful that most of us are experiencing a positive climate, and that many of you believe that positive climate continues to grow, we recognize there is work to be done.
  • I have asked Dr. Kinikini and our staff and faculty leaders to dig deeper into this data and to lead college wide conversations this year on ways to enhance our culture and improve our sense of belonging, safety, and inclusion.

(More information is currently available at:

 Although these efforts began prior to the survey results, I wanted to stress a new and important website regarding safety on campus. Often students, faculty and staff don’t know where to turn to report an unsafe physical space, or an experience that made them nervous. And with all that we ask you to remember and be aware of, having a resource to go to be reminded of protocol and resources is vital. So, over the past few months our Public Safety office, Marketing and Communication folks and student leaders have been engaged in redesigning a safety website which is now live. A larger campaign will roll out this fall with reminders to our community about safety, resources and how to ensure that you’ve opted in for emergency notifications. I would encourage you all to go to this site and review:

As you know Community is one of the college values. In addition to trying to support and strengthen our internal community health, it also means that we encourage our faculty, students and staff to spend time participating in reciprocal community engagement work. We value our neighbors and want to work with them to make our community a better place. To that end, if you aren’t aware of and taking advantage of our Community Engagement Leave benefit, please check it out. We are trying to spread the word of that opportunity as well as the College wide service days that we sponsor as an institution. Mark your calendar for Friday, October 4th for the all college SLCC Day of Service. You can participate in a morning or afternoon activity plus lunch and we’ll be sent into the community to work on needed projects that will help many partners in our community.

As part of our community engagement pledge and in alignment with the excellent work of last year’s CWT who were charged with developing an overarching approach to improving the high school to college pipeline, our Thayne Center for Service Learning is working with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to provide Mentor 2.0. This new pilot project will allow for 20-40 employees to mentor high school students one hour a week online and once a month in person. The mentorship is designed to support area high school students as they transition to become college- bound students.

There will be representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters during lunch time in AAB #135 for anyone who would like to learn more about the pilot program. 


I am so proud of where we’ve been. And while there is plenty of work for us all to do, I’m optimistic and excited about our future. I hope you share my enthusiasm. Let’s make it a great year!

Introduction of Suzanne Walsh

And now I’m thrilled to introduce our keynote speaker Suzanne Walsh:

Suzanne was recently named the 19th President of Bennett College, one of two historically black colleges for women in the United States. Prior to that role, she served as the deputy director for postsecondary success with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Suzanne led the foundation’s efforts in institutional transformation strategies and Completion by Design. Suzanne’s previous work includes service at two other prominent foundations: Lumina Foundation in Indianapolis, where she managed the Making Opportunity Affordable initiative, which was aimed at increasing college productivity by bringing about fundamental change in the way higher education does business; and, The Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh, where her diverse portfolio included community colleges, universities, workforce development, tech commercialization and transfer, city/county consolidation, immigration and regional economic development.

Suzanne got her start in community college work at Cuyahoga Community College where she led efforts focused on workforce and economic development. She co-authored a chapter on “Community colleges and the ladder of student success” in the newly published book, Thirteen Ideas that Are Transforming the Community College World

Suzanne has an honorary doctorate from Johnson C. Smith University. She earned a juris doctorate and master’s in social work from Case Western Reserve University, a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, and an associate’s degree in applied science from Hudson Valley Community College.

Please welcome Suzanne Walsh.


Wrap Up –Deneece Huftalin

Before we conclude the plenary session, please note that the Provost’s All Faculty meeting will begin immediately, here in the LAC. So, we ask all staff to exit the LAC quickly to give the Provost his scheduled time.

Lunch will be available at the food trucks outside between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Afternoon sessions begin at 1:30 p.m. and rooms are listed in your program.


We've focused today on where we are headed this academic year and the exciting new strategies and goals we hope to accomplish. But I am keenly aware that even as we progress in the semester, alongside all of our accomplishments and great days, there will be days filled with stress, unexpected discord, and heightened anxiety all which make our work more difficult. It’s clear that beyond our campus and community, there is political dissonance, upheaval, unrest and uncertainty. There may be doubt, fury, or helplessness that we or our students experience.

During those times, I hope we can collectively remember that even in frustrating or bleak moments, gratitude can move you forward. Keeping a sense of gratitude with you, can help turn your attention to the small delights and really good fortune that is buried among the muck. 

I’m grateful that we are starting a new year full of hope with students and colleagues who are on the edge of doing remarkable things. This Convocation, let’s recommit to where we are, what we do, and most important, why we are here – to teach, serve and learn alongside students. I could not be more grateful that I get to do this work with you all…this remarkable Bruin community.

In support of the Power of Gratitude, we have established a GRATITUDE BOARD in the lobby of the LAC and invite you to post something you are grateful for as you think about this academic year and your position at the college. It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do for the College, I believe we all have something or someone here for which we are grateful. For in the indelible words of AA Milne:

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

We’ll collect your words and revisit some of the points you make about gratitude the next time we are all together as a community in February at SLCC 360. And we’ll solidify the nudge toward gratitude by adding this quote to the Respectus for the 2019-2020 academic year:

The principal thing in this world is to keep one’s soul aloft.
Gustave Flaubert