Findlay CampusPosted on February 16th, 2018
This week I have been working from our Findlay Campus. We have great faculty, staff and students in Findlay. It has been a great week. Before I begin this entry, I want to thank everyone on the Findlay Campus for their warm and welcoming attitude and for stopping to say hello and chat.
The normal rhythm of my work actually takes me to Findlay and Hancock County often. Since becoming Interim President, I have made an extra effort to be present for events and meetings in Findlay. As a kind of experiment, I “flipped my schedule” and made the Findlay Campus my default location for a week. While down here, two employees asked me a direct question that took me off guard:
Q. Is the Findlay Campus going to close?
I hesitate to re-ask and answer this question on the blog because it seems so negative. But allow me to definitively, firmly, and emphatically (consult your Thesaurus for more adjectives) say:
I could provide a number of reasons for this answer, but the one I returned to when talking to employees is a visual answer. Consider the map below:
This is a map of our legal service district. It’s a map I made for the presentations I have been making at service clubs across Northwest Ohio. While it is kind of a stylized map (I am neither a graphic artist nor a geographer), the map is meant to tell a story. This is our territory. This is our part of the State.
As one of the 23 community colleges in the State of Ohio, we are the 2-year college for all of Lucas, Wood and Hancock Counties, as well as portions of Ottawa and Sandusky. It is our mission to serve the entirety of Hancock County for workforce training and university transfer. How on Earth could we fulfill this mission without our Findlay Campus?
No one can predict the future, so it is impossible to say that any particular building or program will always exist. But I am confident in publicly stating to our entire college community that Owens Community College has an enduring commitment to Hancock County, and our Findlay Campus is an important part of that commitment.
Enrollment is down at all of our locations, and the decline has been steeper in Findlay. This is due, in large part, to the positive state of the economy in our part of the State. While economists may differ on the definition of “full employment” in a particular geographic region, June unemployment numbers for communities in our area are at an all-time low. Hancock County is an economic and industrial success story, and it historically has the lowest unemployment rate of any area in our service district. Below is another graph I have been showing during my presentations across the district; I collected June unemployment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the period between 2006 and 2016:
Economic developers in the region, including our excellent partners in Findlay-Hancock Economic Development, stress the need for qualified workers in area industries. Companies are hungry for workers, and wages are relatively high for the traditional community college student demographic. Does the economic success of the Hancock County region mean it’s a difficult time and place to be a community college? Yes! But our mission and commitment to this part of our service district remains. Our job is to supply the best training and programs available given the current economic conditions in the region. In order to do that, we need our Findlay Campus.
As an historical footnote, here is a facsimile of Resolution 1994-66, the official action by the Ohio Board of Regents (now Ohio Department of Higher Education) outlining our service district when we moved from being a technical college to a community college:
Our service to Findlay and Hancock County obviously pre-dates the opening of the current Findlay Campus in 2005. This is yet another artifact demonstrating our lasting commitment to this part of the district.
Lately I have been thinking about demographics and population trends. A recent book entitled Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education by Nathan Grawe has raised some concerns among enrollment management professionals across the country. Grawe’s web site contains a great deal of the data he used to create the Higher Education Demand Index (HEDI), and I will probably write a future blog entry on this topic. While the demographics that predict demand for 2-year college into the 2020s are grim, there does not appear to be significant population decline in store for Hancock County. The rich data resources at the Ohio Development Services Agency show a steady/even projection for population in the County:
Again, I took data from State sources to plot some trends in my own spreadsheet; these are fairly simple data, but working with the numbers helps me understand and explain how population trends may impact our future work in the region:
While these numbers are obviously projections based on past census data, there are no indicators of significant population decline or outmigration in the southern part of our community college district.
Note: I thought it was kind of cool that our Findlay Campus actually appears on the map the Office of Research prepared for the Hancock County Ohio County Profile. Have a look:
What Does All This Mean?
Despite the fact that we emerged from Fiscal Watch without even considering the closure of the Findlay Campus, a few employees have assured me that the topic does come up in gossip and through the grape vine. Because of that, please take it from the Interim President that this is not under consideration. Period. In the near future, Owens Community College will need to engage in a district-wide, comprehensive, multi-year strategic plan. The future and vision for the Findlay Campus will need to be a central part of that plan. Meanwhile, rest assured that our great people and facilities in Hancock County have important work to do. And a final note for Owens employees who mainly work on the Toledo-area Campus: I personally encourage you to make a point of spending time in Findlay. Schedule time on the Findlay Campus and attend events there. It’s a great place.
Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
The Flu: This Year Is DifferentPosted on February 8th, 2018
A Quick Note About the 2017-2018 Influenza Season
While preparing for my blog entry on the opioid crisis, I spent some time on the very excellent web pages of the Ohio Department of Health. As you know, 2017-2018 has been a record flu season; flu-related hospitalizations are dramatically higher than the five year average:
Despite the fact that the flu indicators are now on the decline for this year, the current exposure risk is still several times higher than the peak in previous years. Consider the following data from the Ohio Influenza Surveillance page above.
If you are sick, please stay home! I spent a little time last weekend reviewing the HR literature on coming to work sick. This practice has a new, catchy name: “presenteeism.” Several authors stress the importance of senior leaders setting an example in their organization by not coming to work when they are ill. I recently informed the employees who work directly for me that I do not expect anyone to “tough it out” when they are sick. During my years as a faculty member, it was always very tempting to “power through” an illness because prepping a sub or making up for missed time can be very time consuming. Still, it is important to stay home!
We all work very hard, and when you are not feeling well, I would much prefer that employees stay home and rest in order to recover. I have asked our college leaders to encourage their team members to do the same. People who come to work ill are not productive, and they run the risk of spreading disease to co-workers. A quick look at that graph of this year’s flu hospitalizations is sobering. This year is different.
Steve Robinson, Ph.D.
Rossford Hosting: February UpdatePosted on February 3rd, 2018
Update: February 3, 2018
On Friday, February 2, we learned that the Rossford school board has agreed to the proposed rental rates for dedicated and shared space for the temporary hosting agreement in AVCC/Math-Science/Library, as well as hourly/daily rental in SHAC and CFPA. The district had previously notified us that it was exploring other options for temporary space (see January 12 update below), but we now know that the Rossford school board supports the plans we have been discussing and that an official lease and operational agreement should be executed soon. Much has yet to be finalized, and there is a great deal of work to do in the future. This is a strategically important partnership for Owens and will generate revenue for the College. I will provide updates on the lease and operating agreement when official documents are prepared and signed by both parties.
NOTE: This information has been shared previously here on my blog; I wanted to re-post an updated version for employees who may not have seen it back in September.
As many of you know, teams from Rossford City Schools and Owens Community College have been meeting to discuss the possibility of hosting Rossford High School while the district completes a major construction project in late 2018. The specific spaces under consideration are in AVCC/Math & Science/SHAC/Library, and CFPA. The time frame of the hosting arrangement would be limited: approximately one academic year to 18 months. This would not be a permanent arrangement. In addition to furthering our partnership with Rossford, the hosting arrangement will provide rental income for the college during a time of decreased space utilization. A draft lease agreement was provided to Rossford in October 2017, but it has not been finalized or executed.
A team of stakeholders, including representatives from impacted areas, has been meeting regularly to plan for the hosting possibility. When facilities has a specific lease agreement and timeline, formal communications will be sent to the campus community.
UPDATE: January 12, 2018
Owens remains committed to hosting Rossford High School under the terms we have been discussing with the District for over a year. On Thursday 1/11/2018, however, the District notified us that it is currently exploring other options in the area. We understand that both entities must make decisions which are best for their respective stakeholders and taxpayers. Discussions continue on the draft lease agreement that was provided to Rossford in October. I will update our internal community about the status of that lease agreement as the situation develops.
September 25, 2017
After the most recent meeting with Rossford about the potential hosting/lease arrangement, the Marketing & Communications has set up a “landing page” on the Owens intranet for updates on this issue. As new details are finalized, information will be posted at the following address on the intranet: https://intranet.owens.edu/rossford/
May 5, 2017
Owens is committed to our partnership with Rossford, and we are planning ways to be prepared for a lease arrangement during this important transition. We are currently identifying spaces on our Perrysburg campus for the potential hosting of Rossford High School in the Fall of 2018. The specific arrangements and lease provisions have not been finalized.
As before, if employees have questions or concerns about the possibility of hosting Rossford, I would be happy to talk with you and/or connect you with the appropriate Owens department that handles a specific issue. During my 15 years as a full-time community college faculty member, I taught in a building that also hosted a K-12 high school. I found this to be a rewarding and enriching teaching environment; in fact, I co-taught 11th grade for a few years and this was some of the most rewarding time I have spent in a classroom.
Steve Robinson, Ph.D.