President's Blog


Posted on February 19th, 2019

Consider This Conversation STARTED!

I’m delighted by the response we have received to the #EndCCStigma campaign on Twitter. So many graduates, two-year college professionals, as well as prominent business leaders have chimed in to say they agree: it’s time to end outdated and negative misconceptions about community colleges.

Of the many responses I’ve received via e-mail and on Twitter, one that particularly excited me was an entry in Matt Reed’s wonderful blog “Confessions of a Community College Dean,” an important regular column in Inside Higher Ed. I have followed Reed’s “Confessions” blog for quite a while, so reading about our campaign there was an early indicator that we have touched a nerve. While lauding the effort and adding his support, Reed raises an important and accurate complication. He points out that the preconceived notions about community colleges are much larger and more complicated than the stigma itself. These biases or prejudices are part of a larger context of competition among K-12 and higher education institutions, as well as complex structures of race and class within our society. I could not agree more, so it’s a thrill to extend this conversation here on my blog.

Head vs. Heart

The experience that put me over the edge to start the #EndCCStigma campaign was an interaction I have often. The attention surrounding #EndCCStigma has shown me that I am not alone. As a community college leader, I am in constant conversation with community leaders, business owners, and elected officials about community college issues. Among these groups, the public perception of community colleges is at an all-time high. I have been a community college professional for most of my adult life. I can’t think of a time when our movement had more “friends.” I regularly encounter evidence that we have changed the intellectual conversation with opinion leaders and employers on the subject of community colleges; however, I am not certain that general perception is this positive. Parents and families want what is best for their kids, and there is an outmoded perception that community colleges aren’t “best.” The President of our state association of community colleges explained this very succinctly while being interviewed for a podcast. For recent high school graduates, “success” is defined as going away and being enrolled in a university. The state and national data tell a different story, and that is the story we are trying to tell with #EndCCStigma.

What’s In A Name?

One of the first responses I received to my use of #EndCCStigma was a marketing/branding suggestion to find a different name for our institutions. Without “throwing shade” on two-year colleges that have gone down this road, my personal view is that this does not address the problem. That’s where my slogan “We’re not going to change our name; we’re going to change your MIND” comes from. Prior to becoming a college administrator, I spent 15 years as a community college English professor. I was a full-time faculty member (and president of a large faculty union) when the fad of dropping the word “community” from the name of two-year colleges began. I am not here to criticize the strategies of other colleges, but I will say this: “community” is the most important part of our college’s identity, and that word isn’t going anywhere. Most community colleges can use some form of the catch phrase that “community” is their middle name. In his blog, Reed refers to the fact that community colleges often have pejorative nicknames. The community college near my childhood home was also “OCC,” and it was often snobbishly called “Only Chance College” by local high school kids. My first community college teaching experience happened at an “LCC,” which some kids called “Last Chance College.” Our community college once had a pejorative nickname that I refuse to repeat (and, frankly, I have only heard from long-time employees… I never hear it in the community). In my experience, the only effective way to deal with these prejudices is to call them out: as Reed notes, that’s the entire point of #EndCCStigma. If we simply drop the word “community” from our names, the negative associations and stereotypes will remain.

The Equity Agenda

Reed’s larger point is about social forces that are much more pervasive than stigma. He is exactly right that a disruption of our society’s assumptions about the “social order” of K-12 and higher ed will overturn a rock with lots of creepy crawly things underneath. As an eternal optimist, I am convinced that even this stark reality is a major strength of community colleges. I am biased of course, but from my perspective, no sector of higher education is doing more to examine and advance equity outcomes. This is a great week to be talking about this as more than 2,000 two-year college professionals gather in Long Beach, CA for the 15th Annual ATD DREAM Conference. Achieving the Dream has advanced the cause of student success and equity in a sustained an unparalleled fashion. By directly and unapologetically highlighting equity and completion gaps, ATD has helped hundreds of colleges and thousands of students address the larger point that Reed makes in his blog post. Add to ATD the growing list of reform networks and organizations working this important problem–The Aspen Institute, Jobs for the Future, CCRC, Completion by Design, AACC, and others–and you have a critical mass of community college practitioners who own this larger responsibility and enthusiastically attack it on a daily basis.

I’ll end by thanking Matt Reed for extending the conversation on #EndCCStigma to this larger and important context. This is a very exciting time to be doing this work. But as he points out, there is a lot of work to do!


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.

P.S. The WTOL reporter interviewing me about #EndCCStigma in the photo above is a community college grad! Jonathan Monk attended nearby Northwest State Community College, one of our awesome partner schools here in Northwest Ohio. Note that Jonathan proudly puts his community college experience in his bio on the website of WTOL! Special thanks to Jonathan for coming to Owens to discuss our #EndCCStigma campaign as it was getting off the ground.


The Vinyl Hour

Posted on February 11th, 2019

Here Come the “Terrible Twos”

For the past two years, one of my hobbies has quietly made its way to our Owens Community College Radio airwaves. I have always been passionate about music. During my college years, I hosted a 3-hour FM radio program on WDBM, the radio station at Michigan State University. It had been years since I had done radio, but when our Broadcast Technology program launched an Internet radio station, I was inspired.

Two years ago, the owner and operator of one of my favorite record stores–Culture Clash Records on Secor Road in Toledo–suddenly passed away at a very young age. Pat O’Connor and I had several interesting conversations about music while I was shopping there. I didn’t know Pat well, but his store and friendly presence was an audio welcome mat for me when I moved to Northwest Ohio. I was living in an apartment in downtown Toledo, getting home late every night after starting a new job. My stereo and record collection kept me company during those evenings. When Pat passed away, I was inspired to make an hour-long tribute to him by playing only vinyl records for an hour. I selected a band that I knew he liked–one of my favorites from high school. I uploaded the file to the Internet and asked the students to put it on the air.

That’s how The Vinyl Hour was born. The staff and students at OCCR encouraged me to make more shows, and I have been producing The Vinyl Hour in my basement for two years. This is 100% hobby for me: I make the show on my own equipment in my home. For the past two years, The Vinyl Hour has aired on OCCR every Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm and 9pm. We even took the show down the road to BGSU: I invited Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and BGSU President Rodney Rogers to play jazz records with me on the air in Bowling Green. It was tons of fun.

Tomorrow, I will broadcast an episode of The Vinyl Hour live on OCCR. This will be the first time I have done the show on campus. We will begin by cutting a birthday cake at 12:30, and I’ll go on the air at 1pm–this time LIVE! If you have vinyl records and would like to play them on the air, bring them and stop by. Or you can listen online by tuning in to OCCR (streaming on your desktop, or you can download the app on your mobile device). Details about tomorrow:

Location: Owens OutComm Student Media center (SHAC 156)

Time: 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

I want to thank the students, faculty and staff in CFPA/OutComm Media for their encouragement and support of The Vinyl Hour. It’s fun when one of your hobbies intersects with work. None of this could have happened without Herbey Atkinson; Herbey was an Owens student when I launched the program, and he did the behind-the-scenes work to turn my files into radio. Not only did Herbey graduate from Owens since then: he is now our station manager at OCCR. Thanks, Herbey! I appreciate everyone who listens to the show.


Steve Robinson, Ph.D.


Strategic Plan “First Reading”

Posted on February 1st, 2019

After more than nine months of extensive work, I am very pleased to share the “First Reading” of our 2019-2021 Strategic Plan as it will be presented to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, February 5. I first wrote about this process here on the President’s Blog in my entry for May 23, 2018. The time has flown by, and it is very exciting to share the end product with our campus community and the Board of Trustees. Because they will be seeing this material for the first time in their Board packets today, Trustees will have most of February to consider the proposed mission and vision statements, as well as the goals and key objectives. A resolution for formal adoption of the 2019-2019 Strategic Plan will be considered by the Board at their working retreat on February 26, 2019.

There is a great deal of information about how the proposed mission, vision, and goals were developed in previous entries of the President’s Blog, including a 32-minute webinar-style video embedded in my entry for January 28, 2019. The following was developed through the work of dozens of employees and is based upon input from hundreds of internal and external stakeholders. Thank you to everyone who helped in the development of the revised mission, vision, and strategic goals. It is important to note that the following statements and goals are not yet official; the Board may yet provide input or make revisions to what is presented here.

Mission & Vision Statements

Below is the final text for the revised mission and vision statements as they will be considered by the Board of Trustees.


The Owens Community College mission is to foster student and community success by providing high quality and affordable education that leads to rewarding careers, personal growth, and regional economic strength.


As the premier two-year college in Northwest Ohio, Owens Community College will be the first choice for students seeking career credentials and university transfer, and will be recognized as an indispensable partner for businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations.

A quality mission statement defines the purpose of an organization and differentiates it from similar entities; a quality vision statement is an aspirational sentence that describes a desired future state for the organization.

2019-2021 Strategic Goals

Below is a graphic representation of the six strategic improvement goals for the next three-years. Along the top of the graphic, we present our primary goal: the success of our students. Goal 1.0 also recognizes the primary importance of enrollment management and completion as we work to accomplish our mission. Along the base of the graphic is Goal 6.0, which demonstrates our commitment to fiscal strength and discipline. Goals 2.0 and 5.0 are represented in “Owens Red” here to signify that they are new initiatives suggested by our internal and external communities. Goal 2.0 acknowledges our need to analyze and improve the student experience here at Owens; Goal 5.0 represents our commitment to address our college culture, workplace satisfaction and employee morale.

While the Goals have numbers for tracking purposes, it is important to note that the goals are not necessarily listed in “rank order” or order of importance. The possible exception to this is “student success.” It’s no accident that this goal has the number “one” associated with it. Apart from that, the numbers are simply a way to differentiate them in future communications and measurement discussions. Here they are listed as text for accessibility purposes (accessible web browsers cannot “read” graphic images such as the one above).

1.0 Increase Enrollment, Completion & Student Success
2.0 Improve and Enhance the Student Experience
3.0 Develop Workforce & Labor Market Outcomes
4.0 Cultivate Community Image & Advancement
5.0 Improve College Culture & Quality of Life
6.0 Build Financial Strength & Capacity

Below is the two-page executive summary of the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan that the Board of Trustees will consider on Tuesday. In addition to the mission, vision, goals, and key objectives listed here, the Board will consider a set of tactics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) at the working retreat on February, 26, 2019. As we have during the entire process, we will be posting the relevant documents (including PowerPoint presentations) to the Owens web site. I will also be writing about them here on the President’s Blog.

2019-2021 Strategic Plan [First Reading]

I appreciate the work of everyone who worked so hard on this process, as well as those of you who have followed these blog entries during the process. The next three years promise to be a very productive time here at Owens Community College.

With sincere thanks,

Steve Robinson, Ph.D.