VHEC Celebrates Growth under Consolidated Structure
It has been just over a year since the Vermont Higher Education Council (VHEC) board of directors voted to endorse an exciting consolidation which brought three new networks into the VHEC fold. Now, in addition to focusing on data collection, program review, and admissions, VHEC also focuses on creating networks and opportunities for collaboration around campus civic engagement, institutional research, sustainability, and career development.
While one could describe this evolution as simply moving more programs under one umbrella, we have found that the new VHEC is more than just the sum of its parts. Instead, the fact that VHEC is a host to so many cross-institution conversation has lead new and exciting ideas to emerge that would not have happened if we had all continued to live separately. Here are a few exciting examples of how our work is evolving under this new organizational structure.
Cross-Network Collaboration: Living under the same “roof” has created opportunities for our various networks to learn about each other and find opportunities for synergy that can help all of our work progress. For example, at a recent gathering of cross-network representatives we discussed how the engagement, career, and sustainability networks could provide insights as the admissions and marketing networks look toward a new marketing campaign. Likewise, these networks provided feedback to the institutional research data collection process on data points that might tell important stories about the work of our institutions. We plan to continue to host an annual cross-network gathering and to ensure that each network is aware of the work of the others in order to continue nurturing opportunities for cross-fertilization.
Collective Vision: It is no coincidence that many of the programs and networks supported by VHEC have at their heart a passion for college access and success. Coming together through this consolidation has allowed us to cross-reference with each other’s programs and find ways to pursue this collective vision more meaningfully. Vermont Campus Compact’s AmeriCorps programs focused on access and success have expanded their reach and welcomed new members in admissions and diversity offices, the Institutional Research network will be looking at ways to track data related to college access and success, and all network members will be invited to VHEC’s fall event with keynote speaker Jamie Merisotis from the Lumina Foundation.
In addition, VHEC has increased its emphasis on issues of equity and diversity in higher education. Our central staff are participating in professional development in these arenas and are, in turn, bringing it to the networks with whom they work. Vermont Campus Compact spend all of last year focusing on the concept of “inclusive engagement,” the Consortium of Vermont Colleges’ admissions bus tour has been exploring recruitment strategies to make the program more accessible to public school guidance counselors, and the Institutional Research groups is exploring how to better track data on first generation college students.
Shared Learning: Trends and new ideas in higher education do not fall in only one category of work. Many of our networks are interested in similar challenges or opportunities and VHEC has found exciting ways to blend interests more efficiently and effectively. Whether that is a common interest in data visualization or a common need to explore the Fair Labor Standards Act, VHEC is creating cross-network opportunities for our members to collectively tackle new concepts. Our Colleague Conversation format has been well received, and we’re looking at hosting new conversations on topics like racial incidents on campus, intrinsic bias training, and updates to the Cleary Act.
Emerging Partnerships: VHEC is beginning to garner a solid reputation as the organization to turn to when partnerships between and among institutions are desired. For example, I recently joined the board of Vermont Women in Higher Education and we are currently exploring the feasibility of becoming their fiscal agent so that VWHE has a permanent organizational home in Vermont. In addition, an interest in the needs and priorities of graduate institutions in Vermont has led to the creation of a new committee on marketing for graduate education.
This exciting work would not have been possible without the vision provided by our board, but it has come to fruition through the passion and dedication of the VHEC staff team. As an Executive Director, I could not ask for a more committed and collaborative group of individuals. They are constantly asking how we can make our work better, how we can pursue our vision, and how they can support each other. They have come through all of the bumps of the first year of operation and are ready to pursue our vision with even more dedication as we move forward. If you have not yet met them, I encourage you to reach out and talk to one of them. You won’t be disappointed!
Thank you for joining us on this adventure, and we hope to see you soon!