As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to be able to embrace change and promote innovation. Such views were shared by the President of Edmonds College and his Vice President of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships during a virtual lunch of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
Speakers included Dr. Amit Singh, who has served as President of Edmonds College since 2018, and Daniel Carnes, who joined the College in 2016 and now oversees its Innovation and Strategic Partnership initiatives.
Singh began with a review of the college, which now gives students the opportunity to earn 63 degrees as a junior specialist, and has five bachelor’s degrees in applied sciences that are either offered or will be offered soon.
“Offering a Bachelor of Applied Science degree is new to public colleges and … that’s what made us change our name,” Carnes said, noting that the new college name came into effect last year.
The college’s first four-year degree – in the study of children, youth and families – has been available to students for the past five years. Other four-year degrees in pipeline include application development, advanced materials and manufacturing, robotics and artificial intelligence, and behavioral / integrated health.
The college has a number of other programs that cater to students from high school, to undergraduates, to basic adult education, and to continuing education certificates that develop workforce skills. The college also provides on-campus housing, a Head Start program, dual enrollment programs such as Running Start (which allow high school students to enroll and receive credit for college courses), Monroe Correctional Facility, Veterans Resource Center, Child Care and Light athletics on campus.
The college currently serves 14,000 students annually, which is less than about 18,000 a few years ago, with 85% of its students coming from an eight-mile radius. Like all other higher education institutions, the college is facing a declining number of international students – from 1,500 students a few years ago to the current number of students at 689. “For a while it has been declining, not just here, it’s everywhere,” Singh said. . “And, of course, COVID-19 has made things much, much worse.
“The good news is that we are seeing growth (revenue), people are opening up their economies, their countries, and people around the world are more interested in coming to the US to study,” he added.
Singh also shared photos of two new buildings the college recently opened: the 70,000-square-foot Hazel Miller Hall, which houses the college’s science, math and nursing programs, and Triton Court, a 220-bed college apartment building across from the campus. .
Singh then invited Cornes to talk about the college’s commitment to “lean into the future”.
Noting that “everything around us is changing so fast,” Carnes said, “we need to keep looking at what’s going on around us and adapting to it.”
When Singh came to college in 2018, he was committed to getting the college ready for the future, Carnes said, “and it really helped us when the pandemic hit. We were much more resilient and were able to see some opportunities and make a leap forward. “
Under Singh’s leadership, College has adopted a new model of strategic planning, “which is not your traditional five-year plan. you research and put it on the shelf until it’s time to do it again, ‘said Carnes. “He really encouraged us to think that opportunity doesn’t strike every five years, and innovation always happens.”
The college has a two-way comprehensive plan – one side for operational planning and one side for innovation – which is updated annually – focusing on “things we don’t do yet, but maybe we should think about”.
In her role, Carnes said she “looks at what’s happening on the horizon, what trends are happening in areas that are happening, what we need to observe as a college and as a team of leaders to help us prepare for tomorrow’s students and tomorrow’s workforce and tomorrow’s needs of the employer. “
To help with these efforts, the college has also launched a lab of ideas – a think tank for faculty and staff – “looking to see what happens next with academic structure, teaching and programs,” Carnes said. The Idea Lab presents ideas to college management, who typically select at least one of the two ideas included in the college’s comprehensive plan.
In addition, Edmonds College is launching a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship that supports new businesses or people looking to start a new business.
The idea, Carnes said, is to change the narrative around innovation, which is change management. The old story is that change is coming and it’s something that needs to survive until they stop and go away. “People tend to prepare for change by hiding,” she said. Instead, the college is working to view change as “a permanent thing, it will never go away. It’s an opportunity to train for it, it’s an opportunity to stretch our muscles for resilience and accept it. ” This approach, she added, puts people “in a much better position to respond”.
Carnes then shared the main priorities the college is working on, including:
– Combating the decline in enrollment, which is observed in colleges across the country. “Behavior in college is changing,” Carnes said, noting that families are questioning whether a higher education degree is worth the investment. “Colleges tend to come out of this conversation pretty well because we don’t have a lot of barriers,” she said. “We accept everyone, our tuition is quite affordable, we have a lot of options for students.”
“Bridging the productivity gap,“ to make sure all of our demographics have succeeded at the same rate, ”which is currently not the case, Carnes said. The college is focused on “identifying where our gaps are in inequality and what we need to do to target some support around students and groups that are not succeeding at the same rate”.
– Assistance to college students with “increased basic needs,” including food and housing security and homelessness issues, as well as mental health issues. Thanks to a grant from the Verdant Health Commission, the college has hired two additional consultants to provide mental health resources. The college is turning its food pantry – which provides food to those in need – into Triton’s only resource center, which will also include resources for veterans and a navigator 211 through America’s volunteers. “It’s really hard to learn if you’re trying to fight where you’re going to sleep today,” Carnes said.
The College is also proud to work with its community partners. Carnes pointed to a partnership with the city of Edmonds that is funded by federal dollars to help with the pandemic to offer up to $ 5,000 a year as study grants. Grants will help Edmonds residents affected by work or loss of COVID-related wages to retrain for work or gain other job preparation or gain career skills in college. The College also offers a pre-training program in construction, launched last fall in coordination with the City of Lynnwood and Sound Transit, which is a free 10-week program that prepares students for paid union apprenticeships in the construction professions.
In conclusion, Singh shared a quote from Charles Darwin: “Survives are not the strongest of species and not the smartest; it’s the only thing that adapts best to change. ” This was followed by a video of horses running through a meadow, saying “If you don’t make dust, you eat dust.”