Getting Institutional Buy-in and Establishing Strong Leadership
The success of an initiative at a community college depends on strong buy-in from an engaged college leadership team. Depending on the institutional structure of the college, that usually will be the president. In some institutions, it is the energy and passion of the president that drives initiatives from the beginning. In others, presidents have to be “sold” on the vision of another individual or team. In either case, the institutional leader will need to have confidence that the WFS strategy meets the following criteria:
1) Is a part of the mission of the college: How does expanding services through an integrated service delivery system meet the college’s goals?
2) Can be paid at the outset: How will changes to the college’s programs be paid for?
3) Is sustainable: If this program is to be part of the institutional mission of the program, how will it be sustained?
4) Can be measured: If there is a sustainability plan, how will success be measured?
Establishing a leadership group for the team
Colleges that have successfully implemented WFS programs get buy-in from the leadership and have individuals with direct responsibility for ensuring the strategy’s success. The first step in staffing a WFS approach is deciding who will have overall responsibility for implementing the WFS strategy. There are several choices that can be made about what a management structure might look like:
1) Full-time dedicated staff: In this case, one individual would have full responsibility for supervising the direction of the program with limited other responsibilities. While perhaps the most desirable in terms of focus, dedicating cost to this person may tie up funds that could be used for service delivery.
2) Part-time staff: In this case, an individual’s responsibility might be divided between directing the WFS activities and performing other important tasks at the college. Most colleges take this approach, which frees up funding for implementation but can create challenges in focus.
3) Team of leaders: In this approach, a group of individuals at the college are charged with running the WFS strategy, each with shared responsibilities. This could include staff who are full-time financial coaches or counselors, deans overseeing student services and individuals from career counseling centers, to name a few. If this option is chosen, colleges must make sure a clear decision-making framework is established, especially regarding resource allocation.