USE Gregory Stotler

Gregory Stotler

The Future Summit held at East Central College Friday, Jan. 18, sparked conversations regarding future change at the institution.

The conference-style event sought input on the college’s strategies for the next five years and beyond.

ECC is currently developing a new strategic plan — SOAR to 2024. This event was an integral part of that process, officials said.

“I applaud you all for taking on what you’re taking on,” said Donn Sorenson, Mercy Health Systems executive vice president. “It shows to me your deep love and commitment to this institution.”

Sorenson, the keynote speaker at the event, compared health care to higher education by saying both are service industry jobs that are judged on quality, service and cost while also being a community benefit.

He focused his speech on change and staying relevant.

“Survival is all about change,” Sorenson said. “Here’s what you need to do as board members, trustees, leadership, faculty and stakeholders: I believe leaders and stakeholders are responsible for needing to see what change is coming, adapting plans, educating and guiding the organization to successfully adopt that change.”

Sorenson added that trust is needed to commit to change.

“Trust is absolutely critical for change,” he said. “Service will drop if there’s no trust. It causes dissatisfaction with service.” 

Student Experience

Steve Weinhold, Union R-XI School District superintendent; Christina King, Sullivan High School math and pre-engineering teacher; and Gregory Stotler, ECC education instructor, also spoke at the event.

The three focused their time on how to provide a better student experience.

Weinhold discussed designing curriculum for students’ individually.

“There is no one-size-fits-all education,” he said.

Weinhold suggested the college start conducting interviews to figure out what is making students stay.

“If we continue to do business as usual we’re going to reach a dead-end street,” he said. “I think East Central has said we don’t want to continue business as usual, we want to improve.”

King focused her speech on creating connections and paying attention to the details. She said even virtual classrooms should have a personal touch.

“Paying attention to the needs of our students and adding small details can set them on a more positive path,” King said.

Stotler suggested using student data to provide a unique and focused learning environment for students.

“We have to start communicating and talking about student data,” said Stotler, who recalled a time during his student teaching days in college when he was sent to go through student files at Hickman High School in Columbia.

The files were kept in a filing cabinet under lock and key. The files contained information dating from the students’ first days of school in kindergarten.

“I was amazed. It was not what I thought I would see,” he said. “The first thing I see is a student’s kindergarten picture. I saw the student’s kindergarten screening information, pieces of work the student had done throughout their entire time in the Columbia public schools, notes from teachers, parent notes that were put in the permanent record, report cards and standardized tests.”

Stotler had to write a paper on the experience for a class.

“My paper really focused on what a misuse of information,” Stotler said. “The paper was about how all of this is locked away for nobody to touch. If more people had access to this information we could do so much more.”

Following these talks, community members joined in small group discussions to address the college’s challenges and discuss the future of ECC.

“The small groups went well,” said Jon Bauer, ECC president. “(There was) lots of good discussion and input from all participants.”

The information gathered during those discussions will help mold the college’s strategic plan.

ECC is planning to roll out the new strategic plan to the public by the end of the summer for the new 2019-20 school year.