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Thursday, April 24, 2014

NMC’s Hart tells Rotary: ‘We need to step up’

Northern Marianas College president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart speaks to members of the Rotary Club of Saipan yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, as club president Laila Y. Boyer listens. (Jayson Camacho) Northern Marianas College president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart said yesterday that the college needs “to step up” as it moves forward with accreditation and other future plans.

Hart, who was guest speaker of the Rotary Club of Saipan yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, pointed out that even though NMC has just regained its accreditation with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, it now wants to shift its accreditation to the Senior College and University Commission. Both are under the Western Association of Schools and Colleges but shifting to the senior commission will allow NMC to offer more four-year degree courses.

Hart said that people have asked her: “Why not just rest for awhile and enjoy where you’re at?”

“Well, what we have been saying to the junior commission for years is we want to come out of sanction because…we know there is a tremendous need out there for students to complete a baccalaureate degree in business,” she said.

According to Hart, statistics show that those with a baccalaureate degrees in the CNMI are mostly contract workers. Adding more four-year degree programs will help the local community continue and further their education, she said.

Major areas with baccalaureate degree holders are mostly business, marketing, and accounting, so “we need to be that institution that focuses on providing students with better degrees,” she said.

Right now, under the ACCJC, NMC is allowed to offer only one four-year degree: its bachelor’s degree in education.

Strategic imperatives

Hart said that this plan and others are embodied in a 25-page document titled “Northern Marianas College Strategic Plan 2015-2020: Full Speed Ahead.”

Hart noted that part of the strategic plan are five imperatives.

One of that is to “focus on CNMI needs that are tremendous,” Hart said.

NMC is now under the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. She said this will ensure that NMC’s courses are closely aligned with WICHE and other regional institutions. That maximizes students’ credit enrollments and minimizes their financial investment.

The imperative also requires strengthening links with the Public School System’s curriculum to NMC’s curriculum so students can easily transition to NMC while reducing the need for developmental courses. This also seeks to improve the rigor of remedial program offerings to align with college level offerings and program offerings that match the employment needs of the CNMI.

The second imperative is to ensure continued accreditation by embracing the culture of accreditation using standards and criteria for review and demonstrate effective performance.

The third imperative is the goal to accelerate the time it takes for a student to complete a degree. This means reducing the time between a student’s entry and enrollment in a program of study and graduation. Another important key is increasing the number of students completing their programs on time.

The fourth imperative is to improve student success and support.

“This will require a student-focused and data-driven environment within the institution,” according to the plan.

NMC will implement strategies to enhance recruitment and preservation rate, working with local government leaders to establish educational attainment and completion goals on jobs requiring post-secondary education to align with federal benchmarks.

The last imperative is to strengthen operations and resource development, which requires an effective and efficient operation. NMC must achieve this through a culture fostering organizational entrepreneurship.

“For any organization to move forward, or steam ahead, it must have a clearly defined path of where it is, where it wants to go, and how it plans to get there,” Hart said. “The strategic imperatives will allow the college to continue to meet its stated mission for its students and the Commonwealth and to maintain a strong accreditation position for the benefit of all.”

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