Since 2014, NISOD and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education have partnered to name the Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges (MPPWCC). The MPPWCC study recognizes community and technical college exceptional commitments to diversity (including race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, class, veterans, and thought) through best-in-class student and staff recruitment and retention practices, inclusive learning and working environments, and meaningful community service and engagement opportunities.

Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges logo

This study was first commissioned by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) and Diverse: Issues In Higher Education in 2014. The purpose of this commissioned study was to examine the extent to which diversity and inclusion permeates various aspects (e.g., administrative structures, commitments, work environments, staffing practices) of the work places at participating two-year community and technical colleges, all of which are NISOD-member institutions.

In its first year, the project was initially shaped by input from an advisory board. The original advisory board was comprised of Dr. Tracey Cameron, Dr. Stan Carpenter, Dr. Joan B. Hirt, Dr. Kris Renn and Dr. Sue Saunders.

The larger project, Promising Places to Work, has been administered by Dr. Terrell Strayhorn and his teams at various centers. It is now administered by Do Good Work Educational Consulting, LLC — an independent educational consulting firm committed to inclusive excellence, student access and success. The Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges project is in partnership with NISOD.

The Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges (MPPWCC) survey consists of approximately 60 items, organized into 10 major sections. For example, one section elicits contact information for the survey respondent and identifying information about their respective institution (e.g., control, minority-serving institutions [MSI] status). Another section includes several items to assess the structural diversity of the institution and relevant departments in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation and disability status. There are several sections that measure the availability and extent of support services provided to community college staff on campus, such as professional development.

The survey was developed by Dr. Terrell Strayhorn and is not available in the public domain. The original survey was pilot-tested with a small sample of institutions; feedback from the pilot study helped to clarify survey items, correct logic sequencing and determine the utility of the scoring algorithm. All survey rights belong to the author. All analyses are conducted by Terrell Strayhorn and Royel Johnson.

Promising Places were selected based on a comprehensive analysis of results from an annual survey that was administered to all institutional members of NISOD. Scores were computed using the algorithm that considers weighted data for all points highlighted on the survey such as diversity benefits, staff demographics and diversity policies (e.g., bias monitoring, staff orientation). As the number of respondents to the annual survey grows each year, the algorithm properly adjusts for the diversity of institutions included in the final pool. For instance, the analysis is sensitive to the availability, presence and use of inclusive practices, staff supports and diversity initiatives, not the size of one’s institution or staff. For full discussion of these methods, see previous versions of this report in Diverse.

In November of each year, NISOD member college presidents and liaisons receive an email inviting them to participate in the survey. Survey responses are due in February and the winners are announced during NISOD’s annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence.

Only NISOD member colleges are eligible to apply for and receive the Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges Award.

Promising Practices at Community Colleges

As the Most Promising Places to Work in Community Colleges project evolves, we learn more and more about what’s going on at various institutions to increase faculty and staff diversity, to foster staff sense of belonging and to equip college student educators for their work with students. Presented here is a set of “promising practices” that have held up across each year of the study.

Recognition of Good Work

Each year, we hear from faculty and staff who work at community colleges about the importance of good work being recognized, especially by those in leadership positions. Specifically, institutions recognized as Most Promising Places over the past few years have been known for hosting formal ceremonies that recognize the meaningful contributions of various members of the staff community. Quite often, faculty and staff described this practice as a positive feature of institutional culture that helped to retain them as well as their colleagues. In addition to institutional awards and ceremonies, many faculty and staff noted that their campus leadership also nominated them for regional and national awards, honors and recognitions sponsored by professional associations. We encourage community college leaders to adopt similar practices or approaches for recognizing the good work

Commitment to Meeting the Needs of Community

The espoused mission of community colleges includes a clear focus on serving the needs of the local community. Thus, it is no surprise that faculty and staff at institutions designated as Most Promising Places underscored the importance of their institutions living up to this responsibility. Throughout the years, faculty and staff have consistently shared insights about their institution’s connection to, service of and appreciation for the communities in which they are located. For instance, some institutions provide support to the local business community through rapid responses, professional development and workplace training that meets the needs of today’s labor market. Other institutions signal the importance of community engagement by having cabinet-level leadership in the area such as a vice president of diversity and/or dean of community impact. Recently recognized MPPWCCs and this year’s featured schools host summits on racial justice, comprising keynote presentations, panel discussions and roundtables that connect community to campus. We encourage all community college leaders and their respective institutions to truly be members of their local communities, serving the needs of the people on campus and beyond.

Investment in the Development of Faculty and Staff

Institutions represented among our Most Promising Places over the years have prioritized significant investment in the professional development of faculty and staff to better prepare them for leadership within the organization and broader community. Faculty and staff at institutions recognized as Most Promising Places over the years have discussed at length the ways in which their institutions have signaled commitment to them by investing in their professional development. For instance, at Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), faculty and staff highlighted the Faculty Diversity Fellows program for junior minority faculty and the President’s Leadership Academy for staff members considered “rising leaders” within the institution. Likewise, Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) staff members report that there were always resources available to support their pursuit of professional development on and off campus, including book clubs, conference attendance, employee resource groups, webinars and on-campus leadership training seminars. We learned that several MPPWCC institutions host a college-wide training on equity mindset and all-college staff development days on topics ranging from data visualization to equity. Interestingly, CCAC staff noted that the campus offers a range of electronic supports like online diversity training, online civility courses and LYNDA online training with closed captioning. We encourage senior leaders at community colleges to make concerted investments in formal professional development activities for faculty and staff by adopting some of the ideas listed here and in previous editions of this report.

Contact membership@nisod.org or (512) 471-7545 or
Ralph Newell at ralph@diverseeducation.com or (703) 385-2981, ext. 3013 for additional information.

Much of the information above was obtained from the May 27, 2021, edition of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.