By Jim Babb, VCCS Office of Strategic Communications
Editor’s Note: We all get email we’d rather ignore, but we hope you won’t pass up an opportunity in early April to help our colleges learn how to become more welcoming for students and employees alike. Carla Kimbrough, VCCS’s Diversity and Strategic Recruitment Mgr. explains, in this open letter to you.
In early April, all employees and students attending Virginia’s community colleges will get the opportunity to tell us whether they feel like they belong at their college.
This is not just another survey. The results will be used to help us understand whether “we” is everyone here or just some of us. Employees and students alike will be able to share what it is like to work or learn at our colleges. For some, the experience will be great. Others, though, may have a different perspective. We want and need an honest assessment.
The new strategic plan, Opportunity 2027, will require all of us to commit to increasing equity for all students. We will not be able to do the work if some people feel excluded. We will need everyone to contribute their ideas and expertise. We know that working or learning is harder when people feel that they do not belong.
That’s why we are asking employees and students to take a few minutes to complete the survey when the link arrives around April 4. The survey will be released at 22 of Virginia’s community colleges. NOVA conducted the same survey last fall.
We are using the survey developed by Insight Viewfinder Campus Climate Surveys. Fortunately, the cost of the survey has been covered with a grant from the Lumina Foundation. Colleges throughout the nation have been using the Viewfinder survey to discover whether employees and students feel welcome, safe and respected.
More specifically, the survey seeks feedback from employees and students of all backgrounds about their experiences and views about the environment at their college. They will get a chance to share whether they have experienced any acts of bias or discrimination, identify groups that are welcomed, and describe the learning environment. In addition, the survey seeks information from veterans, people with disabilities, people with various religious and political views, LGBTQIA+, people of color, and international students.
Feedback is so important that we want to entice respondents. This initiative is being supported in part by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education and the Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation. Their generous support means we will have a drawing for at least two gift cards – one for a student, one for an employee – at each of the 22 of Virginia’s Community Colleges involved in the survey.
We realize that this may seem like an unfortunate time. For the most part, many have not come onto our campuses since the pandemic hit. Although these are not perfect situations, we still have interactions with one another. Those interactions, even via online platforms, give us impressions.
Some might feel uncomfortable sharing their personal experiences or opinions. We ask that those anxieties be put aside. Names are not linked to responses. The goal is to find out where we have challenges so that we can begin to address it.
We anticipate having results back as summer begins. We will begin trying to make sense of the results and start thinking about how we can improve. Everyone’s insight will be helpful.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact email@example.com.