Feature

Tulsa Community College’s metro campus is seen in downtown Tulsa. TCC has four campuses. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file

With the start of a new year and a new decade, it is the perfect opportunity to assess where we are, where we want to be and how to get there. I believe that our vision at TCC is the same as yours — an educated, employed and thriving community.

This can only happen if we work together. Admittedly, collaboration is not easy — perhaps even clunky — but necessary.

TCC is always comparing itself to excellent community colleges across the country. We like to borrow their best ideas that can lead to better outcomes. Lately, we’ve been especially on the lookout for collaborative ideas.

For example, Amarillo Community College’s work on addressing students’ needs is helping shape TCC’s new Student Success Centers at each campus. This is an example where TCC cannot act alone. Beyond the funding provided by both private and public dollars, these Student Success Centers will provide resources and referrals to social services — services provided by way of partnership and collaboration among existing community services and organizations.

During a 2018 Tulsa Regional Chamber intercity visit, nearly 100 Tulsa leaders were inspired by the success of Columbus, Ohio, a community that built relationships across sectors, leveraged assets and removed physical barriers dividing the city. Could Tulsa do something similar? Definitely.

A 2017 report by the Lumina Foundation showed Tulsa has a significant gap between the number of individuals with a bachelor’s degree and the number needed to fill the workforce of tomorrow.

Through a shared vision, the Tulsa region’s higher education community created our own model of collaboration with the Tulsa Transfer Project. With the generous support of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, it brings seven higher education institutions in northeast Oklahoma together including TCC, the state of Oklahoma’s top provider of transfer students. Designed to increase the rates of bachelor’s degree completion, this initiative is the first of its kind in the country with a regional scope. These institutions, Langston University, Northeastern State University, Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, Rogers State University, University of Tulsa, and University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, deserve recognition for this groundbreaking work.

As an extension of that ongoing partnership, TCC and OSU-Tulsa recently announced Linked Degree to provide Tulsa-area students a cohesive four-year public research university experience. Working together, the two institutions will create structure and student supports from the first day of classes at TCC, through a bachelor’s degree from OSU. I believe this is only the beginning as similar agreements are in the works with our other Tulsa Transfer Project partners.

This type of partnership can transform Tulsa to a world-class city and Oklahoma to a top 10 state. Of course, it takes great effort. It takes collaboration and courage. It takes leadership and leveraging. All of which we have, plus a generous philanthropic community.

The philanthropic community is certainly our partner in creating the community we desire. For many years, Tulsa ranked as one of the most generous cities in the country. In 2018, Tulsa was the Reader’s Choice for “best city for philanthropy” by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The article cited federal tax data showing residents gave away nearly $867 million in itemized donations in 2016, or 5.3 percent of the average income.

In TCC’s 50-year history, our institution has benefited from that philanthropic support. Private donors, both individuals and foundations, have funded student scholarships, furnished medical equipment for nursing labs, supported equity work for all students, and much more.

TCC’s Clearing the Pathway: The Campaign for Completion raised $20 million, one of the most successful community college fundraising campaigns in the nation. We have invested those private dollars in ways that most directly benefit our students — to ensure they graduate and move into the workforce or transfer to a four-year university, all part of the collaborative work to make us a top 10 state.

Yes, collaboration can be difficult. But like a muscle, we need to develop it. Build it. Exercise it. Acknowledging that our community has what it takes — the resources, the commitment and, most importantly, the desire — is the first step. Many have already taken that step. For those of you who haven’t, please join us. Only together can we achieve TCC’s vision, our shared vision, of an educated, employed and thriving community.

Leigh B. Goodson, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Tulsa Community College. She is also a member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board. Opinion pieces by advisory board members appear in this space most weeks.


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