What is excellence? How do we know when our organization is an "excellent" organization? Who determines what excellence is? These questions typically create a vast number of vague and varying answers.
Instinctively, we know excellence implies a higher or better quality.
The word "excellent" has its root in the old French "excellere" and means to physically rise above others.
The fact that the original definition implies some sort of physical comparison should not be lost on us. Excellence cannot exist in isolation, nor does excellence stay at the same level forever.
What does this mean for education? It means that for Illinois Central College to pursue excellence, we must be willing to measure what we do. We do this in a variety of ways.
We have lots of statistics that show we are doing well. For example, 91 percent of students responding to our survey told us they are satisfied or very satisfied with their preparation at ICC for further college study.
At least 77 percent of our graduates are employed full-time. These are good grades for our community college. But do they say we are excellent?
Right now we can’t say for sure. Why? Because excellence requires us to compare what we do with what other community colleges do. Until recently, community colleges had limited opportunities for comparison. And of the ways we had to compare, most of the comparisons were simply demographic or financial comparisons.
Today that’s changing. Projects like the North Central Association’s (NCA) Academic Quality Improvement Project (AQIP), and the Continuous Quality Improvement Network (CQIN) are creating criteria that will allow us to see how we are doing compared to other community colleges.
These organizations provide broad-based measures created, for the most part, from the Baldrige Criteria for Education for Performance Excellence.
These programs provide community colleges with reliable and replicable ways to measure and judge how well they perform and to determine excellence through comparison with established standards and performance of other colleges.
The concept behind these quality programs is to make sure educational institutions like Illinois Central College continue to deliver ever-improving value to the communities we serve, day in and day out.
They also help us assess and improve organizational effectiveness and support organizational and personal learning.
So what kinds of things do these programs look at?
Helping students learn is key for all measurement efforts. Leadership, organizational learning and growth, accomplishing objectives and delivering results, understanding and responding to our students’ and stakeholders’ needs, valuing people, planning and process management, building positive relationships, and continuous improvement are part of all evaluation criteria.
These measures provide a standard for us to achieve and ultimately surpass.
Today we know we’re providing educational services that help our students and community succeed. But our vision challenges us to "Be a national leader in preparing people who succeed."
Making our core value of excellence measurable through programs like AQIP and the Baldrige Award provides the structure and catalyst to make that vision a reality for Illinois Central College and the community we serve. IBI