The word "integrity" elicits moralistic, ethical, or soundness connotations. People with integrity are considered honest or incorruptible. When we talk about the integrity of research or programs, we’re really talking about how valid and reliable the research is or how sound the program is in doing what it said it would.

These different meanings make integrity a hard word to fathom. In fact, when our faculty and staff volunteered to carry our Values banners in our commencement, they joked that the value "integrity" was too hard to carry. Given this confusion, why would any organization choose a value like integrity?

When we look at all the meanings of the word, we find integrity applies to so much of what we try to do at a community college. To accomplish our very broad-based mission, we need to understand and apply all meanings of our value integrity. Let’s look at the first meaning—complete or whole.

Today community colleges struggle with the challenge of being all things to all people, or providing a complete array of services and programs for virtually all members of our community. With the exception of perhaps health care and religion, can you think of any other organizations, businesses or companies with such a broad market base?

Our value of integrity reminds us that we do serve a complete circle of people in our district. This holistic aspect of our college means we protect and improve accessibility to learning for all of our citizens.

Secondly, integrity means we are in touch. Community colleges like ICC have accepted the charge to remain in touch with their constituencies and change with the changing needs of our immediate world. Our attention to market goes beyond typical business objectives of increasing market share or profitability. Our connection to our constituents is based in our basic reason for being. To maintain our integrity, we must create ways to stay in touch with those we serve. One way we will do this is through our comprehensive planning process, where we use the input of many different groups to help us create direction for our future.

Thirdly, integrity means honesty or trustworthiness. Our college belongs to the people of central Illinois. As faculty and staff members, we need to nurture this public trust. That means we sustain and improve the integrity or soundness of the education we provide. Instruction must be relevant, timely, and help our students reach their educational potential. Integrity also means we are good stewards of the resources we’ve been given. Finally, it means what we do day in and day out builds positive relationships with those we serve. Through these relationships we build trust. And through trust, we strengthen our own integrity.

Our standard-bearers were right when they said integrity is a hard value to carry. But for a college like ours—based on meeting the needs of the whole community, of keeping in touch with those we serve, and of building trust with our constituents—it’s a value we simply cannot do without. IBI