ACC Chancellor Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart held his May Virtual Employee Town Hall on Friday, May 3. More than 600 employees logged in to join the discussion.

This month’s town hall focused on the college’s Theory of Change process steps, audit updates,  leadership evaluations, and how ACC is supporting the semiconductor industry. The Chancellor spent time at the end to address rumors.

Below are highlights from the discussion, with links to read more about some of the topics.

Theory of Change Design Process

Lowery-Hart started the discussion by asking attendees to reflect and share how their job ultimately helps students.

He said he was overwhelmed by the number of people willing to dive into the college’s bottom-up innovation process for the Theory of Change (TOC). There were well over 800 nominations to serve on the design teams, with 405 individuals completing the innovation assessment and paperwork.

The Theory of Change Steering Committee, originally the Strategic Plan Planning Committee, is tri-chaired by Lowery-Hart, Provost Dr. Monique Umphrey, and ACC Professor Dr. Samantha Croft. As the next step, the committee will have a retreat May 14-15. There, they will learn about design thinking, change management, how to lead transformation and change, and how to use data. The committee will establish charges for each of the design teams and will start the process of selecting members based on the nominations received. 

The design teams will begin their respective work in three phases. They will look at our current structure to discuss where it’s working and identify its strengths and limitations.

The size of each team is still to be determined, but Lowery-Hart said that the committee will be intentional in designing the process to engage all employees who were nominated. He also stressed that there will be radical transparency and multiple opportunities for engagement for all employees throughout the process.

“I don’t want the design process to happen in isolation,” he said. “As the teams go through the process, there will be agendas for each meeting, minutes that will be posed, and opportunities for you to engage, give feedback, ask questions, share fears and concerns, and share your excitement and hope.” 

He also asked for radical simplicity moving forward: “The more processes and rules that we have that could be simplified, the harder we’re making it for each other and for our students to navigate our work.”

Upward Evaluations of ACC Leadership

More than 20% of employees have either completed or started filling out the upward evaluation survey that Lowery-Hart sent out via email on April 29. He said the survey will provide a baseline so that he and ACC Cabinet leadership know how, where, and what can be improved. 

If you’re unsure about who a particular cabinet member is or if you feel like you don’t have enough information to rate them, Lowery-Hart suggests marking “I don’t know” in the submission field.  

The Chancellor assured employees that he and one other employee in the Office of Institutional Research and Analytics who signed an NDA are the only ones who can view the results.

He will present cabinet members with a thematic analysis, talk to them about overall numbers, and may share selected comments with unidentifiable information.

Employees have until May 17 to complete the survey using the link in the email they received.

Updates on Audits

The Chancellor said that he received verbal reports from the external auditing firm on the safety and operations audits that are currently underway. He expects to receive the full, official reports by the end of May or in early June.

To date, the safety audit has assessed where we are, examined our process and structure, and identified helpful training opportunities. 

Lowery-Hart said this will be the summer of safety. The college will talk a lot about safety procedures and protocols and undergo training. 

The operations audit contains a matrix that includes the duties in operations that need to be executed for the college to operate. The auditors cross-applied that to job descriptions and organizational structure and identified some holes that may explain why some things aren’t being completed.

“We just really need clarity on roles and responsibilities, and then when we have that clarity, we can build in some shared accountability,” he says.

Once that report is complete, the Chancellor will review it with operations leadership and work through what structures need to be in place.

This summer, the audit firm will start reviewing ACC’s purchasing and accounts payable areas. Lowery-Hart hopes to have those audits completed by the fall. 

ACC’s Role in the Semiconductor Industry

With the significant investments being made in the semiconductor industry regionally and nationwide, the Chancellor wanted to prepare employees for upcoming conversations on what role ACC may play. 

He started by praising Associate Dean of Advanced Manufacturing Programs Dr. Laura Marmolejo; Design, Manufacturing, Construction & Applied Tech Interim Dean Troy DeFrates; and their teams for their work in building a world-renowned semiconductor program at the college over the past decade. He also thanked Instruction Vice Chancellor Dr. Gaye Lynn Scott, Provost Dr. Monique Umphrey, and Strategic Initiatives Vice Chancellor Dr. Garrett Groves for their leadership, and he shared that Dr. Brandon Whately will be returning to ACC as Associate Vice Chancellor of Workforce Education. 

Lowery-Hart said our semiconductor workforce training program is “the envy of the world, and that we have institutions from all over the world and the country coming to us to learn how to do it effectively and correctly.” 

According to the Chancellor, the work will be incredibly important not only to our region but our country and the world, and he is expecting more announcements over the next six months.

“We have the nation’s premiere workforce training program, yet a lot of the semiconductor work is not happening in our service area,” he said. Samsung is building out its new campus in Taylor, which is in Temple Community College’s service area and the Hutto Independent School District, which means we will need to partner with entities that we’ve typically not partnered with before. 

Additionally, he said we are already working with community colleges in Arizona, Ohio, New York, and Florida to build a national ecosystem to share resources, curriculum, and opportunities—allowing entities to invest in the network. 

Lowery-Hart said they don’t yet have clarity about what it all means for ACC, but he will keep employees informed.

Rumor Busting

Q: Which Continuing Education (CE) programs are covered by the Free Tuition Pilot Program? 
A: We are waiting for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to define the specific CE programs eligible under House Bill 8. 

Q: When will General Assembly be?
A: It will be held in person on Friday, November 8. The college will close down so that all employees can attend. An exact location hasn’t been determined. 

Q: What will our next bachelor’s degree offering be? Have we considered one in social work or psychology?
A: We offer four bachelor’s degrees now, and we are allowed five. So, ACC can only add one additional program to our catalog. It is a laborious process to get done. We need to do a lot of analysis on the gaps in our regional education, which is why a lot have been workforce-specific. As a college, we have big things ahead of us that need to get done before we have those conversations.

Q: The University of Texas fired 60 employees that had previously worked in DEI programs following a letter from Sen. Creighton related to Senate Bill 17.  How would you react to a similar letter? 
A: We have made a good faith effort to honor the requirements of SB17, and are responding to the State Auditor and Legislature. We will not eliminate any employees. We have already made all of our SB17 transitions. 

Q: Will upward evaluations be implemented at every level?
That is the plan. We’re still working on the implementation and system but we want to get to that goal as soon as possible. More to come.

View the entire Q&A transcript and watch the recording on the Virtual Employee Town Hall web page.