The Austin Community College District (ACC) Board of Trustees held its April regular meeting on Monday, April 5, via teleconference due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Below are highlights from the meeting.
Army Futures Command Software Factory at ACC
The Army Futures Command (AFC) Software Factory moved into ACC’s Rio Grande Campus in February, and General John Murray updated trustees on its status. General Murray explained that the Software Factory will train soldiers in data, data science, and coding so that the Army no longer has to rely on contractors and field service reps. The Factory will partner with both ACC and leading technology companies to help do so. The first cohort consists of 25 soldiers, and cohort 2 will start in June. Both Gen. Murray and ACC Chancellor Dr. Richard Rhodes discussed the daily cross-fertilization they expect to see between the soldiers and ACC students. View photos in the latest Rio Grande Campus construction update.
ACC Pinnacle Campus
The college is exploring options on a proposal to use portions of its Pinnacle Campus as a staging area for a new TxDOT improvement project called the Oak Hill Parkway happening along the ‘Y’ in Oak Hill. Trustees heard from Colorado River Constructors (CRC) — the project contractors — as well as members of the Oak Hill community. Trustee Chair Dr. Nan McRaven said the college is open to assisting if it’s in the community’s best interest and the safest option. CRC and State Rep. Vikki Goodwin will host an information session in the community to share additional facts about the project and proposed plant. ACC will be there listening and looking for more details about:
- How locating construction operations at Pinnacle Campus will help increase roadway safety, decrease traffic congestion, and minimize air emissions.
- How the use of the Pinnacle Campus will allow CRC to avoid removing trees and better ensure environmental protections in the area — including the nearby Edwards Aquifer.
- What types of protection city ordinances can provide the community during construction — including noise, air, and water safety mandates.
- How the topography of the property can improve visual obstructions by allowing CRC to keep its equipment and work distanced from most roadways and homes and blocked by trees.
FY 2022 Budget Study
Neil Vickers, ACC executive vice president of Finance and Administration, reported that ACC is starting its fiscal year 2022 budget process with a balanced budget. He said that fortunately, many of the concerns the college had last year due to the pandemic did not happen. Enrollments have actually remained steady, and the college is expecting a 5 to 10 percent increase in state appropriations as well as an increase in the property tax base. The draft budget he presented sets aside a two-percent increase for compensation packages and funds all commitments related to bringing on Highland Campus buildings 2000 and 3000, the Rio Grande Campus main building, and a new chiller plant. It also keeps tuition and fees steady.
Other budget topics the board will discuss in future meetings include board policy changes to property tax exemptions; the Technology and Capital Outlay Plan; compensation and benefits, including non-faculty market study; and new budget items, including operations for new facilities and Strategic Plan initiatives/new items.
Chancellor Dr. Richard Rhodes told trustees that he testified before the Texas House Higher Education Committee in favor of HB 3348, a bill that allows community colleges to offer up to five bachelor’s degrees. If it passes, it would allow ACC to offer two more bachelor’s degrees. He said the bill is expected to pass this week.
After a nationwide search, Amy Bawcom has been selected as the new ACC Foundation director. She starts the position April 12. Dr. Rhodes thanked Curtiss Stevens for serving as interim director of the foundation.
Dr. Rhodes also provided updates on the following topics:
- CRRSA – More than $6.5 million in CRRSA student aid has been distributed to more than 3,800 students to help them stay on track this semester.
- Fast Track programs – The top 13 Continuing Education Fast Track programs have seen strong enrollment growth with 400 students enrolled so far this semester, a 66 percent increase from last year. There are 740 students enrolled in all CE FT programs.
- Winter storm recovery – All campuses are back up and running. A small number of Health Science classes had to be moved for the remainder of the semester; there are temporary cooling towers operating at Northridge, Eastview, Riverside, and Cypress Creek campuses; and Highland Campus Building 3000 is still in repair and assessment stage. $2.3 million has been spent on recovery to date. Follow updates on the Facilities & Recovery report.
- Approximately 340 faculty, staff, and students attended the March Campus Conversation with the Chancellor. The conversation explored ACC’s transition to a new normal amid COVID-19 and guests shared details about what we’ve learned over the last year and how those lessons will impact our future for the better. Watch the conversation here.
- State funding – Current versions of Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 include $2.8 million per year in additional funding for ACC for the biennium. The budget bills are still in the negotiation phase but should be approved in the next couple of weeks.
Dr. Rhodes congratulated:
- Joseph Oleniczak, ACC high school biology adjunct professor, and Kissau Tchedre, ACC biology assistant professor, for receiving a $386,000 National Science Foundation grant to support a Dual Credit High School Community College DNA Sequencing and Genomics Facility on the Austin Independent School District Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School Campus.
- ACC Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society students Elise Vicknair and Crystal Farmer for being selected as 2021 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholars.
- Shane Anderson, Music department chair, who was featured in the news for an app he created.
- The ACC Office of Communication & Marketing for receiving four National Paragon Awards.
- The ACC Alumni Network for raising $22,945 for the Student Emergency Fund through its Amplify Austin campaign in March.
Chancellor’s Priority No. 3 Report
Mike Midgley, ACC vice president of Instruction, provided updates on the Chancellor’s Priority No. 3: Provide an exceptional online education. Distance Education offerings have increased from 60,000 credit hours pre-pandemic to 300,000 credit hours this spring. For fall, the college has a target of about 25 percent face-to-face or hybrid class options, meaning the majority of courses will still be taught online.
Some notable milestones under this priority include:
- Goal: Expand ongoing professional development for faculty and staff
- 851 faculty, or 40 percent, have been thru Quality Matters (QM) training (430 full-time faculty, 440 adjunct faculty)
- 11 ACC courses have been nationally QM certified, targeting 15 courses this year
- Goal: Promote equitable outcomes for all students enrolled in online programs and courses
- Introduced synchronous online courses, which have been popular among students and faculty
- Working on online support structures for DE, such as early alert and embedded tutoring
- Number of fully online programs is currently 37 and increasing
- Goal: Close the “digital divide” with increased support for online students
- Ensuring students have the specialized technology required for their course
ACC Team Participating in the Racial Equity Leadership Academy
ACC is one of 10 community colleges nationwide selected to participate in the Racial Equity Leadership Academy (RELA) by Achieving the Dream. ACC Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer Larry Davis provided trustees with a brief update. The team selected two strategies for development based on prioritizing resources where the data shows the greatest need: the top 10 core credit gateway courses with the highest enrollments and faculty hiring. ACC’s first meeting with the ATD racial equity coach is April 30.
Bristol-Joseph Culinary Arts Scholarship
ACC is offering a new Culinary Arts scholarship in partnership with the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, and award-winning chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph. The new Bristol-Joseph Scholarship Foundation provides two ACC Culinary Arts students of color financial support, guidance, and mentorship. The Foundation will provide $12,000 for two scholarships, or $6,000 per student. Applications for the scholarship are open through mid-May.