NORFOLK, Neb. – The new academic year at Northeast Community College means more than students returning to campus, it’s also the beginning of a new strategic direction.
The College revealed its new strategic plan called enVISION in May 2021, but with students returning to campus for classes next week, employees gathered during the annual Fall In-Service to begin the year and to hear more from college administration.
Leah Barrett, Northeast president, said the College’s previous strategic plan, VISION 2020, has seamlessly evolved into enVISION moving from a project-based strategic plan to a process improvement strategic direction.
“This plan is our mission, which has not changed, and it’s our vision to empower every person across our 20-county service area,” Barrett said. “This is not about what we do for others; it is the opportunities we create so that an individual can connect with education for themselves. It’s about empowerment. It’s about helping people find opportunities and allow them to find a path to their success.”
enVISION has four strategic priorities, which Barrett elaborated on in her address - student pathways to success; excellence and innovation in educational programs; a rewarding and inspirational place to work; and effective resource management.
“Northeast’s role is to build capacity for all of our students and empower them so they are inspired to advance their social mobility, to upskill, to make a good living,” she said. “We are launching a new strategic plan that articulates our values and creates a vision and strategic priorities that focus on empowerment.”
On another matter that is front and center this fall, Barrett spoke on the aggressive COVID-19 Delta variant that continues to spread across the country. While the pandemic forced many classes to be held remotely last year, the College has had very few requests from students to change the format of their classes - they want to attend in person beginning this fall.
In acknowledging the rising tension with facemasks and vaccine mandates, Barrett said, “We are an institution of higher learning, and it is our job to foster discussion between people with varying opinions and make sure it is done in a respectful manner.”
Beginning Mon., Aug. 23, Northeast is requiring masks be worn in all buildings on all of its campuses. During her In-Service message, Barrett also urged employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine which is readily available.
“While Northeast does not require the vaccine, I ask you to please, do the right thing and ‘Get Vaxed.’”
Later in the day, Northeast employees heard from Dr. Afua Ntem-Mensah, the infectious disease specialist at Faith Regional Health Service in Norfolk, who presented an educational session on the vaccines. She indicated there is an opportunity to help remedy the COVID situation through the vaccines. Ntem-Mensah said they provide protection to individuals from getting seriously ill from the virus.
“Last year, there was no vaccine and people lost their lives. There is no excuse for someone to be (so) sick from COVID and have people on ventilators now that we have vaccines. This is real! It’s not just something that you think of for just yourself, you need to think about the community.”
Northeast is providing an opportunity for students and employees to get vaccinated. The Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department held a clinic on Thur., Aug. 18, and will hold another on Aug. 26, on the Norfolk campus. Northeast is offering prize incentives to all Northeast students and employees who get the vaccine during one of the clinics or if they have received it previously.
“What we don’t want to do is move away from in-person learning," Barrett said. "This is our priority.”
The College’s In-Service sessions also featured discussions on cybersecurity awareness, a bystander intervention workshop, several breakout sessions, and divisional meetings.
The return to school event also featured an engaging speaker who shared an inspiring message that encouraged employees to find the perspectives that motivate them in their daily work and lives. Aaron Davis a professional speaker, coach and trainer and a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers 1994 national championship football team, shared personal stories and numerous examples of the power of a positive attitude and the impact they can have.
Davis shared that he likes Northeast’s enVISION strategic direction, especially the mission statement, “Northeast Community College is dedicated to the success of students and the region it serves,” because it includes the word, “dedicated.” He said it reflects the commitment the College provides to its students every day.
“There are a lot of people that are interested, but you have to be dedicated. … Everybody has to buy in; it can’t be this department over here and that department over there. It’s got to be everybody,” Davis said. “Our culture at the University of Nebraska was evidence of that. That’s why (the football team) won so much. Once you have a ‘we campus,’ in that this is about us and we, man, things explode!”
Davis concluded his talk that Northeast employees are the mission, vision and the living, breathing embodiment of the institution.
“And when the students see that you love it, your teammates see you love it, the culture begins to strengthen and becomes ideal for you every day.”
Classes at Northeast Community College begin Mon., Aug. 23.
PHOTO ID: Aaron Davis.