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Greenville Technical College exemplifies organizational excellence

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By Lauren Simer, Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, Greenville Technical College

Oftentimes, we are constrained by our own thought process. 

My favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson states, "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it." Recognized internationally as the standard of organizational excellence, the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework and systems approach provides any organization with the ability to remain focused on achieving best-in-class performance, even in the most trying times.

In 2012, Greenville Technical College (GTC) began applying Baldrige criteria to achieve service excellence through continuous improvement of operations, and today this customer-centered approach steers the college’s collective decision-making processes.

As vice president for institutional effectiveness at GTC, one of my chief responsibilities is to lead the institution’s strategic planning process. Guided by Baldrige criteria and informed by my training as a Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Examiner, this comprehensive process includes committee review of mission and vision, conducting community surveys and focus groups, and developing an in-depth economic impact study. It culminates in action plans throughout the college for continuous quality improvement.

Reflecting our mission and vision, GTC sharply focuses on increasing persistence, retention and graduate success. This year, using a model from The Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX), the college instituted a new strategy to create a higher level of performance excellence surrounding these key metrics across every department. From the facilities team analyzing customer satisfaction data to the tutoring department analyzing online service impact, continuous quality improvement blankets the entire college.

This view of the planning process looks both inward and outward. With their mission of access and success, community colleges like GTC offer many students hope by providing services and access to education that might otherwise be unattainable. Greenville Tech must also take this student base, and through partnership with industry, create a workforce that can compete not just locally or regionally – but globally.

Recently, GTC opened the Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation (CHI) Center, an innovative approach that combines private sector, local government, and education partners working together to bring inclusive economic mobility and workforce development to one of Greenville’s most distressed neighborhoods. The strategic location of CHI in West Greenville leverages a purposeful, Baldrige systems approach that is “baked-in” to GTC’s culture of performance excellence. This is also an example of Baldrige’s “customer focus” looking beyond the traditional customer base of the student but including business leaders in that definition as well.

In 2016, I was charged by GTC president Dr. Keith Miller to design a "think tank" focused on service excellence, whose purpose was to a) research, analyze and implement new programs and new or better processes and b) provide leadership for the integration of leading-edge practices and services through innovative systems thinking and analysis, forecasting, and project management. With no budget, facility, or resources, I sought volunteers from a cross-section of 25 faculty and staff.

Daunted by lack of budget stalling our thought process, we visited similarly positioned organizations that created a dream and were subsequently funded. This visioning exercise changed our perspective   and influenced a new 15-year college plan based on futuristic-thinking grounded in the Seven Dimensions of Wellness. It also resulted in a significant change in the way the college will onboard its students. The college is now remodeling an existing building that housed our library resources and other services into a “one-stop” facility, conveniently located for students to find all enrollment and related student access services in one location. The new Dreisbach/Anderson Student Success Center is expected to open next spring, and all business processes have been redesigned based on students' input, using the principles learned from human-centered design theory and staying true to a core Baldrige value: delivering a consistently positive customer experience.

Lauren Simer has led the college’s Institutional Effectiveness Division since March 2010. She also serves in leadership roles for the National Alliance of Community and Technical Colleges (NACTC) and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Commission on Institutional Infrastructure and Transformation.

This content first appeared in the GSA Business Report Book of Experts.

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