South Piedmont Community College (SPCC) held one of a series of community meetings to gain community input from members of Anson County Thursday night. The meeting, which drew about five attendees, was headed by SPCC president Stanley Sidor.
“Every four or five years we go out and take a really close look at the strategic planning of the college,” Sidor said when addressing the audience. “Part of the purpose of that is to look at where we’ve been and what are the things that have influenced where we’ve been… We build a plan and try to look at that and come back and look at what’s changed in the environment. We all know that the last five years have been dramatic in terms of the changes we’ve seen.”
Sidor explained the details of SPCC’s plan. “The plan itself starts with an environmental scan,” he said. “The environmental scan is posted on our website.”
The plan, a 46-page document, contains statistics about both SPCC and Anson and Union counties including economic, racial, age, and other demographics, as well as local and national trends to identify target areas for SPCC. An example includes the scan’s identification of agriculture as a top economic generator for Anson County. “The implication for agriculture in Union and Anson counties for South Piedmont Community College is to find opportunities to identify and provide training needs and to form a dynamic relationship with North Carolina Cooperative Extension,” the scan reads on page 19.
Questions asked in Thursday evening’s listening session asked for audience participation in identifying community needs and expectations from SPCC. Audience members were handed an eight-question sheet asking for suggestions for the college. “What activities or initiatives should SPCC initiate or join to support economic development in our region?” one question read. Another asked, “What services and programs do our students need in order to be successful?”
The participants were asked to write responses on sticky notes, sticking them to the wall under the question they were answering. Responses were unsigned, ensuring what Sidor called “unfettered feedback” as participants could be assured of anonymity. Although the session attendance was low, several of the questions garnered rows of multi-colored sticky notes of suggestions and criticisms.
The series of sessions includes both Anson and Union counties and gathered responses from community members, students, and faculty and staff. “The student sessions have been incredibly well-attended,” Sidor said. “We’ve probably had 50 or so students per session in the few sessions that we’ve run. And the faculty and staff have had about 40 per session. Community participation has been considerably lighter. It’s a smaller community.”
Sidor said SPCC has further plans to gather responses. “What I think we’re doing to do is put this back out as a survey in Survey Monkey and redistribute it,” Sidor said, referring to a website that allows users to create unique surveys and collect and analyze the responses. “We have a way where we can limit it so someone can’t stuff the ballot box. That’ll come out after we pull this all together next week. I’d like to get a bit more input from the community leaders from both Union and Anson County. I know that everybody’s very busy and it’s tough to fit into their schedule, and getting them physically in a spot is tough, so doing it by SurveyMonkey may help.”
Sidor said the college hopes to put some results on the website in the next week and a half. “It’ll probably fall out in three columns: students, community, and faculty and staff,” he said. “What we’re going to do is look at the similarities in what the students say, what the community says, and what the faculty and staff say.”