What does collaboration really look like?

Sarah Jewett headshot200Inter-institutional collaboration requires personal investment

By Sarah Jewett, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

The STEM Transfer (t-STEM) Student Success Initiative is an inter-institutional collaboration between UMBC and four partner community colleges, including AACC, CCBC, HCC, and MC.*  A central outcome for t-STEM is to provide direct support for prospective and current transfer students, and to facilitate a successful transition for students between institutions. The initiative reaches students through its pre-transfer and peer mentorship services, as well as its suite of online tools resources that can be utilized by faculty, staff, and students (

This student-focused outcome requires extensive institutional collaboration, the structure and ethos of which must be explicitly created and intentionally nurtured over time. First, the structures must be grounded in ways that are broad and deep. t-STEM depends on the visible commitment of institutional leaders, as well as the work of intra- and inter-institutional working groups of faculty and staff who thoughtfully guide the direction of the programming, and create the content for the online tools and resources. These team members then consult closely on the graphic design and technical delivery of the online components.

Second, the ethos of the initiative must be rooted in relationships that are honest and trustworthy. There are no shortcuts here. These kinds of relationships require personal investment, professional commitment, shared responsibility, and critical reflection. They also rely on time for collaboration—both face-to-face time to discuss and plan, as well as online time to review and refine material. Threaded throughout these elements is a willingness to confront some of the stereotypes of both two-year and four-year institutions and redirect unproductive tendencies to assume or ascribe blame. Taken together, these processes yield products where student success can take center stage, and everyone’s contributions to that goal are visible.

Ultimately, the work of t-STEM is to take the lessons learned from our local partnership, and to translate them into a national model for collaboration between two-year and four-year institutions that integrates services, resources, and technologies.

Note:  The STEM Transfer Student Success Initiative is an innovative inter-institutional collaboration funded by a grant to UMBC from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

*Anne Arundel Community College, Community College of Baltimore County, Howard Community College, Montgomery College, and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Sarah Jewett is executive director of the t-STEM initiative at UMBC.

Bill Muse_SchreinerStrategy doesn’t have to mean sacrifice

By Bill Muse, Schreiner University

Collaboration between academic officers, business officers and faculty is the cornerstone to effective leadership at colleges and universities. While this might sound trite, when these three groups of individuals come together to formulate in-depth strategies and seek ways to align priorities and budgets while being nimble enough to incorporate innovations, the result is powerful and effective. This collaboration can lead to higher enrollment levels, academic freedom, and financial viability while ensuring the successful education of students.

A cohesive relationship between the Chief Business Officer (CBO) and Chief Academic Officer (CAO), or Provost, is a good place to start and is essential to developing creative ideas for college programs, while also being able to overcome any inherent prejudices and budgeting issues. The CBO and the Provost must be able to talk through issues to find the commonality of their goals in order to take the first step towards implementing programs and technology to transform the college experience.

While higher aspirations are always welcome, some believe that enhancing educational value while increasing affordability is an oxymoron, with the only result being that one goal is achieved at the expense of another. I’m fortunate to have a solid relationship with Schreiner’s Provost Charlie McCormick and together we are always looking for the next big thing. We recently were able to introduce a new undergraduate program that enables students to graduate in three years instead of four and introduce a textbook-in-tuition model from Rafter. The new technology solution provides students with significant savings on course materials and ensures that they will have all of their materials by the first day of class. This is all accomplished without sacrificing academic freedom.

The cost-savings from textbooks and transforming the textbook business model is used to fund experiential enhancements like studying abroad and increasing internship and service-learning opportunities that make a degree from Schreiner even more valuable.

While the process of agreeing on an initiative, holding planning sessions, educating the faculty, hosting town hall meetings with students, presenting solutions to the president and winning the board’s approval is an ambitious one, the rewards are monumental. Collaboration across all levels of higher education results in a true and memorable impact on students’ educational experience.

Bill Muse has served as VP of Administration and Finance at Schreiner University since 2011. Bill previously served as Associate Vice President for University Planning, Budgeting and Analysis at The University of Montana.

(Next page: Past the “warm glow;” eliminating the blame game)

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