By Carissa Rutkauskas
As only 2 of over 1,000 participants in attendance at the National Association of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, UConn Early College Experience Executive Director Brian Boecherer and I had the opportunity to share, learn, and network with colleagues from around the U.S. and Canada. It was a very memorable conference as it marked NACEP’s 20th anniversary as an established association.
The pre-conference started with Brian’s participation on the “Concurrent Enrollment 201” panel, geared towards programs that have built the foundation of their program and are looking to move it to the next level. The session focused on managing growth, advising, program improvement, professional development, sharing of best practices, and effects of accreditation. As a 20-year veteran of a 64-year old program, Brian had a lot to share! Meanwhile, I attended the Program Evaluation workshop where presenters covered methods and approaches to evaluate program effectiveness and student success and most importantly reviewed NACEP’s new E2 standard: Regular and On-Going Evaluation of Concurrent Enrollment Program (CEP). I then had the opportunity to meet with fellow peer reviewers to collectively offer our suggestions and guidance to representatives from a Midwestern community college who are working on their NACEP reaccreditation application.
On days one and two, Brian and I had the opportunity to attend the plenary sessions, each equally engaging. Keynote speaker, Dr. Jim Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center in the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, presented his research on the Six Disruptive Demographics that Will Change the U.S. Forever: (1) The South Rises – Again; (2) The Browning of America; (3) Marrying Out is “In”; (4) The Silver Tsunami is About to Hit; (5) The End of Men?; and (6) Cooling Water from Grandma’s Well… and Grandpa’s Too! Based in U.S. decennial census and American Community Survey data, Dr. Johnson’s charisma showed through as he discussed these demographic trends, challenges, and opportunities of our changing population and how that related to secondary and post-secondary education.
Day two’s plenary session was titled “A Tale of Two Utah’s,” a panel discussion that included an urban superintendent, two college concurrent enrollment (CE) faculty, and Utah’s Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox. The panel was impressive, but it was Utah’s Lt. Governor who captivated the audience. Lt. Governor Cox’s experience growing up in an extremely rural area (where he still lives and commutes 100 miles each way, (each day) spoke of how his CE experience shaped his life and how state-wide legislation benefits the students. It was evident that all 4 speakers appreciated each other, their work, and their passion for student success. Prior to the session, the day opened with a showing of “UConn ECE: The Video” projected on two large screens. We were honored that our animated program overview video was one of the top 3 finalists in the 2019 video marketing contest.
A collaborative spirit was apparent in the beehive state. Commissioners, peer-reviewers, and newly accredited colleges came together and celebrated the successful NACEP accreditation and re-accreditation of two dozen colleges and universities! There were also “state” lunches which provided the opportunity for those that share a governor to come together and discuss practices, courses, and opportunities. Most notably, there was positive interest shown during a session that Brian hosted, alongside administrators from Syracuse University’s Project Advance and Boise State University Concurrent Enrollment Program, to discuss the development of an independent, peer-reviewed, academic journal dedicated to research and scholarship in CE.
Brian stayed an extra day to attend the post-conference Accreditation Institute on strategies for implementing NACEP standards for UConn’s upcoming reaccreditation in 2020. Though reaccreditation is a lengthy and time-consuming process consisting of a one-year programmatic self-study review, application, peer-review, and interview, UConn ECE believes that NACEP’s work to ensure quality standards applicable to concurrent enrollment partnerships is one to follow. UConn ECE is a founding member of NACEP (2002) and has contributed to NACEP’s success and national standing through generous start-up support and through staff service. We will be working hard for the next few months to gather all our application materials and look forward to submitting it in July.