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Albany Technical College among top community colleges

College expert praises Albany Tech at planning session

Nationally known community college expert, Dr. Terry O’Banion, told Albany Technical College leaders that he believes the school is one of the best in the nation. “I would just say ATC is among that top group, probably among the top 5 percent of community colleges in the country in terms of what they’re accomplishing,’ O’Banion said. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

Nationally known community college expert, Dr. Terry O’Banion, told Albany Technical College leaders that he believes the school is one of the best in the nation. “I would just say ATC is among that top group, probably among the top 5 percent of community colleges in the country in terms of what they’re accomplishing,’ O’Banion said. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)

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Anthony Parker, president of Albany Technical College, sought out O’Banion to help the local college measure its progress over the past few months. (File photo)

ALBANY — Community college consultant and expert Dr. Terry O’Banion, who was in Albany recently to meeting with Albany Technical College leaders as they evaluate the institution’s six month objectives, said the school was one of the best community colleges in the state and the country.

“I’m very impressed,” O’Banion said of the school. “Even though ATC is a small college, it is a rather extraordinary institution. They have here a challenging group of students, students that come from under-served populations and yet, their outcome data, the way we measure progress, is stunning compared to any other institution, I think, in Georgia, of institutions of this size. In many ways they are different than most of the colleges I go to. Most of the colleges I go to are not doing a particularly good job and I would just say ATC is among that top group, probably among the top 5 percent of community colleges in the country in terms of what they’re accomplishing.”

O’Banion’s comments were welcomed by school leaders, who were hosting the planning session in an effort to make certain the school is achieving its goals.

According to Albany Tech President, Dr. Anthony Parker, 12 years ago school leaders began its strategic planning sessions, setting action items related to the school’s strategic initiatives and evaluating these plans every six months to ensure that the school was adapting to new challenges and consistently working toward its core objectives.

“We develop a set of operational and tactical objectives that feed into our strategic initiatives and then we set a group of action items that are to be undertaken in a six month period to reach those particular strategic goals,” said Parker. “The only good way to make sure you reach those goals is to plan for them. If you reach them without planning, it’s just luck. We didn’t want to leave ourselves having to be lucky in order to be successful.”

The school’s current strategic initiatives are manage enrollment, increase graduation and job placement, ensure high employer satisfaction with ATC programs and graduates, ensure high student satisfaction with ATC programs and services, increase student learning and achievement, develop resources, improve efficiency of operations, further define and develop the ATC brand and ensure high employee satisfaction.

Parker, who has known about O’Banion’s work with community colleges, said when it came time to conduct another strategic planning session, planners jumped at the opportunity to hear his input.

“I’ve been aware of Dr. O’Banion and his work, almost my entire career in higher education,” Parker said. “Many of us knew of his strategic thinking. We knew that school leadership across the country valued his opinions. We’re glad to have him to help us adjust our strategies and give us some different things to think about.”

For his part, O’Banion, who was the president of the League of Innovation for Community Colleges for 23 years and has worked with more than 800 schools throughout the United States and Canada, said he was pleased to be included in the school’s planning session and was impressed that despite the success he sees, the school continues to strive for improvement.

“What I’m pleased to see is they don’t want to just rest on their laurels,” said O’Banion. “They are very interested in always continuing to be the best, to up the ante, to push the envelope and they are doing that.”

O’Banion credited the school’s leadership, the dedication and skill of its faculty and the school’s innovative programs as the keys to its success.

“The characteristics that I’ve seen here that I think really support their success is that, number one, they really have an outstanding leader in their president. He really grasps and understands. He knows what the challenge is and I think he has the proper skills and leadership to address that challenge,” said O’Banion. “Secondly he’s brought together a rather extraordinary faculty. The best faculty I’ve met and interacted with. They are deeply committed to working with very challenging students and that makes a difference. Thirdly I would say, they have really invested in innovative programs, programs and practices that really work. They’re pretty aggressive about going after educational models that make a difference.”