With support from the Strada Education Network, GISS administered its first State Systems institute April 9-10, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama, for four Southern states: Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi.

J. Noah Brown sets the stage for the 2018 Southern Regional State Systems GISS.

A total of sixty-seven (67) participants from the four states attended the GISS. Of this number, 37 were state system trustees and chancellors/presidents and CEOs. The remaining 30 participants were campus presidents and executive staff and a representative from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) who provided extra materials for attendees. Of particular note, participating in the GISS to welcome the CEOs and trustees were Alabama’s Governor The Honorable Kay Ivey; Alabama Community College System Chancellor, Jimmy H. Baker; Lawson State President; Perry W. Ward, and ACCT President and CEO, J. Noah Brown, who also presented some of the highlights of the program.

Lawson State Community College President, Perry Ward concludes his welcome to Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana participants for the first State Systems GISS as Alabama Community College System Chancellor, Jimmy Baker, rises to introduce Alabama’s Governor and President of the Board, the Honorable Kay Ivey.
ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown addresses Governor Kay Ivey as he begins his opening remarks at the GISS. Lawson State President Perry Ward is to his right and ACCS Chancellor Jimmy Baker is to the Governor’s left.


Special guest speakers included Dr. Madeline Pumariega, Chancellor of the Florida College System, Dr. Diana Oblinger, President Emeritus of EDUCAUSE and author of Game Changers.

Jeff Lynn, Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development in the ACCS system also spoke about local workforce initiatives.

ACCS Vice Chancellor for Workforce & Economic Development, Jeff Lynn (center), poses with Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, Russ Rothamer and Southern Union State CC President, Mark Ellard, at the State Systems GISS.

Dr. Susan Price, Vice Chancellor for System Development and Strategic Advancement served as the key liaison from the ACCS to plan parts of the program including selecting four current students from four different Alabama colleges to tell their individual stories.

KCTCS President and CEO, Jay Box, center, is flanked by several Board of Regents members and Alicia Crouch, Vice Chancellor of Research and Policy Analysis.

The most important learning of the day: Over 78% of survey participants shared their thoughts on the most important learning of the day which often focused on the value of learning that other state systems had similar concerns and challenges. Many appreciated the sharing of ideas and open communications and learning that every system focuses on student success. Engagement and attainment interaction with other states Similar concerns/challenges from state to state

For new board members, exposure to the other states’ processes and policy was extremely beneficial in determining best practice. Comments included:

  • Learning about performance-based metrics from Florida and the importance of evaluations of effective measures and programs for tough decisions.
  • The lack of completion for cohorts was alarming.
  • The importance of alignment of programs with business and industry
  • The opportunity to network.

Of particular note, more than half of the respondents highlighted appreciation of Madeline Pumariega’s presentation about the Florida College system. Learning about the metrics of performance-based funding were significant to many in the room.

For some executive staff, the opportunity to interact informally with Board about policy and a better understanding of our Board were the most important learnings from the institute.

Respondents also indicated what they learned at the institute that they would like to use or implement to sustain the student success agenda at their institutions, including having the courage to have the system president and college presidents to make the necessary changes. Several comments referred to the student success journey (detours, roadblocks, guiderails, and good jobs), an early exercise at the institute:

  • That we are not alone, nice to see what other systems are doing
  • We have to reach potential students and tell our story and that we offer in mediums that they will engage in
  • Determine pathways to success and eliminate the roadblocks
  • Continuous review of institutional barriers, roadblock and supports
  • Systemwide career pathways/broadband expansion
  • Rethinking dev-ed math

Reviewing disaggregated student data and using it to make policy decisions was important to many respondents. Comments included:

  • The importance of data and data collection
  • Stop making excuses. Use the data—rethink student success.
  • Cultural shift at institution—how to use our data
  • Alignment/Performance-based funding metrics
  • Student support initiatives
  • What you measure matters
  • The importance of having good data and using it


Participating in this first State Systems GISS were the following institutions and organizations:

  • Alabama Community College System (ACCS)
  • Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • Bevill State Community College
  • Calhoun Community College
  • Central Alabama Community College
  • Chattahoochee Valley Community College
  • Coastal Alabama Community College
  • Gadsen State Community College
  • Ingraham State Technical College
  • J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College
  • Shelton State Community College
  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Lawson State Community College
  • Lurleen B. Wallace Community College
  • Southern Union State Community College
  • Trenholm State Community College
  • Louisiana Community and Technical College System
  • Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS)
  • Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB)
  • Southern Regional Education Board (SREB)