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March 14, 2006 > Ohlone College, striving for flexibility and resilience

Ohlone College, striving for flexibility and resilience

Interview with Dr. Douglas Treadway, President/Superintendent Ohlone Community College District

In a series of interviews, TCV has interviewed superintendents of the kindergarten - 12 grade districts in our area including New Haven, Newark, Fremont, Milpitas, Hayward and the Catholic school system of the Diocese of Oakland. In this issue, we begin to talk with superintendents at the collegiate level. Our first interview of this group is with Douglas M. Treadway, Ph.D., President/Superintendent of Ohlone Community College District including Fremont, Newark and Union City.

Dr. Treadway assumed the post of President/Superintendent of Ohlone College July 1, 2003. Previously he served in the same position at Shasta College in Redding for nine years. Dr. Treadway has also previously been Chancellor of the North Dakota University System, President of Southwest Minnesota State University and President of Western Montana State College. He earned a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University with postdoctoral study at Harvard University and has been on the faculties of Northwestern University, the University of Hawaii and Oregon State University.
TCV: Was education always your chosen field of study?

Dr. Treadway: I am the first member of a fairly large family to go to college; the second was my mother, who at the age of 62 earned a degree in early childhood education. I didn't have a road map for a college level profession. My parent's advice was to "be happy." After exploring other careers as an accountant, a counselor, minister and various other things, I found teaching and education.

I was finishing my Ph.D. in counseling psychology and working in a university counseling center for my final training. I was given the opportunity to teach a class as a graduate student and really liked it. An offer from a college in Hawaii where they needed a counselor and psychology professor started me on the path. The teaching took hold; I loved teaching and counseling. After ten years as a professor, I gravitated to administration. I have now spent 21 years as a college president, the most senior in California.

TCV: Is Ohlone a challenging assignment?

Dr. Treadway: In this assignment I am able to shape and assist, providing resources for what people are already doing. There is a lot of momentum at Ohlone, particularly with the faculty. That is a joy for me. I am getting resources and positioning the school for its next wave. I am not trying to accomplish an agenda of my own, rather help people do what they need to do.

TCV: What is the student population at Ohlone?

Dr. Treadway: About 10,000 students attend Ohlone. The thrust of our community college is to prepare students to move on to a university. Other colleges in our area are focused more on the technical training aspect. Ohlone's mission is both, but the emphasis and mix of programs leans toward the university transfer student of whatever age. Our success rate is above most other community colleges. As an example, U.C. Berkeley loves our science students because they are very well prepared. People of all ages and backgrounds are succeeding in that course of study. We do, however, tend to have, on average, a younger student body with a goal of moving on to the university rather than older vocational students or those coming to take a few classes to improve their skills.

This may shift a bit when we open our new Newark campus which will be more of a technical/professional campus. It is almost as if we will have two colleges; one with an emphasis on moving to a four year degree and another college more aligned with technology and industry.

TCV: With the Newark campus, will that number increase?

Dr. Treadway: Initially there will be a modest increase as we redistribute our programs. We will move some of our programs such as our health studies to the other campus. The space they vacate will be remodeled and improved for additional courses and enrollments including four year degrees. These will be Ohlone students who go on to study with Alliant International University located on our campus.

We just announced that this fall students will be able to study for a Bachelor's Degree in International Business on the Ohlone campus through Alliant. Some of the new facilities made available will be leased to other providers such as U.C. Extension. What we need in our area are not only associate degree level training and education but additional baccalaureate and graduate education. As a host provider, our facilities will be doing that.

We project some enrollment increases with the new campus. It is not because Fremont or Newark is growing but rather that our reach will be a bit wider. Already 30 percent of students that attend Ohlone do not live in the immediate vicinity. The new campus with an emphasis on growth industry preparation will draw from an even wider area.

TCV: Is Ohlone planning to provide housing for students?

Dr. Treadway: We have entered into an agreement with DeVry University and this fall, will probably have about 100 students living at DeVry's Taylor Hall [Ardenwood area of Fremont]. These will probably be mostly out-of-state and international students although there is no differentiation between any of our students so any Ohlone student can apply to live at this facility. There is public transportation between both colleges and the housing is ready to accommodate our students.

TCV: Will students seeking a four year degree through Ohlone and Alliant spend their first two years as an Ohlone student, transferring to Alliant for the remaining two years?

Dr. Treadway: In the main. But, if they are qualified as a freshman, they can be admitted jointly. Also, if qualified, they would be able to take Alliant courses as a freshman or sophomore just as in any university setting. Some of the students may not be an 18 year-old freshman; they may already have prior college experience and even another degree and be working for an additional degree in International Business. So, there could be many different combinations between Ohlone and Alliant credit.

There are a number of Ohlone students that already have Bachelor's degrees. Last year, in our new Biotech program, everyone in the certificate program had a bachelor's or master's degree. In nursing, many of our students have degrees in other fields and want to enter this as a new field of study. This mix is especially true of students in the Silicon Valley. The shifting job market - IT (Information Technology) being outsourced, health care on the rise, new biotech - is creating a student population of people with scientific backgrounds and from other countries who come here for training.

TCV: What is the relationship between Ohlone and state four-year schools?

Dr. Treadway: We have two levels; system-wide to system-wide under a statute in California where the university system will take a certain percentage of their students from the community colleges. Our students apply to multiple schools and while they may not be accepted at a particular campus, they will enter at a University of California campus.

Each community college tends to form 'regional compacts' with other schools. We have special relationships with California State University East Bay, San Jose State University, San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. There is a 'pipeline' with these schools that includes early admission and dual admission agreements.

We even have a program called 'University Express.' This is for high school seniors admitted to UC or CSU who choose to spend their freshman and sophomore years at Ohlone for financial or other reasons. Their curriculum is the same as if they had started at the other institution, but following completion of an AA (Associate in Arts) degree, they are guaranteed admission to the UC or CSU campus as a junior. It is difficult at many of the universities due to scheduling and competition to complete degree courses in four years. At the community college, these students are guaranteed access to the classes they need at community college fees. That is a very popular program. There is a cost savings, almost no dropouts and the students are more likely to know what their major will be when they move on. It is both efficient and effective.

TCV: Has the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Examination) made any impact on Ohlone?

Dr. Treadway: I hope people who do not pass the CAHSEE do not give up. We can help them to continue their education. We are prepared to accept these students who need remedial work. We can flex to accommodate these students. Since these classes require a lower teacher-student ratio, maybe 15 students in a class as opposed to our average of 25, other classes may have to be larger. We will meet the demand.

We have a federal grant as a pilot college to have student needs drive classes offered. Traditionally, colleges have offered classes based on historical enrollment but also on the subject matter and at what times the faculty wanted to teach. If classes fill up and leave some students unable to take a class, that has been an unfortunate problem for those students. We are now working with a system where student needs and educational plans will be assessed early on, even in high school, to determine what is offered and when; this is called "student demand-driven scheduling."

This is no small change in our culture. We have a five year grant - three years to get us in this new mode that will begin largely with the opening of the new campus. This is also an enrollment issue. Most community colleges are losing enrollment because the population has changed, is more diverse and employment is better and people must fit college courses into work schedules. A rigid plan will not accommodate these students.

TCV: If Ohlone moves to a market driven plan, how do you cope with demands that may be either unrealistic or do not fit projected employer needs?

Dr. Treadway: The year before I got here, the plan of the district was for unbridled growth, 3 percent growth projected for 10 - 20 years. There were "spec" buildings all over for the IT industry. Our Newark center was in temporary quarters getting ready to build a new campus with over 1,000 students in IT alone. Today, we have less than 300 students in IT and a bunch of empty spec buildings and just holding our own is considered growth! That is a short interval of time in education and has had a huge effect.

Using this as a model, we are looking to be resilient. We are looking at being multi-disciplinary without over-specialization. Facilities are going to be flexible so they can be used for a variety of courses and so are hours of operation. We have tripled our internet classes in the last two years. All of this is causing a rapid change in higher education. Although this may be the norm in business, it is a shock for education. Fortunately, our faculty is adjusting to this.

TCV: How has the state's financial crisis affected Ohlone?

Dr. Treadway: The year before I got here, there was financial crisis and 40 people were laid off with a corresponding drop of enrollment. If you have less people, there are fewer classes meaning fewer offerings for students. We ended up rehiring the faculty and stabilized. The district had not pursued grants so I brought in a "grants person" who created an additional income of $2.5 million.

The difference between k-12 and community colleges is that we are not confined to a fixed enrollment. We have markets to bring in people from larger areas. We can reach out to anyone, anywhere. The crisis for k-12 is that they are losing population base with an aging population and slow city growth. The 40 percent fee increase at community colleges was a miscalculation which drove more people away than they thought. Community colleges have not sufficiently redeployed to capture non-traditional students; they still rely on traditional students from high schools whose numbers are dropping. We have 35 percent immigrants at Ohlone which is very high for a community college. That population is growing for us.

In addition to the grants, we have the frontage development. About 20 percent of the community colleges are in the enviable position of having property they can surplus and from which they can draw revenue. The changing paradigm in all public education, universities even more than community colleges, is moving from state supported to state assisted. We have to become entrepreneurial, pay good, competitive wages and keep new and innovative programs going. So the fourth part is to have private industry help support us. We have received $1.5 million from Washington Hospital, $800,000 from biotech employers. We are equipping our labs with private funds. This is not a bad thing because it keeps you relevant. The k-12 schools are doing this through educational foundations.

TCV: What is happening to the frontage property on Mission? Are funds from lease or sale considered long term or short term money?

Dr. Treadway: In the strategic plan approach we were going to use funds in both ways. The property on the hillside was for sale for single family homes; the idea was to take that $30 million and invest it in an endowment that would create an annual income stream for repairs and maintenance that is not funded by the state. That property is just sitting because no one wants to lease the property - they want to buy it. If that property is used for residential development, people who buy housing want to own the land beneath them. I see this as a deferred situation, not final.

The frontage property rent will be prepaid for the first 20 years to build athletic fields, parking lots. In the current situation, we are hoping that by summer we will have our negotiating agreements in place and go to the city for the plans, permits and entitlements. About a year from now, they can start building. As soon as the building permit is issued, we can start getting some cash flow. At that point we can start our projects.

TCV: Since only a portion of the Newark property is being used for buildings, what will the rest of the property be used for?

Dr. Treadway: When the board purchased the property, it was the result of a last-minute change of sites. This parcel had more land and there were plans that showed private development on a portion of the land. I don't know how that happened because under state statutes, you cannot do that with bond-funded property until the bonds are paid off. I wasn't here at the time, but when I arrived, I informed the board that this could not be done. Only 1 percent of the annual operation could be used for a private venture.

We have sketches that show how the whole property would be used by the college some day or other partners for higher education. At the time, we were looking at a joint hospital clinic. They have it planned for future growth. It is not currently planned for the college unless things happen like a huge thing that would create a surge of demand for Ohlone services. There are some thoughts about using the land but they are in the background; using the land for a golf school or baseball field or any public use.

TCV: At one time, the city of Newark was working with Ohlone to build a joint library on the new campus. That fell through. How are relations with the cities of Fremont and Newark?

Dr. Treadway: Our work tends to be at the staff/program level. For instance, with the fire and police department, we have an administration of justice training program in cooperation with the Fremont Police Department and with Newark on Fire Training even though it will not be sited on our campus. We are trying to see if we can put in a new curriculum for our Newark center for paramedics. We are obviously working with Fremont and Newark on our land development needs and they are being very helpful. I would say our relationships are really very good. There has not been anything recently that has required discussions at the board to council level. That was where we had trouble with library on the Newark campus. We are even talking with the city of Fremont about the possibility of taking over our police department through a contract for services.

TCV: What plans does Ohlone have to outreach to the community at large?

Dr. Treadway: This is one of our seven goals to do more community outreach, partnerships and things like Ohlone for Kids. At the Smith Center for Performing Arts, about 2/3 of its usage is by community groups. We have a major effort for Hispanic/Latino families and communities increase public school graduation rates and go to college.

We have increased our partnerships and activities with cultural groups such as Citizens for a Better Community and the Indo-American group. Our China exchange program involves businesses that have business relationships with Shanghai, helping employees to work in a multicultural environment. We have created a task force for community service that has been working for about a year. Recently they documented the volunteer service- scouts, 4-H, whatever - of our faculty and staff for which they have not received any credit or recognition. This represents an impressive amount of community service.

Our mission is to serve our community, both those who are using our services to advance to a university and others who are broadening their knowledge without a degree in mind. Each community college will differ in their approach and emphasis since they need to respond to the challenges of that particular community. Recently our Board of Trustees had a workshop on setting our goals. A facilitator from the Community College League, a statewide trustee organization, was brought in to help and she was amazed by the specificity of Ohlone's Strategic Plan. It does not just sit on a shelf with broad, lofty goals but states specific percentages of students expected to graduate in each area and deals with quantitative budget goals. We want to be accountable for what we are doing and able to measure our progress. This is seen as a professional thing to do.

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