Seeing Student Success at a Two Year Institution

Jolene Hamm, Director of Institutional Research, Piedmont Virginia Community College

​Interview by Sonia Brandon, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Research, Planning and Decision Support, Colorado Mesa University  

JHamm.jpgeAIR: Can you tell me about the factors that influenced your decision to move from a small 4-year private institution to a mid-sized 2-year public institution? ​

Moving to Piedmont Virginia Community College was a very personal choice for me, as I am an alum of PVCC. As a young person, PVCC’s professors instilled a love of learning in me in a way that I do not feel words can adequately express. When I saw the opportunity to return to an institution that has given me so much, I jumped at the chance to give back.

As a professional, working for a system has provided a group of colleagues who are ready and willing to assist me in regards to any institutional research question I may have. I also enjoy having a set protocol to follow and the relationship between the state reporting agency and the system office is strong. 

eAIR: As president of the Virginia Association for Management Analysis and Planning, can you tell us how institutions in your state are managing ever-increasing reporting and accountability requirements?

Each institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia handles reporting and accountability slightly different. However, the institutions in the Commonwealth are proactive to the needs of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and we are fortunate that we have an open and collegial dialogue with SCHEV. The positive relationship between SCHEV and the institutions enables institutions to have a reciprocal voice and a seat at the planning table for reporting and accountability.

eAIR: Of all the technology and software advances that have been made in the last several decades, which do you see as the most important in terms of helping you comply with your responsibilities in running an institutional research office?

Honestly, I have to give a shout out to Bill Gates for developing Excel and Access. I believe from these programs many institutional research offices still function. I also must say that the use of SQL query language, SAS, SPSS, and similar programs have enabled institutional research offices to increase their productivity. ​

eAIR: In both of your director positions, you have worked at institutions that have served a large proportion of pell-eligible students. Can you tell us what has been the most rewarding part of working in this environment?

The most rewarding part of working in a large pell-eligible student population is that of student success. Both institutions provide a large amount of assistance in the areas of academic support services to assist students in continuing in their academic endeavors. The unique thing about a two-year institution is that you can see a student’s success quicker. Whether that student’s goal is to transfer to a four-year institution or to gain an amazing local career, I have had the privilege of learning about these successes through my subsequent enrollment report and Career and Technical Education Employment Report. The area that I currently enjoy learning more about is that of workforce services. At a community college, workforce services is a way for students to gain skills that enable them to be job ready in a shortened amount of time. Piedmont Virginia Community College truly stands for the heart of its name which is community. The college does its very best to further develop its service region and improve the lives of those members in its service region who take advantage of services. In my opinion, there is truly no better place to work.