Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Throughout the life of Kirkwood, the College has a documented history of conducting periodic planning initiatives to achieve its current level of excellence, responsiveness, innovation, and notoriety. Dedicated faculty, staff, Trustees, and administrators have consistently provided strategic direction for the college. Each initiative embraced an improvement focus displaying agility in responding to student and community needs during periods of rapid enrollment gains and challenging economic conditions.

In 2003 the Kirkwood Quality Improvement Process (KQIP) was initiated through faculty and staff development sessions focused upon continuous quality improvement (CQI) principles, practices, and tool use. In conjunction with college-wide environmental scanning, a visioning process, and departmental planning, KQIP teams worked on a wide array of improvement projects related to academic advisement, faculty development, leadership development, learning technologies, and under-prepared students. New programs and improved processes resulted from KQIP providing a solid foundation for introducing the Higher Learning Commission’s Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) in early 2006.
In August 2006 a broad-based approach to strategic planning was begun, called the Kirkwood Futures Initiative (KFI). KFI was designed to build upon past KQIP successes and to introduce and integrate AQIP process appraisal into the College culture. This planning effort sought to introduce accreditation as an aligned continuous improvement approach with a strong emphasis upon helping students learn and measuring institutional effectiveness. Use of AQIP Examiner Survey data, National Community College Benchmarking data, Community College Survey of Student Engagement, and other measures were initiated to student measure the College’s effectiveness, as a means to inform future improvements. In addition, department goal setting processes were introduced to align with the College’s strategic plan. KFI also served as a scalable framework to integrate present and future AQIP projects into the College’s 2007-2010 strategic plan.
Progress from 2007-2010 has resulted in documented improvements in 200+ processes, the successful management of three AQIP Action Projects, and the construction of the College’s first Systems Portfolio. Each improvement has been assessed and rated through use of the AQIP process maturity scales—reactive, systematic, aligned, and integrated. In addition, an Iowa Department of Education accreditation visit/report, HLC Systems Portfolio feedback, two daylong employee feedback events, and two faculty collaborative learning days input have been studied to inform our approach to continuous improvement strategic planning.
In June 2010 the College began transitioning to a more focused strategic plan centered upon “Learner Success” to apply specific best practice approaches to improve student performance. The Learner Success Agenda is now integrated with AQIP categories and consists of six initiatives—Instructional Innovation, Educational Delivery, Program Effectiveness, Regional Leadership, Market Intelligence, and Operational Excellence. Each initiative is being implemented through measurable objectives and explicit project management team expectations with senior level leadership accountable for results. Department goal performance milestones and AQIP/KQIP improvement methodologies are assessed to align all College operations around “Learner Success” metrics and interventions. Click here to view the Learner Success Agenda September 2014 Update.

In 2015, the College sharpened its focus on learner success by adopting and integrating Foundations of Excellence. This effort has broadened and deepened the relationship between Academic Affairs and Student Services as driving forces toward the College's mission, vision, and values. There are two dimensions and timelines informing the College's continuous improvement efforts.