Reflecting & Reminiscing: People Who Were There

Celebrating Two Decades – CCCSE Through the Years

As CCCSE concludes its 20th anniversary celebration, we want to express our sincerest gratitude to everyone who is part of that history. The CCCSE team has always been and remains a wonderful group, surrounded by incredible colleagues and friends. Thanks for the memories, and to many more!


National Reports

Each year, CCCSE collects a wealth of information not only through the core survey administrations, but also through the concurrent administration of special-focus item modules. Results from these topical item sets often give way to key findings that CCCSE shares with the community college field through national reports. These reports provide heightened national exposure to important insights about the community college student experience. In the following videos, the primary authors of many of these reports talk about the data collection and writing process and the many topics covered over the years.

An Array of Topics

The Process

Focus Group Work

CCSSE and SENSE data have provided colleges a great deal of information over the last two decades to help identify strengths and areas in need of improvement in the work of increasing student success. However, early on, CCCSE began conducting focus groups at numerous community colleges to gather more detail about the experiences students and others were having to enrichen the insights gleaned from the survey results and point to specific intervention strategies.

The Power of Student Voices

Memorable Conversations

Creating a Culture of Evidence

Through every survey conducted, through every grant-funded project administered, through every presentation delivered—a primary objective of CCCSE has been to support colleges in expanding their capacity for data. Colleges with a culture of evidence understand that the best way to promote student success is to base every decision—about programs, policies, budgets, and staffing—on real, systematically collected information. Data can challenge assumptions and traditions and threaten the status quo—and in doing so, it can help chart a course to excellence. In the first video below, thought leaders reflect on CCCSE’s catalytic role in the rise of institutional research practices at community colleges; and in the second, college presidents discuss the importance of CCCSE data’s continued use today, particularly when it comes to disaggregating by student characteristics.

Listening to the Data

Using the Data

CCCSE's National Advisory Board

Since its inception, CCCSE has had the good fortune to be guided by a national advisory board, or “NAB” as it is known to CCCSE staff members. While the composition of the board has changed over the years, one thing has remained constant: The board has always been filled with a perfect balance of practitioners and thought leaders. For two decades, NAB has provided guidance around the issues that community colleges encounter when addressing student success—and has given CCCSE direction about how it could best be a valuable partner in helping colleges understand and address those issues. In the following two videos, former and current board members speak not only about the impact NAB has had on CCCSE, but also the impact it has had on them.

The Founding Members

The Impact

A Small but Mighty Team

CCCSE has always been a small operation with a big scope of work. The organization began with just a handful of staff, and over the years its size has tripled—at times quadrupled—all the while remaining a tight-knit team dedicated to the prosperity of the nation’s community colleges and their students. Over the past 20 years, CCCSE has proudly watched community colleges evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of students and has strived to adapt and grow along with them. In the following two videos, some of the inaugural staff and longtime supporters reflect on the early days of the survey work and remark on the organization’s evolutionary journey.

The Early Days

The Evolution

CCCSE’s Pioneer, Kay McClenney

Founding Director Kay McClenney’s resolute vision, commitment to excellence, and unwavering dedication to the student success mission are the pillars upon which CCCSE was created. Many years ago, in the acknowledgments to a CCCSE national report, Kay thanked the students who had responded to the CCSSE survey upon which the data in the report were based. After acknowledging them, she wrote, “Our obligation is to reciprocate by seizing those opportunities for improvement, continuously reaching for excellence in learning, teaching, and student success.” Kay has done just that her entire career—and because she never settled for less than the community college students we serve deserve, we are all the better for it. In the compilation video of interview excerpts below, we hear from some of those who best understand the impact Kay’s work has had on the field. In the other video, Kay speaks about a phrase she coined that has been woven into the very fabric of community college education.

The Legend

The Mantra

Listening Is Caring: The Importance of the Student Experience

Many of the students who walk through the doors of community colleges have already been told they are not college material, or they are experiencing circumstances that can easily discourage or prevent them from succeeding. Nevertheless, these students bring with them their hopes and aspirations—and are depending on college faculty and staff to help them find success. In order to help students find the success they seek, we must understand what they are experiencing, both in and out of the classroom. And the only way to truly understand the student experience is to ask students about it and really listen to what they tell us. The following excerpts from interviews with two community college leaders stress the importance of connecting with and listening to students.

Phillip Neal

Sunita Cooke

Conversations About Equity

As open access institutions, community colleges enroll many students who have been historically underserved and underrepresented in higher education. While open admissions is a step toward equality, it does not achieve equity—that is, meeting every student where they are and ensuring they have the support they need to succeed. The following excerpts from interviews with national higher education leaders focus on this issue of utmost importance.

Michael Baston

Steven Gonzalez

Tia Brown McNair

Lynn Tincher-Ladner

CCCSE’s Startup Story

There would be no CCCSE without the groundbreaking work of NSSE, the tireless advocacy of researchers and leaders in the community college field, the generous grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and Lumina Foundation, the steadfast support from the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin, or the dedicated and brilliant minds of the people involved on the ground since the beginning. We owe everything to this story!

The Need

The Vision

The Support

The Survey

See the whole story on our YouTube channel.