During the past several months, we’ve taken a close look at some of America’s best community colleges to see what they are doing to offer a high quality education at a low cost, with a high success rate and a good return on investment. In this post, we’re going to focus on Lone Star College (LSC)-University Park.
Opened in January 2010, LSC-University Park is the sixth and newest campus in The Lone Star College System. Founded in 1973, The Lone Star College System consists of six colleges, eight centers, two university centers, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. With a total enrollment of 95,000 students, LSC is the largest institution of higher education in Texas. From fall 2008 to fall 2015, LSC also added more than 32,000 credit students – a 63% increase – making it one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the nation.
LSC-University Park is a leading model of the ‘innovation college’
LSC-University Park’s vision began April 30, 2009, when LSC purchased five major office buildings and support facilities on the grounds of the former Compaq Computer Corporation’s world headquarters. The acquisition provided the surrounding area with a much-needed affordable college facility and allowed LSC to establish a new university center. According to a May 20, 2009 Wall Street Journal article, “The deal was the second-largest U.S. office transaction so far this year, based on square footage, after Boston’s 1.8 million square-foot John Hancock tower.”
LSC promised the community that LSC-University Park would become a leading model of the “innovative college” for the 21st century by redefining complete and affordable access to quality education through partnerships, entrepreneurship and community enrichment. Since its opening, LSC-University Park has received national recognition for its innovative programs while attracting, retaining and inspiring students from all over the world.
The former corporate facility was renovated into academic space and LSC-University Park opened its doors as a center to students for its first semester in January 2010 and became a college in June 2012. With approximately 1.2 million square feet of operational space, LSC-University Park houses academic classrooms and offices, full-service conference facilities, and first-class commercial leasing opportunities. Located on 71 acres, this campus actually looks like what a college of the 21st century should look like.
Its unique design – complete with sky bridges to connect buildings – not only inspires students, but also provides them with a wide range of opportunities for innovative programs. Today, LSC-University Park enrolls over 11,000 students, employs 229 full-time faculty members and 760 part-time instructors, and is home to one of two University Centers in The Lone Star College System – all in one convenient location.
Along with university partners, LSC-University Park offers 94 programs of study in a variety of subject areas. Programs and certificates offered by LSC-UP include: agriculture, biotechnology, computer information technology, geology, journalism, law enforcement, nursing, philosophy, physics, sports management, teacher certification, veterinary technology, international studies, engineering, computer science, petroleum field service, converged technology, law enforcement, computer aided design operator, CNC control/programmer, and machining technology. LSC-University Park provides a variety of opportunities for students to earn college credits through traditional and alternate scheduling. For example, “mini-mesters” permit students to take a typical 16-week course in three or four-weeks. The weekend college allows students to earn credits and degrees, including an A.A. in Business or Teaching by taking weekend courses online, face-to-face, or a hybrid of both.
The LSC-University Center at University Park also offers junior, senior and graduate-level classes through its university partnerships with the University of Houston-Northwest Campus and University of Houston Downtown-Northwest. Students who enroll with one of these academic institutions are able to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree – or a teaching certificate – on-site, without having to travel to the university campuses. The LSC-University Center model provides LSC-University Park students with a seamless transition process from the two-year college to a four-year university. Joint admission programs, such as the 2+2 program, allow students to take their first two years of classes at LSC-University Park and then the second two years of upper-level courses at one of the partner universities, without having to reapply.
This learning space of the future also includes partnerships that are unique to LSC-University Park. For example, iSchool High, a public, early college, charter high school adheres to the college’s mantra of providing diverse opportunities and challenges. At iSchool High, students can earn their high school diploma and up to two years of college credit at the same time. Lone Star Corporate College and Lone Star Conference Center are on site as well. LSC-University Park also houses the Energy and Manufacturing Institute, a Children’s Academy, Law Enforcement Academy, and several corporate offices on the site. The Corporate College partners with Houston-based, global corporations to identify and meet their workforce training needs. The Lone Star Conference Center boasts 19 meeting rooms, exhibition space and state-of-the-art technical support.
In September 2012, Shah S. Ardalan was named the first president of LSC-University Park. Ardalan’s experience in educational and executive roles and proven academic track-record made him a perfect candidate to lead LSC-University Park into the 21st century. Prior to becoming president, he had served as vice chancellor and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of The Lone Star College System and CEO of LSC-University Park. Ardalan has over 25 years of experience in education and corporate executive roles within the best and largest community college and university systems in the United States.
Interview with Shah Ardalan, president of LSC-University Park
Recently, I interviewed President Ardalan about LSC-University Park. Here are my questions and his answers.
Greg Jarboe: Do you actually have a robot currently co-facilitating class to meet the demands of your students?
Shah Ardalan: Innovation is core to our success as a college. It’s in our DNA and our Invitation2Innovate (i2i) initiative encourages our faculty, staff and students to try new ideas. The college hosted its first Innovation Week in March of 2015, when more than 85 ideas were collected and reviewed. One of the projects, presented by Dean of Math and Sciences Der. Veronique Tran and her team, brought an interactive approach to teaching Biology 1406 by using a Double Robotics telepresence robot to connect an instructor with students in a remote classroom. It’s been well received and there is a video of this on YouTube entitled “Case Study: Lone Star College + Double Robotics.”
Greg Jarboe: Can students attend class by robot?
Shah Ardalan: Students in unique or challenging circumstances can check out a robot. We successfully used the Robot for a student who was unable to be in class due to an illness. The student via his personal laptop was able to login to the robot, navigate through campus, and attend his scheduled classes. This allowed the student to engage with the class while he was in the hospital receiving treatment. The robot allows the student to hear, see, and communicate with the class; allowing him to continue in his education.
Greg Jarboe: I understand that Lone Star College continues to grow in excess of 20% a year.
Shah Ardalan: Our entire System has been growing and LSC-University Park continues to grow at 20% per year. We have a strong team and we offer programs the community needs. In addition, our online growth has doubled and we offer classes on Saturday’s and Sundays. We even opened a student services kiosk in Willowbrook Mall, our local mall which takes registration to the students in their community.
Greg Jarboe: Very few colleges across the country can make that claim. Can you correlate innovation and growth?
Shah Ardalan: We take our mission of providing access very seriously and built this college on a culture of innovation. It is important to note that even though the location was purchased in 2009 and opened as a center in 2010, we dedicated the college to the community as a comprehensive college on June 6, 2012. So, the college is only 4-years-old! As “The Mall of America of Education and Careers” in one of the fastest growing areas of the U.S., Lone Star College-University Park has become the fastest growing community college in the country with 11,000 students in fall 2015.
Greg Jarboe: In keeping with innovation, Lone Star College just broke ground on your Center for Science and Innovation. What other exciting things are happening there in Texas?
Shah Ardalan: The groundbreaking for LSC-University Park’s new Center for Science and Innovation took place in April 2016. This will be a very inviting building offering many interesting teaching, learning, research, and innovation opportunities. It will open in May 2017. In addition, we’re working on:
· An Innovation Room – Faculty can test out new Innovations and collaborate.
· GIS for Inquiry – integration of Geographical Information Systems software (geospatial data analysis) into the curriculum; multi-disciplinary.
· A Mobile Planetarium – use of portable planetarium dome for Astronomy instruction and community outreach; physics/astronomy.
· Education and Career Positioning System – Patent pending system that won the 2015 Star Award from the State of Texas. And a top finalist for the Bellwether Award.
Greg Jarboe: Why did Community College Week magazine name Lone Star College a Top 10 producer of associate degrees?
Shah Ardalan: Community College Week magazine has named Lone Star College a Top 10 producer of associate degrees, ranking fifth nationally among all community colleges in the U.S. The 2015 list of Top 100 Associate Degree Producers by Community College Week magazine listed LSC fifth in the nation among the more than 1,100 community colleges for the number of associate degrees awarded. Community College Week reported LSC awarded 4,409 associate degrees to students in all disciplines based on the 2013-2014 school year data derived from their analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.
LSC also ranked third among community colleges nationwide in the 2015 list for the number of Hispanic students receiving their associate degrees. 1,334 Hispanic graduates, representing 30 percent of the total LSC graduates earned their associate degree in 2013-2014, a 15 percent increase over degrees awarded in 2012-13.
Other notable rankings for LSC in the Community College Week 2015 nationwide list include:
- Fourth in Nursing, Registered Nursing, Administration, Nursing Research and Clinical Nursing Degrees
- Third in Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities Associate Degrees
- Second in Education Associate Degrees
- Fifth in Health Professions and Related Programs
- Sixth in all degrees among minorities
The Top 100 Associate Degree Producers list is compiled by the magazine each year from data derived from a Community College Week analysis of U.S. Department of Education data. The 2015 list contains data from the 2013-14 academic year.
Greg Jarboe: Why did The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine name Lone Star College a Top 25 College for Hispanics?
Shah Ardalan: The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine has named Lone Star College a Top 25 College for Hispanics. LSC was ranked third in the nation for the number of Hispanic students enrolled and was ranked third for the number of associate degrees awarded in 2014. Since fall 2005, the LSC Hispanic student population has risen 248 percent, growing from 8,832 to 30,775 in fall 2015. Here at LSC-University Park, we have seen a dramatic increase in Hispanics. Nationally, community colleges enroll 56 percent of all Hispanic undergraduates. As our fastest growing population, 37% of our students are Hispanic. We are big on equity and social justice and proud of our diversity. We hosted a Hispanic Summit where 11 education partners signed to move forward on a Center for Hispanic Achievement in Houston and beyond.
Greg Jarboe: Why did the Lone Star College faculty receive national recognition for making exceptional educational contributions?
Shah Ardalan: The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) at The University of Texas at Austin granted 20 Lone Star College faculty members with the NISOD Excellence Award during its recent conference.
The NISOD Excellence Award provides NISOD members the opportunity to acknowledge and honor individuals who have made exceptional contributions at their respective institutions. According to NISOD, receiving a NISOD Excellence Award demonstrates that the recipient’s college identifies and appreciates their educational contributions. Faculty from LSC-University Park who were recognized were:
· Rick Smalley – Professor of Math.
· Gina Sprowl – Chair of Business.
Greg Jarboe: How does Lone Star College’s educational opportunities for veterans and active-duty service members work?
Shah Ardalan: Lone Star College System has been recognized as a veteran friendly college several times. We have a special team of advisors and personnel as well as a number of resources we offer our military men and women. Here at LSC-University Park we offer military students and vets a special lounge just for them. These soldiers can attend online or on-campus with their GI Bill and also work with any of our partners for support. These groups include:
· City of Houston Office of Veterans Affairs.
· Texas Veterans Land Board.
· Work life Institute Re-entry and Work life.
· Homes for our Troops.
· Wounded Warrior Project.
· Department of Veterans Readjustment Counseling Services.
Greg Jarboe: How is Lone Star College helping students complete their bachelor’s degrees at a selective four-year college or university as well as transfer to any public college or university in the state?
Shah Ardalan: We all fully committed to the other half our mission too: success. There are many ways we are supporting students. We conduct field trips, transfer fairs, and have articulation agreements with many of the universities across the state. More importantly we have a University Center which supports a large percentage of our transfer on-site. The University Center allows students to walk across the hall and attend their bachelor’s programs, Masters and even Doctoral.
When you think about it, you can be on this campus as a 6-months old, go to high school to get a diploma, attend classes to get a GED, get a certificate, get an Associate or as high as you desire, get a job with one of our corporate tenants, and retire – and still park in the same parking garage.
The Texas Open Innovation Conference
A few days after I had interviewed President Ardalan, Christina Robinson, the Chief Strategist for Innovation at Lone Star College-University Park followed up to let me know about the Texas Open Innovation Conference. www.texasopeninnovation.com
In an email, she said, “For the past two years, LSC-University Park has hosted an Innovation Week and seen countless ideas come to the forefront, and to market – including the Double Robotics telepresence robot. The success of this event has made clear that now is the time to lead the state and nation in an innovation conversation with an exciting and bold new initiative: the Texas Open Innovation Conference.”
Taking place on March 28-29, 2017 in Houston, Texas, the Texas Open Innovation Conference will be a forum where business, government and academia can intersect to spark more development, collaboration and dialogue for the advancement of technology and ideas. This two-day conference will feature innovation experts from across the country and will give academics, business leaders and industry professionals alike a creative platform for considering new and innovative practices and launch an open exchange of ideas related to the transformation of ideas into reality through Open Innovation Concepts.
It’s yet another example of what makes Lone Star College-University Park the “innovation college.”
(Greg Jarboe is the editor of The Advocate of Affordable College blog. He’s also the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency, as well as the video and content marketing faculty chair at Simplilearn, an instructor in the Rutgers Business School Executive Education program, and the author of YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.)