Waubonsee Takes a Lesson from the USGA to Transform Institutional Effectiveness

What can a team of educators learn from golfers?

This was the question on the mind of Waubonsee Community College President Christine Sobek when she arrived at the Alliance for Innovation & Transformation’s Summer Institute in Denver, Colorado, where the United States Golf Association (USGA) was scheduled to be one of the learning partners for a program focused on “Producing Future Success: Demonstrating Value Through Results.”

Though the connection between golf and higher education wasn’t immediately apparent, it didn’t take long for Rand Jerris, the USGA’s senior managing director of public services, to capture the Waubonsee team’s attention and imagination. Jerris began his talk by posing a question to the audience:

What is the golf industry's biggest challenge?

Some in the room speculated it was diversity. Others presumed affordability. But the answer was much simpler. The golf industry’s biggest challenge, it turned out, was water. Specifically, having enough clean water to irrigate more than 1.5 million acres of maintained turfgrass, including greens, tees, fairways, and rough, at golf facilities across the U.S. With water management coming under intense scrutiny as many areas of the country experienced drought conditions, the USGA had to conserve this valuable resource, using every drop of water as efficiently as possible.

The challenge bore a striking resemblance to higher education’s own dwindling resources.

Jerris explained how the USGA proactively managed this issue by developing a scorecard to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) which demonstrated the success of its conservation practices against the health and prosperity of its courses. He illustrated how the scorecard literally changed the game by transforming the USGA into a results-driven organization.

When Dr. Jamal Scott, Waubonsee Community College’s vice president of strategy and community development heard this story, a lightbulb went off. A scorecard was the answer Waubonsee had been looking for. A few months earlier, the Higher Learning Commission’s accreditation feedback indicated the College needed to do a better job sharing its performance data with the community. The College had been considering its options when Dr. Scott learned about the USGA’s scorecard and saw an opportunity to leverage a similar model to increase transparency and accountability.

Dr. Christine Sobek, President of Waubonsee Community College
Dr. Christine Sobek
Dr. Jamal Scott, VP of Strategy & Community Development at Waubonsee Community College
Dr. Jamal Scott

With President Sobek’s support, Dr. Scott and the Waubonsee team pursued the development of a public-facing scorecard as soon as they returned to campus. They consulted with the National Community College Benchmarking Project to identify the appropriate metrics to include on the scorecard. They selected 17 KPIs that aligned with the College’s strategic plan in the categories of student equity and success, community connections, and employee and organizational excellence.

Waubonsee’s College Scorecard rolled out the following July, at the beginning of the College’s fiscal year, to serve as a quantitative measurement of its ability to execute against the goals in its strategic plan. Since all the data comprising the scorecard is published by independent sources at different times throughout the year, Waubonsee releases new versions of the scorecard every six months—in January and July—to accurately measure the College’s progress and opportunities. It employs easy-to-read bar graphs next to each metric to denote the College’s progress toward each goal, and goals that have been met are denoted with an achievement ribbon.

As it turns out, this team of educators learned a lot from golfers. Waubonsee’s scorecard initiative has helped the College become more intentional in its work and accountable to its goals, transforming how it supports the success of its students, employees, and community partners—and serving as a model for other institutions striving to improve institutional effectiveness.

About Waubonsee Community College

Waubonsee Community College is a comprehensive community college that serves 12,000 credit and 7,000 non-credit students anually across four campuses in Sugar Grove, Aurora Downtown, Aurora Fox Valley, and Plano, Illinois. President Christine Sobek is a longtime member of the Alliance for Innovation & Transformation (AFIT) and currently serves on its Executive Committee as the Secretary-Treasurer. Learn more about Waubonsee Community College at waubonsee.edu.

Learn more from Dr. Sobek & Dr. Scott: