23:22 PM

Alumni Association takes active role in implementing Quality Enhancement Plan


Effective communication and positive workplace interactions are the secret to the success of any organization, across all industries. But in order to understand how to communicate and interact, it’s imperative that everyone involved is aware of the cultural factors that can influence people’s interactions in an increasingly diverse work environment.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the agency that accredits degree-granting institutions of higher education, has recently reaffirmed University of Houston-Clear Lake’s accreditation for the next 10 years. A critical component of SACSCOC’s accreditation process is the implementation of a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), entitled “Becoming Aware: Cultural Interactions at UHCL.”

Without a QEP, an institution cannot be accredited. This initiative is intended to transform the university, and is an element of a quality institution.

The five-year QEP aims to create a campus learning environment in which all students gain competency in intercultural knowledge, teamwork and humility. In addition to the course curriculum, students will be invited to participate in classes and activities that qualify for credit under the plan.

UHCL Distinguished Alumna Estella Hernandez Gillette is on the QEP committee representing the university’s Alumni Association.

 “As Alumni Association members, we are here because we’ve asked ourselves, what can we do to model what the workforce expects from students?” Gillette said. “In my 60 years of work experience, I’ve found that it’s not just about the skills a person brings to the job. It’s how they will fit into the culture of the workforce. In my experience, it comes from a lot of work as a member of a team.”

Gillette, who began her career in 1964 as one of the few Hispanic women to become a secretary at NASA-Johnson Space Center, said that had she sought anyone who looked like her when she got there, she would not have made it. “I did not get mentored or coached by anyone who was like me,” she said. “This plan will set the new employees on a much more positive track. You think they have all the skills they need for the job, but they are missing other skills. We’re asking ourselves, how can we expedite this for students?”

She said that she and other members of the Alumni Association on the QEP committee will be working toward creating activities for students in accordance with the guidelines of the QEP.

“As alumni and members of the workforce, we can see the negative issues that occur if we don’t understand each other,” she said. “We organizations hire, they think new employees have all the skills they need, but they realize they lack skills in interfacing with others. We can help develop the future workforce. As current leaders in the community, we are seeking students who will become employees who are ready for a culturally diverse work environment.”

In keeping with the university's overall goal and commitment toward student success, she said the QEP will engage all UHCL resources, including students, leadership, faculty, and alumni, to provide a level of practice that students can take with them and put to immediate use when they enter the workforce.

She added the committee was exploring ways to interact with students and model what they need to learn, so that they can get the credit they need and take their knowledge with them to their workplaces.

“The workforce will be most grateful for students who bring that ability with them from the start,” she said. “As alumni, we want our future colleagues to succeed, so if would help if students came in well prepared,” she said.

For more information about UHCL’s Quality Enhancement Plan, go online.