With support from AmeriCorps State and the Texas Guarantee Public Benefit Program, MCAC retained the Center for the Study of Organizational Change (CSOC) at MU to conduct an organizational assessment of MCAC and to facilitate a strategic planning process. The purpose of the study was to:
- determine what MCAC does well and what it can do better, and
- craft a strategic plan to move MCAC towards its goals.
The organizational assessment was conducted in spring 2011 and the strategic planning process occured in fall 2011 and spring 2012. A two to three-year stratigic plan was adopted in spring 2012.
Data collection and analysis
The organizational analysis is the narrative that best reflects the experiences, relationships, perceptions and actual performance of individuals in the organization. Data collection occurred over approximately 364 hours during a five-month period and included:
- 20 hours of document review.
- 77 hours of observation (MCAC administrative offices, partner schools and MCAC events).
- 58 individual and group interviews (advisory committee members, funders, MCAC administrative staff, previous MCAC leadership, college advisers, collaborating organizations, representatives of MU Division of Enrollment Management, funders, and National College Advising Corps representatives):
- 28 phone and one-on-one interviews with external stakeholders
- Nine one-on-one interviews with MCAC college advisers
- Seven one-on-one interviews with partner school site supervisors
- Five one-on-one interview with partner school administrators
- Six focus groups with high school seniors at MCAC partner schools (30 students)
- One group interview with MCAC college advisers
- One group interview with school counselors at MCAC partner schools
- One group interview with the MCAC internal advisory team
CSOC analysts synthesized the factual, narrative, and observational data into themes and patterns, which were subsequently used to inform a systematic organizational analysis. The team presented preliminary findings in May and June 2011 to two different groups of internal and external stakeholders. Findings were used to guide the strategic planning process and for ongoing program evaluation.
- Overall, analysts found that MCAC is an effective organization.
- All participants could clearly articulate the mission of MCAC.
- Core values of MCAC are:
- support and collaboration,
- passion and commitment,
- efficiency and effectiveness, and
- delivering quality services with integrity and professionalism.
- MCAC’s structure and operation is complex and dynamic (many relationships to manage, numerous stakeholders, college advisers’ placement in schools where they are not employees, uniqueness of each partner school culture).
- One of the most impressive aspects of MCAC is the fit of each adviser with their school culture.
- Students consistently stated that they feel more prepared for college after working with their adviser, have gained significant knowledge and skills relating to post-secondary education, appreciate their adviser, express trust and confidence in their adviser, and they would not be going to college if their adviser was not there to help them.
- Common terms (a common language) were expressed:
- College–going culture — MCAC aims to create a college–going culture in partner schools.
- Service deliverables — MCAC advisers have specific and quantifiable service deliverables.
- "Best fit" — advisers help students find a best fit postsecondary opportunity and advisers are placed in a best-fit partner school.
- Sustainability — the college-going culture needs to be sustained and MCAC needs to achieve long-term sustainability.
MCAC is a well-run and effective organization. Many of the challenges to the organization are inherent in its structure. Identified weaknesses and challenges are opportunities for improvement and growth.
Overall, there is a positive energy and passion within the organization. Stakeholders are proud of their involvement with the organization and with the organization’s goal to create a college-going culture among Missouri high schools. Advisers are articulate and passionate about their work and reflect the effective, professional image for which the organization strives. The leadership demonstrates capability and inspires not only MCAC and its stakeholders, but also other college advising corps across the nation. The students served by MCAC are enthusiastic and appreciative of the services and support provided by their adviser.
Expansion will bring new areas of stability within the organization along with new complexities surrounding the organization. The ability to maintain creativity and embrace complex and sometimes ambiguous situations will be important skills for continuing to build on previous and current successes.