The college is seeking massive community input as it charts course for the next five years.

HOPEWELL — Four broad topics, surrounding the main goal of maximizing student success, are laying the foundation for Finger Lakes Community College's development of its next five-year strategic plan.

College leaders are looking for help from business leaders and the community at large in doing so.

Members of the Victor and Canandaigua Chambers of Commerce on Thursday heard how the process is progressing and were given the opportunity to share their ideas on how the college and community can better serve one another.

“Welcome to our college,” President Robert Nye addressed guests at a Breakfast & Business event at the college. “And, I mean that — our college. This is a group effort. This is our community college.”

Nye and the college's board of trustees came to a consensus on the four main areas of focus they wanted included in the next plan and have been visiting various constituencies since to get extensive public input to help shape a final plan.

Nye was introduced by Mitch Donovan, executive director of the Victor Chamber of Commerce, who noted the Victor campus of FLCC is an integral part of the college and a valuable partner.

“Dr. Nye is a key player in this region,” Donovan said. “He wants to share his vision for Finger Lakes Community College with you and he's interested in your feedback.”

Details of the plan's focus were laid out by Debora Ortloff, the college's chief planning officer.

“As business leaders in this community, you all are aware of how important it is to have strategic thinking, to make decisions about resources, to help guide where any organization is going,” she said. “That is doubly true when it comes to education institutions who serve the community.”

At the end of the day, student success is what the college is always working toward, she said.

“When a student walks in this door, we want to create opportunities from them to be successful," Ortloff said. "There are lots of different stories that can happen at FLCC and we need to be able to maximize the potential for all of those stories to happen here.”

The four areas begin with vitality, which she called a catch-all for the things the college needs to do well to be a good academic institution.

Community and industry connection, the second element, are the heart of the plan for what the college needs to do to serve the community in terms of partnerships with area high schools and industry and how the college can better serve it to help boost performance, she said.

Sustainability, the third area of focus, encompasses both environmental and organizational sustainability; opportunity and innovation round out the focus areas.

“We need to be a college that can recognize opportunity and take advantage of opportunity in order to create innovation,” Ortloff said. “What ideas can you help us think through so we know where we're going and what we should be focusing on to put ourselves in that category of a college that really knows what opportunities are out there and is ready to serve that opportunity and make that happen for the community.”

FLCC representatives sat with members of the business organizations at tables, where each brainstormed various ideas.

Among the suggestions offered were getting students and FLCC's more than 600 employees more involved in the community, perhaps through the use of coupons to downtown businesses and brochures disseminating information on the college and local events; developing internships with local businesses to help meet their future employment needs; having the college more involved with trade programs and expanding trade program offerings; and building community by strengthening communication between the college and surrounding communities.

Another topic was soft skills — particularly communication — that some business owners found lacking in job candidates of all ages; and how the college could be a leader in helping develop communications and business skills to help students find jobs and succeed after graduation.

Michael Rusinko, assistant vice president of small business lending at Lyons National Bank, suggested certificate programs for middle technology skills and possibly making a communications course as part of degree or certificate requirements.

Ortloff said the process for developing the next strategic plan officially began in August with Nye and the board of trustees, followed by meetings with various stakeholders within the college and its campus centers in Victor, Newark and Geneva.

The college is in the discovery stage, going out and having lots of conversations with various businesses and organizations, talking to advisory boards and conducting community forums, she said.

“As we bring things together, we'll start to have a better sense of what this plan needs to do and we'll move through creating it and adding measurable goals so we know we're on the right track," Ortloff said.

The timeline calls for having a plan approved by the board of trustees in May or June to take effect the following academic year. In the meantime, there will continue to be community events and opportunities for the public to follow the plan's development progress and offer suggestions.

“It's a really exciting process and I'm so glad the Chambers could be here because they represent really important leaders for our community and that's the way we make a great community college,” Ortloff said. “Putting the community in community college, the strategic plan is the place to do that.”

Nye, who has a doctorate in public administration, said the two most important takeaways from the presentation are for FLCC to continue developing a partnership with the community and Chambers, and having the Chambers on FLCC's team.

“They are providing us some important information to help us determine the direction of the future of this college, because we're on the same team,” Nye said. “We all want the same things. We want students to graduate and to be prosperous in our community.”