Community College Abundance Model
June 2009

Community College Abundance Model

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All organisations are impacted by changing environments and economic conditions across the globe and Bedeian and Armenakis (1998, p. 59) indicate it is the non-profit organisation, especially colleges and universities that are 'least partially protected from immediate market conditions.' As a result, higher education institutions are confronted with the need to re-examine operations and strategy to take advantage of potential competitive advantages, provide exceptional value, and effectively contend with a growing number of competitors (Alfred, Shults, Ramirez, Sullivan, Chambers, and Knabjian-Molina, 2005).

When looking at the growing inter-connectedness of economies and industries, these issues become even more pressing for higher education institutions, especially community colleges. Consider, for example, how the increasing pervasiveness of technology and globalisation of capitalistic practices are impacting community colleges in America.

 Friedman (2006), in his treatise on the changing and turbulent world, explains that x-rays can be transferred electronically and read in other countries and the results sent back to America and that statuettes of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, an important religious figure in Mexico, are now produced in China and shipped. What does this mean for community colleges in America? It means that academic administrators and faculty need to constantly assess the growth potential of fields and adjust offerings (how many radiology techs will be necessary) and that a low cost strategy will not ensure increased enrollment (students want value and there is decreasing public support).

Community colleges have historically operated from a bureaucratic management model, a model pushed throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s (transactional leadership) and effective within stable environments. As verified by the current global economic crisis and the fact that 47% of the world's wealth has been lost in the last 18 months (Rueters, 2009), however, economic environments are no longer stable and individuals, organisations, and governments are struggling to operate within globalised knowledge-influenced economies. Management practices and personal dynamics need to be adjusted to deal with the increasingly turbulent environments, especially within community colleges since they are often economic and workforce engines as well as transfer institutions.

In an effort to provide a new operational model for community colleges, Alfred,  Jacquette, & Strickland (2009) and Shults (2008a, 2008b, 2009) built upon their expertise and conducted studies guided by the field of positive psychology to develop a strength-based approach to operations.

Specifically, the Community College Abundance Model (CCAM) reflects information gathered from examinations into Positive Organisational Scholarship (POS) and Positive Organisational Behavior (POB) and represents an operational model premised on appreciating human capital, building on strengths, ensuring adjustment to changing environments, and providing unique value to stakeholders. The model is built on the assumption that the ability to move towards abundance (optimal organisational performance) is premised on the ability to transcendently leverage a college's tangible, intangible, and leadership resources. While leveraging is a business tactic that reflects the ability to amplify the impact of resources, transcendent leveraging reflects an organisational mindset guided by hope and resiliency that assumes resources will be leveraged regardless of circumstances (Shults, 2008b). Regarding the resources identified in the CCAM,

Community College Abundance Model represents an operational model premised on appreciating human capital, building on strengths, ensuring adjustment to changing environments, and providing unique value to stakeholders


Tangible resources reflect easily quantifiable and well understood resources (i.e. number of staff, facilities, income, etc.).

Intangible resources reflect more difficult to measure resources, but resources which are key in obtaining a competitive advantage (i.e. culture, human capital, reputation, etc.).

Leadership resources refer to the prevalence and pervasiveness of leadership throughout the college.

Alfred et al. (2009) and Shults (2008a) were able to develop an abundance continuum based on how effectively colleges leverage the aforementioned resources as well as their ability to engage in a series of practices. Generally speaking, colleges of challenge (those on the lesser abundance end of the continuum) are colleges focused exclusively on tangible resources as a result of impending crises and turmoil, colleges of choice (colleges in the middle of the continuum) have the potential to move towards greater abundance, but are unable to fully leverage their available resources, and colleges of abundance (those on the greater abundance end of the continuum) are primarily focused on intangible resources and the development of human capital. Additionally, colleges of abundance typically develop and maintain vast partnerships and networks, abundant staffing patterns, private gifts and grants as a substantial portion of revenue, investments in technology focused on enhancing student success, effective and unparalleled service to companies, and enrollment and retention of under-served populations.

Two factors are essential for reaching or moving towards the abundance model

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