Ivy Tech human services class

Ivy Tech Professor Donald Spears talks with students in his human services class on the Valparaiso campus.

Our Region is rich in assets that aren't even close to reaching their full benefit or potential.

Northwest Indiana's institutions of higher learning can be named prominently among those assets — both for their already exceptional contribution to our planning and enrichment but also for their partially untapped potential.

It's why we all should be excited by Ivy Tech's new statewide strategic plan for developing stronger partnerships with their respective communities.

Among the community college network's Region campuses, that focus is manifesting itself in the Program Planning and Policy Issues class being offered at the Valparaiso campus.

The course “adopts” a local nonprofit agency and acts as a consultant to that agency, including helping to identify opportunities for growth and drafting long-term strategic plans.

This semester, the class has adopted Valparaiso-based Mental Health America of Porter County.

One task of the 16-member class is meeting with the MHA board of directors and performing an analysis that focuses on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, or SWOT.

“We will use the SWOT analysis to create measurable goals and objectives,” said Donald Spears, associate professor and chairman of the Human Services Department.

“Students go to the website to see how easily they can spot the organization’s mission statement. They will review the agency’s mission statement to ensure that it fits their goals.”

The course is a classic example of double enrichment. Ivy Tech students earn course credit while learning and obtaining hands-on, real-world experience. The local nonprofit agency receives valuable consultation that would come at a premium from the private sector.

We can only hope this course — and similar concepts — will expand and grow throughout the Region.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.