November 2010: HLC awards continued accreditation
In awarding continuing accreditation to Northwest College on Nov. 17, 2011, the Higher Learning Commission cited four areas of positive observations: NWC’s strong commitment to student learning, responsiveness and good working relationship with the community, dynamic residential life program, and well-resourced creativeness in making sure students continue their education. Areas for improvement, which the HLC visiting team said were no surprise because they all “came across in your honest self-study evaluation,” included shared governance, development of planning, integration and implementation in various planning processes, and better data utilization in decision making. The visit culminated four years of research, information gathering, analysis and writing of a lengthy self-study report. The HLC followed up in 2013 with a focused campus visit on planning and budget. During that visit, NWC presented a monitoring report on progress in student learning assessment.
July 2013: Hicswa becomes NWC's eighth president
Stefani Gray Hicswa assumed Northwest’s presidency in mid-July 2013, the results of a nationwide presidential search following Paul Prestwich’s resignation after five years at the helm. Hicswa had served seven years as president of Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont., where she helped increase graduation rates to first among all post-secondary institutions in Montana and among the top community colleges nationally. Her 20-years’ experience in higher education administration includes operating a Montana consulting firm that specialized in strategic planning and organizational development. Hicswa holds a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin. The focus of her dissertation research was the role of community college presidents in rural community development. She earned her master’s in adult, community and higher education from Montana State University in Bozeman and a bachelor’s in organizational communication from the University of Montana in Missoula.
August 2014: Largest instructional building opens
Open for the fall 2014 semester, the 47,000-square-foot Yellowstone Building houses Nursing, Allied Health and Criminal Justice programs, along with a community conference center accommodating workforce training, community events and larger-venue demands. Communication, Social Science and Education Divisions reside in the new facility, as does NWC’s powerhouse Forensics Team. Home to some of the college’s most sophisticated instructional technology, the building includes a firearms simulator used by the Criminal Justice program and a suite of clinical labs with simulation mannequins that replicate real symptoms for nurses in training. The Wyoming Legislature provided $9.38 million toward the $13 million construction. NWC’s private Foundation raised over $800,000 to help with costs, and students contributed through a new $5-per-credit-hour facilities fee. The college drew from budget reserves for the $2 million balance. Through this multi-pronged funding approach, NWC was able to construct the most expensive building on campus without seeking to raise taxes in Park County through a public bond issue.
May 2017: Graduation rate highest on record
The college’s 39% graduation rate for first-time, full-time students who began in fall 2014 and completed within three years is the highest on record. The rate represented a 2% increase from the previous year’s graduation rate and was among the highest of Wyoming’s seven community colleges. In addition, NWC maintained its exemplary student retention rate—61% for first-time, full-time students who began at NWC in fall 2016 and returned in fall 2017. It was the second highest in the state.
February 2018: HLC report among most positive in history
Northwest College’s 2018 accreditation report is among the most positive in the history of the institution. The official report was received following NWC’s September 11-12, 2017, comprehensive campus visit by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The visit culminated nearly three years of research, information gathering, analysis and writing. It recommended continued accreditation, with the next comprehensive visit expected in 2025. All sub-components for the five criteria’s Core Components have been met. The report signaled that the three areas the HLC flagged for improvement after its last comprehensive visit in 2010—assessment of student learning outcomes, tying budgeting to planning and institutional governance—are no longer concerns. In addition, the report allowed the college to choose its “pathway” for future reaccreditation maintenance.