When the U.S. Department of Commerce chooses its winners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, it relies on examiners like Pellissippi State Community College’s Sally Lighter.
Lighter was appointed recently to the program’s board of examiners for the fourth year. Approximately 500 experts from industry, professional and trade organizations, education, health care, and nonprofits make up the board.
Lighter brings legal and teaching expertise to the volunteer position. An attorney, she started teaching part time in Pellissippi State’s Paralegal Studies program in 2000. Two years ago she joined the Business and Computer Technology Department as a full-time instructor and internship coordinator.
As an examiner, Lighter is responsible for evaluating applications submitted for the quality award. That work takes place in the summer. Site visits to select organizations follow in October, and Lighter may be asked to go on one of those trips as well.
“It can literally be anywhere in the U.S.,” she said. “It can be Hawaii and Alaska.”
Created in 1987, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is considered the highest level of national recognition for performance excellence that a U.S. organization can achieve, according to the Department of Commerce.
Examiners take part in an annual preparation course that covers the award’s criteria, as well as scoring and evaluation processes.
Lighter’s experience as an examiner informs her work at Pellissippi State. She has a bird’s eye view of some of the nation’s top organizations and how standards of quality play a part in improving them. She has been asked to talk about the Baldrige award program in one of the college’s courses on quality management. Classes in the college’s Management and Hospitality concentrations also have visited one of the award’s first recipients, a Johnson City company.
Lighter receives no pay for her work as an examiner, but she nonetheless benefits from the role.
“It’s all volunteer,” she said. “But it’s such a tremendous learning experience.”