Sunday, October 4, 2009


For half the day on Friday and all day yesterday, 40 employees representing various departments and levels of responsibility at my college met for our third annual strategic planning meeting. The first year we did this was the first year our new president was in office, and it was his way of including the entire community, or as much as is practical, in planning the direction of the college over the next six years. It is actually a very interesting and admirable effort on his part. It certainly doesn't mean that any old idea or agenda item will become the focus of the colleges' efforts, but it does mean that items that rise to the top of the list get almost 100% buy in from the community.

It also offers an opportunity for various areas or departments to share exactly what they do and how those efforts impact the rest of the college community. For example, we are a growing institution. Three years ago one of the items that made it to the final vision list was to grow to 1600 undergraduate students. This year we hit 1500 and we still have three years to go until we hit the year we finally review how we did achieving the items on our vision list. So it was presented during this years' meeting that maybe we should increase that goal to 1700 or even 1800 students.

This allowed for a very dynamic and educational conversation, led in part by my boss, the VP for enrollment management, regarding how we go about admitting and retaining students, and what restrictions we have on the total number of students we enroll, like places for them to sleep, enough classrooms to teach them in and a big enough dining facility to feed them in. In addition to this was a discussion about whether we are only concerned with quantity and not quality. Which of course we are not, but while it is easy to quantify the quality of our students, it is hard to control who will be in the pool from year to year to admit. Of course it is our goal to always maintain if not improve the quality of our students, but there may come a year when for whatever reason, the pool we have to choose from is not of the academic caliber that we would like. Then you work with what you have got.

My point is that often I hear from people on campus, faculty usually, that they think my boss and admissions are only interested in bringing in a number. That it is only about meeting and exceeding the goal, that they don't care about the continuing students or the quality of the education at the college. So I appreciate when there is an opportunity for people who don't deal with this everyday to hear what we do, what her values are and how much she cares for this college. If she didn't care she wouldn't have been here for 22 years.

So while it is a commitment of time and energy on every one's part to be part of this meeting, it is ultimately very useful on many levels. It is exhausting. I got to the end of the day yesterday and still had to go to a birthday party that Cooper had been invited to. Bob had taken him at the appropriate time, and I reported there as soon as I was available. There was a real live magician who seemed to have most of the kids captivated. Except for mine. I arrived to find him outside of the room where the show was going on, running around keeping himself entertained with balloons. Oh well. I don't like magicians either if I am to be honest. I think that anyone whose primary occupation is fooling people is not to be trusted. You know, like car salesmen and politicians and magicians.