Monday, September 21, 2009

Strategic Horizon Network Update

Last week the College hosted Pat Carter and Dick Alfred who were both on campus for their annual visit as part of MVCC's membership in the Strategic Horizon Network (SHN).  The SHN is a network of 14 community colleges interested in creative approaches to the future who are all committed to the development of their faculty and staff.  Through two annual colloquia and special learning site visits, MVCC has supported more than 25 different employees' participation on teams to these experiences during our first 16 months of membership.

The first purpose in Dick and Pat's visit was to have Pat facilitate different conversations last Thursday with a variety of individuals.  She spent the morning with two groups who spend a lot of time serving students - one in direct service with getting students enrolled and one group that works a great deal with providing student support to help them achieve their goals.  To make the most of the conversations, participation was limited to ten people or so identified by the Cabinet to have broad functional representation in the small groups.  Pat provided an overview of the SHN and some special initiatives currently underway in the Network.  She also facilitated a discussion about how we serve students and got people talking - perhaps in new and different ways than in the past.  She then had lunch with a group of directors responsible for many of the offices represented in the morning discussions.  Pat spent the afternoon in separate meetings with the support team and administrative team in Academic Affairs - not to assess the reorganization at such an early stage, but rather to simply check in and provide an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the changes underway.

The second purpose of Dick and Pat's visit was to have them facilitate the first segment of the Strategic Planning Committee's (SPC) annual fall retreat.  Dick did a very nice job of presenting the concept of abundance - a framework of analyzing organizational health on a continuum of wellness.  The pursuit of abundance focuses on leveraging strengths and building on what works through pursuit of the possibilities - in contrast to a deficit-correcting approach that always looks at what's wrong and needs to be fixed.  It was interesting to have Dick's abundance presentation first thing in the morning of the retreat to set the tone for the day.  It gave us a new vocabulary and a new way to think about things as the SPC considered where the College is currently and where we need to go given the external trends to which the College must respond.

The same day as Pat's discussions with the small groups, the Cabinet joined the Board of Trustees in their annual fall retreat, which included a presentation and conversation with pollster, author and former MVCC faculty John Zogby at his headquarters on Broad Street.  John's recent book, "The Way We'll Be..." tracks changes in polling results over the last 20 years and our conversation allowed us to consider how those trends might effect MVCC.  Taking time out to reflect on where we've been, where we are and how we'll be is an important and energizing annual fall activity to keep the College's Strategic Plan relevant and useful.  If you have any thoughts on any of this, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.