Monday, May 18, 2009

Recognizing Recognition

Looking out at the smiling faces of our graduates at Commencement this past Friday gave me an enormous sense of pride in the work we do at this College. Talking with faculty and staff at the reception back at the Utica campus afterward further confirmed how meaningful our collective work is and how faculty and staff go to this post-commencement reception to personally congratulate the students. Personalizing recognition like that is what inspired changes to in our employee recognition program.

Last spring the Employee Recognition System Design Team made some bold and daring recommendations to build on our current recognition processes and develop a more comprehensive approach to how faculty and staff are recognized and thanked for their contributions to fulfill MVCC’s mission. This past year, we've tried a few new things, like formalizing the end-of-the-semester employee gathering. We've also recaptured some of what worked in the past, like recognizing our Chancellor's Award winners at Commencement - I thought it worked very nicely.

The Summer Institute Luncheon later this week will see a few important changes to the program format with the complete employee recognition program unveiled at the Celebration of Success (end-of-the-semester gathering) the following day. As I recently announced, the employee service awards will not be recognized in the same way as they have in years past. Rather, we will have smaller, more personal, ceremonies throughout the year. The success of these ceremonies will only come with the full commitment of cabinet members, supervisors and colleagues who choose to attend and honor their colleagues for the years of service to the College, our mission and our students.

As I write this, I think about the time and energy of the employee recognition design team - and thank them for their creativity and commitment to providing a thoughtful approach to recognition. However, I also find myself thinking about the importance of saying thank you in recognition of a job well done and how no matter how comprehensive our recognition program becomes as it evolves over the next few years, the power of saying thank you to one another is often the best recognition of all. If you have any thoughts on how recognition occurs at MVCC, please let me know at presblog@mvcc.edu.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Celebrating Our Graduates

This week we celebrate student success. On Friday, May 15th at 4 p.m. we will collectively rejoice in the accomplishment of Mohawk Valley Community College's most recent success stories - the graduating members of the Class of 2009. They join tens of thousands of thriving MVCC alumni who have come to us seeking personal, supportive learning experiences - received them - and accomplished their goals of graduating from MVCC. Many graduates have overcome obstacles that could have easily sidetracked their dreams, but they persevered.

To help us celebrate the faith and persistence our graduates demonstrate, we have the pleasure of welcoming
Immaculée Ilibagiza
at this year's ceremony. Her story of faith and survival of the Rwandan genocide serves as a powerful reminder that, through faith and persistence, we can all overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

This week we celebrate the community college student at MVCC. Unlike any other place of learning, a community college like ours is a place where 22% of the top 10% of high school scholars, and 30% of all high school graduates in Oneida County find their way to us every fall semester. Ours is a place where those students are joined by others who return from larger four-year schools, to find what they needed at home - a more intimate learning environment that can provide the critical study skills and personal discipline required for academic success. Ours is a place where the single parent finds a way, against all odds, to balance the demands in her life, get to class and earn good grades. Ours is a place where the unemployed or underemployed come to gain new skills and script new, successful chapters in their lives. Ours is a place where the English language learner joins the GED completer to find that they can achieve in college and do it well, to accomplish more than they ever thought possible, starting life anew.

It is this beautiful mosaic that comprises the profile of students at a place like ours. It is a mosaic that comes through our front door every day seeking advice and support from our talented staff to chart a path for a brighter future. It is a mosaic that displays a daily kaleidoscope of learning styles in our classes, bringing out the best our faculty and staff have to offer. Through countless obstacles they navigate unimaginable circumstances and they persevere. Our graduates did not let anything distract from their focus that would have left them wondering what could have happened if they would have finished – instead, they did finish.

The spirit and accomplishment of our graduates reminds me of a poem by Shel Silverstein - Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas:
All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin' in the sun,
Talkin' 'bout the things
They woulda coulda shoulda done...
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little Did.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Rhythms of Change

Changing the way we think about change is important, but trying to understand the underlying rhythms of change is important as well. I did my dissertation on factors that influence the perception of change in community colleges. I reviewed the literature and research on how organizational change occurs and how it is perceived from nearly every angle I could imagine. However, one model of change that really informed my study and anchored my thinking was the punctuated equilibrium model by Tushman and Romanelli (1985).

The researchers described various organizational life cycles and the extent to which they are healthy for the organization. They posit that organizations go through natural periods of equilibrium (very steady periods of little change) that are periodically interrupted by points of punctuation (large-scale change) - taken together, this makes up the foundations of their punctuated equilibrium model. They continue that if the periods of equilibrium last too long, the organization can drift into entropy and decay. Similarly destructive, if an organization experiences too many periods of continuous punctuations, fatigue and negative energy can also lead to drift and decay.

In contrast, a healthy organization can move from a state of equilibrium to punctuation and emerge stronger and healthier as it experiences the next period of relative equilibrium. When the next punctuation occurs, it's generally shorter because the organization is better-equipped to handle it. Over time, as the organization becomes stronger and more effective, the periods of equilibrium are shorter so the punctuations come quicker, but they are less significant because the organization is better equipped to respond and absorb the associated changes. The strength and collective ability that develops within the organizational culture minimizes the effect of staff turnover and other shifts that can decrease momentum and inhibit effectiveness.

The combination of implementing our Strategic Plan and responding to the current enrollment demands seems to have created a period of punctuated activity for us. I am very proud of how faculty and staff are responding during this time and believe we'll emerge from this stronger and more effective than ever. If we maintain our collective focus on our mission of promoting student success and community involvement through a commitment to excellence and a spirit of service, I am confident that the punctuated equilibrium model will come to life for many years to come at MVCC. If you have any thoughts or reflection on this post, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.