Saturday, February 23, 2013

and improved

Our college is nearing the end of a first stage of a strategic planning process. Over a year of small and large group meetings with students, faculty, staff, alums, parents, funders, etc. have produced a 16-page document which articulates our strengths and vision and the challenges we face (like the January Moodys industry outlook below) we face. I was part of a some conversations but had nothing to do with larger process.

Until this week when, somehow, I ended up the point person for "the document." At a faculty meeting last week the dean distributed the latest draft and invited faculty to step forward to help revise it. I don't remember stepping forward, though I did send a page of suggestions; I guess everyone else stepped back. In any case, at a mini-retreat yesterday, while other faculty and staff giddly explored new directions, I got to anchor the "document table." Some colleagues who'd helped tweak the document earlier in the week joined, too.

We fixed a lot. The change I'm happiest about is in a sentence about what makes our signature seminars so important.

Before:  
students speak naturally and frequently about critical thinking as fundamental to what they learn here, about seminar dynamics that include having their ideas challenged by peers, and about the high level of engagement in the class.
After:
students speak frequently about critical thinking as fundamental to what they learn here, about seminar dynamics that include having their ideas challenged and improved by peers, and about the excitement of collective inquiry, experimentation and discovery.

While still wordy, I think that makes clear why we do what we do. It's not just about critical thinking, challenge and engagement for their own sake, not just about individual exploration and ideas, but about discovery and building things together, about better ideas.

Finding the right words won't address the larger problems identified in the Moodys report, but at least they make clear why our chatty and labor-intensive approach is worth fighting for. Back to you, dean!

No comments: