Week in the Life
Posted on February 1, 2009
Some weeks are more interesting than others and last week qualifies. On Friday I flew to Dallas where Don Brezinski set up an airport meeting with a very successful alum. Dave (let’s call him) had long been out of touch with us, left the then New Hampshire College to eventually found a hugely successful company, and now in his mid-fifties continues to have leadership roles in various companies.
He is typical of the successful NHC and SNHU graduate that Don and his Advancement staff have been identifying and reconnecting with or, in many cases, connecting with for the first time. It takes time to build these relationships, but they are vitally important to us in a number of ways. Everyone first thinks of financial support and we certainly want and need that kind of help from our alumni, but they can help in many other ways. Alumni can help mentor and eventually place students in internships and jobs. They often have good contacts within organizations where we want a relationship. They can be important “flag carriers” for the university, whether it be for a neighborhood kid starting to look at colleges or in a public policy setting, or in a town-gown issue.
With financial support much harder to come by in these difficult economic times, we can continue to tirelessly grow the pool of successful and engaged alumni and to find ways to make them more connected to the university. In my experience, with engagement and pride often comes financial support as well.
So, after an lively conversation with Dave, I left the airport lounge and caught an evening flight to San Diego. I went there for the annual meeting of the Board (on which I serve) for the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). CAEL is one of the longest serving and most respected organizations working to expand educational opportunities for adult learners. It’s a great Board and the members include university presidents, policy experts, senior executives from companies like Disney and Brunswick Corporation, and heads of national unions such as The Communications Workers of America. Serving allows me to get SNHU at the table and also provides a source of “insider information.” For example, I learned that two of the major for-profit institutions (can’t name them, but one has a stadium and the other rhymes with “Haplan”) are putting a major focus on Prior Learning Assessment, something CAEL really pioneered and that we don’t do well at SNHU. Sadly, I also learned that corporations are making major cuts in their employee tuition reimbursement programs.
Sunday night I flew to Denver, getting in around 2 AM after weather delays. I was there to join other SNHU staff for meetings with ESM, our Denver-based call center vendor that handles much of the inquiry management for SNHU Online. I met with the ESM team dedicated to SNHU and loved their enthusiasm for our school. Indeed, they were recently named ESM Team of the Year for their performance. While at ESM we also met with a marketing firm that specializes in lead management and data mining and also reviewed a new student information system called TopSchool. The trip reaffirmed for me our second strategic goal around systems and processes: we have to make our operations competitive with the best of the for-profits even as we produce superior academic programs and learning experiences.
I flew home on Tuesday in time for Wednesday’s snow day. Thursday was my sole day in the office and anytime I’m away it means digging out from under a pile of snail and e-mail. The day included a lunch meeting with our Board Chair, Mickey Greene, and with an alum who wants to help us better serve veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The highlight of the day however was Thursday night’s prism concert featuring SNHU’s various music ensembles. Professor Rick Cook has transformed our music scene in his very first year here and seeing the range of groups, musical forms, and talent on display was a delight.
Friday was another day in the air with the early S’West flight to Baltimore and onto DC for a meeting with Federal officials to discuss visa issues and our BASHA program. The meeting went exceedingly well, largely because of the good work of Dawn Sedutto in our International Office. Dawn was able to demonstrate the way we conform with visa guidelines and we were able to save a program that serves 100 students at any given time and provides important revenues. After a lunch with an SNHU supporter it was back to Baltimore and the 4:10 flight back to Manchester.
Finally, yesterday, I lunched with three members of the SCED Advisory Board, smart and thoughtful people helping us chart the future for the school, and then hosted a send-off dinner for one of our International Business doctoral students who is headed off to Beijing today to join the staff working on our China initiative.
I woke up this morning feeling so lucky to have my position at SNHU. I began and ended this eight day period with SNHU alumni and supporters, carried the SNHU banner at a national meeting, helped resolve a regulatory problem, learned a lot along the way at CAEL and ESM, visited four states (technically five if you count the Baltimore airport), saw the musical talents of our community on display, had some good meals (clearly working on putting some of those pneumonia-lost pounds back on), and was struck again by the complexity, art, idealism, loyalty, inteliigence, beuracracy, and magic that is higher education.