Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrations of Success

"SCC definitely opens a door that otherwise might not be available for many to step through.  I couldn't afford a four-year program, and the college provided me with a stair step to the bachelor's degree required by the Navy."       Lieutenant Commander Tina M. Cox, '93

"SCC gave me confidence that I was moving in the right direction. It really prepared me for the rest of my education."            Dr. Natalie Greene, '01

These comments from the 2012 and 2013 recipients of the SCC Distinguished Alumni Award and MCCA's Outstanding Alumni Award typify what we hear time and time again from our alumni - opening doors, preparing for one's future, affordability and quality - these are attributes of the SCC experience.

It is estimated that by 2018 the U.S. will need 22 million new workers and that 63% of all jobs will require a college education.  As a starting place, community colleges excel.  In Missouri, 56% of all students completing a four-year degree had their start at a community college.  Community college cost of attendance is, on average, less than half that at four-year public institutions, and 30% of those holding an associates degree earn more than those with a bachelors degree.

As just one example of how prepared SCC transfers to four-year institutions are, the University of Missouri at St. Louis recently reported that SCC transfers to UMSL hold an average grade point average of 3.11 as compared to the average grade point average of UMSL native students of 2.93.  Our students and graduates are prepared - for further education and for careers.

As we count down to our 2014 Commencement it is important to keep a focus on the vital nature of our work and the impact that this work has on the lives of our students through stories, statistics, and the words of our students and graduates themselves.  We should celebrate our success and that of our students and graduates.  Look for more celebrations to follow.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Time Flies

The Present is a Point just passed. ~David Russell
Just yesterday we began a new school year.  I could swear that to be the case.  This morning I glanced at the calendar and noticed that Commencement is 42 days away.  It is cliche to say that time flies.  It is also accurate.  And while we have much to do in the six weeks leading up to assembling to celebrate our graduating students, we will look up one day and be there.
In the coming weeks I will feature several posts that seek to honor the importance of what we do and how we do it, and the significance of the milestones reached by our students on their paths toward completion of whatever goals they have set for their time here at SCC.

Commencement, for many of our students, marks the completion of a goal.  It is also a step on a path, a path that is often filled with struggles, obstacles to be overcome, and challenges to be met.  We should not underestimate the importance of our work in helping students to overcome these obstacles and meet these challenges.  Nor should we take for granted the pride of accomplishment that our students feel upon completing a degree with us.

We help to launch our students to some amazing heights.  They, in turn, give purpose and meaning to what we do.  Let us celebrate this wonderful exchange of gifts in the weeks leading up to Commencement 2014.  Check back here for some of that celebration in these remaining weeks of a school year nearly flown by.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The gift of thank you

Some days as we go through our normal routines we forget how fortunate we are to touch and to be touched by others' lives. Today was a day like that for me until the note below appeared in my e-mail inbox from someone I have not seen or spoken with for 18 years.

I share it here not as a boast or a celebration of me, but as a reminder that each of us has people out there who remember us, learn from us, and add to who they are by having crossed paths with us. And each of us has those people who have had that same impact on us at different times in our lives.

What a remarkable gift it is to take the time to say so.

March 7 is National Employee Appreciation Day. Let me take this opportunity to thank all of my friends and colleagues here at SCC for all of the wonderful work you do every day and the impacts that you have on the lives of those around you.

Hello sir,

I don't know if you remember me, but I worked as a Graduate Assistant as an Assistant Residence Director at Johnson State College as I was completing my Masters at The University of Vermont. One of my practicum rotations during my time there was working directly with you for a semester.

I have thought of you a lot over the years. Just recently, a very dear friend of mine passed. He lived every last bit of his life to the fullest. His passing has prompted me to reflect on the people who matter to me the most now and who mattered the most to me in the past. People who helped me become the person I am today and the people who continue to help me become better.

You, and I hope I told you this at the time, were one of the most pivotal folks in my graduate school experience. In the short time I had the opportunity to work with you, I learned so much from you, and you provided me with such a sense of confidence, inspiration, and passion for Student Affairs. It's funny, my dad every now and then asks me about the Dean at JSC who said "someday he’d be working for you." He knew how much I admired you. Obviously, you were never going to be working for me, but that was what made you special. I will never forget that phrase. As I ventured off into the real world post-education, it meant the world to me that someone I admired so much thought I was off to do great things.

Congratulations, albeit very late, on your role as President at St Charles. The students and staff there are very blessed to have you in their midst. I am envious of the ones who still get to learn from you and work with you, as I am sure the lessons continue to be many.

I have read through a number of your posts, and the Dean and person I remember so fondly is clearly still living his life and serving his community so well. I remember aching for you and your family with the passing of your wife. However, I was very heartened to hear about the family you have continued to built. At the time I knew you, I couldn't imagine having 3 daughters ... but five? Wow.

Well sir ... you may well remember my calling you that and constantly insisting that I did not. I was raised to respect people, particularly those who are so very deserving. Life can work in mysterious ways. The passing of my friend prompted me to reach out to you and tell you that you meant the world to me, and many of the things I learned about you from a leadership perspective and life perspective I still carry with me. And when I read your post about your daughter Mia and the lesson to reach out, the timing of me reaching out to and landing on that particular post is surreal.

I hope this note finds you well. As one of the countless people you have mentored, befriended, led, educated, etc ... I just wanted to make sure I reached out to you like you did you high school guidance counselor and let you know that you very much had a lasting impact on my life. There are many days when I wish I could go back to those times. I honestly cannot believe that 18+ years have passed.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Big Thank You

A glance at the SCC Facebook page after a winter weather event can be depressing.  For some we close too early in such events, for others we close too late.  For some we shouldn't have closed at all, for some we should have closed a full day ahead rather than wait to see what the actual weather and road conditions would be.  For some we did O.K.

I'm not going to engage that debate, particularly where comments infer that there is insufficient concern for safety where closure decisions are concerned.  Suffice it to say that a great deal of attention goes into closure decisions, and that this attention is driven by safety concerns of all faculty, staff, and students.  I would simply ask that we all understand that this has been a challenging winter where the weather is concerned, that it will continue to be a challenging winter, and that we will continue to attend to weather events and travel safety concerns to the best of our ability.

My intent here is to say Thank You to those members of our Facilities and Department of Public Safety staffs who work tirelessly to keep the campus safe all of the time, but particularly during challenging weather events.  I drove to a closed campus this morning to keep a conference call appointment and was greeted by members of our facilities staff who had been working literally all night trying to stay ahead of the snow to be able to reopen campus in a timely fashion for the remainder of classes this week.  And closed or open, our Public Safety staff is here 24/7 to ensure the safety of all visitors to campus.

In our debates about whether a call was too early or too late, whether we should be open or closed, we sometimes forget how hard these people work to make this a safe campus every day, all of the time.  Please thank a facilities or public safety staff member the next time you have the chance.  Their work is largely invisible and utterly vital to everything that we do and our ability to do it in a safe and comfortable environment.

Monday, January 20, 2014

To A Great Spring Semester

Vicky Herbel was kind enough to share this TED Talk video link about leadership used during inservice week. 

It seems a fitting follow-up to my previous entry on leadership as a caring activity and serves as a perfect invitation and reminder to us all that leadership is not a complex and challenging set of skills possessed by the few, but a gift we all possess to be shared with many.

Here's to a fantastic Spring 2014 semester.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Reflections on Leadership in a New year

In a recent flurry of office tidying during this quiet time between semesters I came across a reflective essay on leadership, entitled 'Leadership as a Caring Activity,' that I had written some fourteen years ago.  As I read it with more mature eyes I found myself both challenged and satisfied with how well I have lived up to the lofty goals of leadership set forth in this essay of my relative professional youth. 

I have decided to keep this essay handy as a reminder of what I felt then to be, and still feel to be, the essence of leadership.  It is a fitting New Years Resolution for 2014, if you will.  The essay describes leadership as an exercise in empathy, commitment, compassion, and intentionality.

An excerpt from the concluding section will give the reader a feel for the content of the essay.  For the more curious or hardy souls, I will be happy to share the full essay, too lengthy to post here.  Just send an e-mail request to if you would like to see the full essay.

"These are high aspirations that I have written about.  But they are at the same time daily possibilities.  As much as anything, leadership is about such daily possibilities.  We have opportunities today, tomorrow, and the next day to lead.  Some of those days we will take the opportunity and some we will not.  Opportunities to care are just that - opportunities - they are not mandates or requirements.  My own experience of leadership is that on some occasions leadership is an opportunity, on some it is a challenge, and on some it is sheer obligation.  The moments of leadership through obligation rely on the moments of leadership as opportunity as a guide; the moments of leadership as opportunity rely on moments of leadership through obligation as a rehearsal and a reminder - of why it is important to lead and what good leadership feels like. 

Perhaps what I need to learn most, like most humans, is the ability to sustain and consistently practice the type of leadership that I have described here.  To do so requires adequate self-care around issues of emotional and physical health.  It also requires a commitment to the other and to the ethical ideals of caring.  Here I am reminded of a recent e-mail exchange with a former student, wherein he expressed the hope that things were 'complacent' at the college in his absence (he had been one to address issues directly and felt, I think, that his departure had probably made the college an easier place to be).  My response was to say 'complacent, no; some days I wish for complacent, but most days not.'  This defines the leadership challenge - to welcome the absence of complacency and to embrace opportunities to lead."

I wish us all a non-complacent Spring 2014 and many opportunities to embrace leadership roles as we continue our important work together.

Friday, December 13, 2013