The Vision Thing

Campus way-finding tower at Washington mall downtown campusWelcome to the first entry on my President’s Blog. We have so many excellent conduits for communication at LCC, but I have found that a longer-format medium such as a blog is an excellent way to communicate longer or more nuanced ideas. My first installment will address the question I have been asked most often since I arrived here at LCC: “What is your vision for the college?”

It’s a fair and important question, and I have three answers. I outlined these ideas in my Fall Kickoff speech. It seems appropriate that these three “visions” would be the subject of my first edition of the President’s Blog.

The first vision is near term, and that is to lead our college through this public health crisis with the safety of our students, faculty, and staff as the top priority. The vision is to keep COVID off our campuses, and to keep our LCC people safe and healthy. I want our campus community to know that we are already leaders in this area. I routinely benchmark the strategic approach to COVID-19 at other colleges and universities, and I have yet to see a more comprehensive, safety-oriented approach than our LCC Business Resumption Plan. If you have not had a chance to review this plan, I urge you to do so. The dedicated professionals at LCC who crafted this document have assembled a people-first strategy that places equity, health, and safety at the center of every resumption procedure. Our approach to the Fall semester is conservative, and we are already seeing the wisdom in this plan as colleges and universities retrench and revise their optimistic views of what they had hoped the Fall would look like.

My medium-term vision for LCC is that we prepare to help our region recover from the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Community colleges were built for this moment. Our deep involvement in workforce and corporate training, regional economic development, and affordable pathways to university transfer will be crucial for the communities we serve as they recover. Our community will need us more than ever as the regional economy recovers from this historic impact, and we need to be ready when it does. Our existing vision statement is “serving the learning needs of a changing community.” Well, our community is changing dramatically, and the great responsibility of being needed is ours. As we emerge from this crisis, Greater Lansing will need us, and we need to stay healthy and be prepared to meet those needs in the future.

Finally, on the topic of a long-term vision, I’d like to take the opportunity of my first address as President to plant a seed. One thing I’ve learned in my short time at LCC is that we are already a leader. We have already been recognized for excellence, innovation, state-of-the-art facilities, and gorgeous campus environments. Our cutting-edge training programs have already brought us recognition as the #2 Technical College in the Nation. In 2019, we were one of only five colleges in Michigan eligible to apply for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. I know what a big deal the Aspen Prize is: I am proud to be an Aspen Presidential Fellow, and I have served as a site visitor for the Prize, which is by far the most prestigious recognition a community college can achieve.

Given our college’s great leadership, what is next for us? Could we be named the #1 Technical College? Could we make the Top 10 list for Aspen Prize, or win it and earn the distinction of being the best community college in the country? I believe questions like these will inform the long-range vision for our college. And I know this: that vision will involve our culture, and teaching, and learning, and creating more equitable student learning outcomes. It will involve moving the needle on social mobility for our students and their families. It will involve building resilience to respond to the NEXT major disruption in our future. In the coming months and years, I will be engaging in dialogue to focus and distill our aspirations as a college. What do we want our future to look like? How would we like to be perceived and recognized? Again, we are already a leader. But I can feel something bigger on our horizon. And while we are focused on moving through the pandemic safely, the time to start visioning for this big future is now.

I can feel something bigger on our horizon. And while we are focused on moving through the pandemic safely, the time to start visioning for this big future is now.