From time to time, my marketing director comes to my office energized and excited about her job, the college, and the work we do. A lot of times, however, she's discouraged and disgruntled, unhappy with her work. Sometimes she's so discouraged, I wonder if she'll come back the next day. Life can be tough at a community college, and marketing often gets the job of trying to figure out how to generate positive outcomes from seemingly not-so-positive situations.
This week, our marketing director is in terrific spirits. At first I thought it was because she was out of the office working with the people at WEEK Productions. Like her, these people are the creative sort and sometimes creatives just need to be off doing really creative things to feel good. But it was more than that.
The video for commencement is a simple thing-a 12-minute media essay where eight of our students talk about their experiences at ICC. Some of their answers are amusing-we do ask them about their least favorite class-but most of what they had to say illustrated what people at the college do right. These students voluntarily go on camera and tell us what a good job we've done. They talk about faculty who care about them beyond just the class. They talk about the people in our HELP labs who made sure they got an extra boost with their class work. They talk about teachers who made learning fun and who went the extra mile. And they talk about family and friends who had faith in them and held a positive vision for them. After watching these testimonials, hour after hour in the editing process, our marketing director was encouraged and enthused. "This is what I love to do best," she said. "This is what ICC is all about. I wish everyone could hear these stories. I wish everyone could meet these students."
The stories she listened to were about struggle and triumph. The students provided messages of hope, patience, determination-and, yes, great success. Our marketing director told me that at the same time she was doing the video, she was studying a process called "appreciative inquiry." She had inadvertently used the approach in interviewing students, by asking them about favorite teachers, valuable lessons, most memorable moments, and where they liked to hang out at the college. Appreciative inquiry is a process where outstanding futures are created by building on the good that's being done in the here and now. That's exactly what these students did-they built on every moment of success and triumph to get where they were going. And they made it. How interesting and exciting that after all of the classes we teach at ICC, our students have led us to perhaps the most powerful organizational tool of all-asking questions about and focusing on a positive vision of our future. IBI