I spent the bulk of last week creating interactive thank you emails to our corporate partners. Each email summarizes how the corporate partner helped us offer students a new experience, how that experience is designed to change them and how it is consistent with the values of our benefactor. This is something I do personally. I don’t delegate this to someone on my staff even though I know several people who would do a competent job. Why do I do this myself? Because no one else can tell our partners how critical their contributions have been to my effort to transform the college.
Let me explain. When I came to the college five years ago, we were insular and offered a very transactional experience focused on basic skill transfer. We taught courses. Students either came or watched them via lecture capture. Knowledge was assessed in our testing center. There were a few pockets of excellence in the college that offered something different—professional sales, the launch pad, sports business— but for the most part, you could get through the college without ever stepping out of your comfort zones, experiencing something different, or having a conversation with a business professional or prospective employer about your future.
But business is done in the real world. It is an activity. What you “know” is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for success. Ultimately, business is about what you do. What you achieve is about more than knowledge, it is also a function of the size and nature of the professional network you can draw on for assistance, the portfolio of experiences that shape your mindsets, how you can recognize and connect dots quicker than others and your willingness to try and risk failure.
To become the college I envisioned, we needed mechanisms to have conversations with the community, invite them to be a part of us, and engage our students in a wide variety of experiences that would expand their horizons, help them make good choices about their futures, and give them the mindsets to compete with anyone, anywhere. Over the past five years we have gone about doing just that—building partnerships that would transform us and our students.
In writing the many thank you emails I did last week I was struck by just how critical the totality of these partnerships have become to the life of the College. It is the accomplishment I am most proud of over the last five years. In 2011-2012, the year before I came, the College touched 862 students and members of the community through our events and activities. This year, that number is 30,000. Yes, you read that right. Those interactions include student to community as well as faculty to community interactions. It is not just that activity is up. Conversations are way up. Positive restlessness on our many advisory boards is way up. Study abroad is way up. Job shadowing is up, Internships are going up. Post-graduation prospects are going up. If you don’t believe me, come spend a day with us.
The time, treasure and talent our corporate partners provide are instrumental to the college we have built and the transformations we plan in the coming years. If you are a student or faculty member engaging in one of these many interactions and you spot one of our corporate partners, stop by and thank them for all their support. We couldn’t do what we do without them.