To my friends and colleagues in the College of Continuing Education and Professional Development:
It is that time of year when we take the opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future. Over the past several weeks, I have spent lots of time in reflection on all that I have learned in the past three and one-half years since launching the new College of Continuing Education and Professional Development.
In our conversations, there is a constant theme related to our work together. We are well aware of the number of challenges we have faced together and the changes we have made as a unit. As I look to the future, our success will depend upon our ability to deal positively the challenges we face and rely on our ability to embrace change to support our unique advantage.
As a College, we have – for the most part – embraced change. More times than not, we have made lemonade out of lemons. Not all organizations can do that! However, over the years, I have found that the most successful professional continuing education units look for and actually welcome change.
Recently, an article by Katya Andresen caught my eye and I am struck by how it beautifully describes what we have all experienced as we have grown into the vibrant community we are becoming. Interestingly enough, the article isn’t about education. It isn’t about professional development. It is about butterflies and what we can learn about change from the mystical transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly!
Let’s start from the beginning and what we are learning from scientists.
Until recently, to see the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, scientist would slice open a chrysalis, and peak inside to see the changes. This didn’t bode well for the caterpillar. A new technique, using micro CT, captures cross sections and allows the creation of a 3D model in order to watch the metamorphosis.
What this new method has revealed is rather than having the caterpillar completely dissolve into goo, they found that the caterpillar does not completely fall apart and that parts of the caterpillar only modify themselves in becoming the butterfly. I found this so interesting that I went to the primary source from National Geographic and they described the metamorphous as “the caterpillar’s guts quickly change shape, becoming narrower, shorter and more convoluted. Meanwhile, the tracheal tubes become bigger, although their arrangement barely changes.”
The fact that the caterpillar doesn’t completely go to goo and that, in fact, most of the caterpillar is remodeled is, as Andresen points out, is an apt metaphor for how we deal with change. When we face change, there are parts of us that we “create or grow and parts that we must leave behind.”
Andresen suggests that with change we need to move beyond “matching ourselves to roles that reflect exactly what we did before.” Rather it is making a transformation or “metamorphosing into a future state” much like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
The ultimate take away for Andresen, and I couldn’t agree more is, “the most amazing part of the story of metamorphosis is that the caterpillar comes with everything it needs to become something else. It is equipped to let the past dissolve and prepared to engineer its own future parts.”
That’s what I believe so beautifully describes our college. We have had all that we needed to meet the challenges and make the changes within us all of the time. And we have all that we need within us at this very moment to meet the challenges we don’t even know are out there in 2018 and beyond.
We are strong. We are ready to move forward. And for that I am thankful. You have made this past year a success. And you have made my work worthwhile.
I thank my colleagues in the College for willingness and ability to go through the metamorphosis that have been required in launching our College. And to everyone, Peggy and I wish you a safe and happy holiday and here is to a great 2018.
To read the entire article that lit this fire, please check out the following web site: