Second Greetings from Clearwater

Greetings from Clearwater, I won’t say much about the weather down here given that nearly all of the US got hit by some sort of cold snap and snow storm.  I will leave it at this: it is really cold by Florida standards, and not so cold by North Dakota standards.

We have finished two and a half days of meetings including the UPCEA Commissions, the UPCEA Executive and Finance Committee, and the UPCEA Board of Directors.  For any readers that aren’t familiar with UPCEA, check out

We have definitely had great meetings, there is no doubt that the leadership of the COPS, the Commissions, the Regions, the Board and the Executive Team are charged and ready to go.  I want to personally thank the leadership of the COPs and the Commissions for their great work.  It is clear to me there are a number of things (e.g., webinars) that are organically emerging in response to the needs of our membership.

In addition, at the Board meeting we had great conversations and moved on a number of important items.  One of those items is that we welcomed our new president elect Tom Gibbons from Northwestern University.  I could not be more pleased to have Tom joining the leadership team, and combined with the insightful intelligence of our current president Judy Ashcroft along with the enthusiasm of our CEO Bob Hansen, heck I can’t miss as the incoming president.

Another item we discussed is the upcoming strategic planning process.  We are at a great point because we are in the process of re-inventing ourselves, and it is my hope and I know that hope is shared by Judy, Tom, and Bob, that we create an open and transparent process where we can receive maximum input.

In discussing the strategic planning process at the UPCEA Board meeting, it was clear that the plan needs to be big and bold.  When asked what big and bold really meant, Board members felt that the strategic planning process outcome should be future looking, should clearly lay out the unique services and expertise we bring to the table, and should clearly show the impact we as an association and as units make on the challenges facing our society. Impact is not necessarily the number of programs we offer but how we have changed the lives of those we serve.

In their book, Engines of Innovation, Thorp and Goldstein provide insight into how universities can become be more entrepreneurial and thus become engines of innovation.  Some of their advice is relevant and I find timely as we go through our strategic planning process.

It is my hope that we think about our impact as an association and units, that we look to how we are impacting those large societal issues we face.  While we can all make a list of these challenges, Thorp and Goldstein suggest the list “would include climate change, communicable diseases, extreme poverty, overreliance on nonrenewable energy sources, environmental degradation, poor water quality, and nuclear proliferation.”  As I think about this list, I am reminded that our upcoming annual conference theme is Doing What Matters. Certainly addressing these challenges is what matters.

Another item mentioned at the Board meeting is that while being bold we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I am confident that, while everything is on the table in this process, we will recognize and retain those jewels we have and create new ones where needed.  Going back to Thorp and Goldstein, they remind us that innovation is not always the big idea but can be a subtle twist to approaching a problem.

The Board was also clear in their conversations that it is imperative that we need to hear from a number of voices in this process.  With this in mind, the original strategic planning process has already been modified to allow for a lengthy and thorough discovery phase, which will include surveys and market analysis.  As suggested by Thorp and Goldstein, “addressing complex problems requires diverse points of view.”

I hope that I’ve reflected the conversations we’ve had about the strategic planning process accurately, I certainly invite others to comment.

As I finish up this discussion about strategic planning, I do want to end with my own editorial comment in terms of the strategic planning process and what I believe will be a driving force of our discussions. I believe these conversations will be about ideas and impact and not simply about structure.  I will close with what consider to be a great quote from Thorp and Goldstein and what I call just one more reminder about leadership: “At bottom it requires leadership that will stay the course with a commitment to creating a culture that places solving big problems ahead of organizational structure, rules, and regulations.”

The Career and Economic Development is off to a great start, two excellent key note speakers.  More on that later, time to go to the beach to look for shells.

Thorp, H. & Goldstein, B. (2010) Engines of Innovation:The entrepreneurial university in the twenty-first century.  The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

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2 Responses to Second Greetings from Clearwater

  1. Sue Nesbitt says:

    Thanks Jim:
    We also appreciate all you contributed to the Commission and Board meetings. You had many excellent insights.

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