Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seattle and SCUP

Me & the Seattle Skyline!

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Seattle, Washington. It was my first visit to Seattle, which is a beautiful city. I was there for the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) conference. Since my entrance into the world of higher education, I've had the opportunity to attend several conferences related to my field. Of all of them, I have found the SCUP conference to be the most rewarding. Attendees are facilities planners, community relations executives, architects, community planners, and more. Sessions vary from demonstrations of particularly innovative facilities on campuses around the world to broad-based thinking and strategizing about the future of higher education generally. It was fascinating.

I had the opportunity not just to attend, but also to present. Westminster's recently completed master plan was featured at the conference, and one of the most rewarding aspects for me was learning that Westminster is quite cutting edge in not just thinking about community involvement in campus planning, but also encouraging innovation and out of the box thinking to create an accessible and affordable college experience for a broad range of incoming students - and then doing something about it. Honestly, I'm incredibly proud of the work we are doing here. If you haven't seen our master plan yet, check it out here! Westminster College Master Plan

An added benefit of my trip to Seattle included the opportunity to visit with some of our amazing alumni. I wanted to share their stories:
  • Ray Bradford graduated in 2007, having served as ASWC student body president. He was accepted into Stanford's MBA program, from which he graduated in 2010. He is now working for Amazon in the Seattle area. As you can see, Ray has had amazing success at a very young age. But what I like most about him? His ability to incorporate pop culture and intellect into his off the cuff witty remarks. Honestly - this guy is funny like Dennis Miller used to be 20 years ago . . . I encourage everyone to attend our next Seattle regional event just to get a moment to hear Ray "wax nostalgic and funny" about his Westminster experiences.
  • Roxanne Mennes is an alumna non-grad. Roxanne came to Westminster from California, and attended for four years, leaving her last semester to attend the University of Utah. She was hoping that would give her a leg up in the psychology ph.d. program there, but eventually she ended up in law school. That's where she and I originally met! Roxanne is now working in the law school at Seattle University. We had a lovely time talking about her Westminster experiences - Hogle Hall life, favorite professors, and friends from that late 80's era. We even learned that there is a network of people at Seattle University with connections to Westminster College!
What's next? We need to get Roxanne and Ray in touch. Not only can they enhance their own network of friends and professionals in the Seattle area that way, but they've both indicated a willingness to assist Westminster in our recruiting and admissions process in the Pacific Northwest area. I'm hoping to create a program that will engage our regional alumni in the work of admissions. There are no greater ambassadors for the Westminster experience than our alumni, and we can enhance the overall well being of the college by sharing our stories far and wide, and particularly with our potential students and their families.
Are you an alumnus from out of state? What would you like from the college? How would you like to be involved??? You can always email me at

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life . . . and The Sound of Music

Clayton Middle School Production
 My daughter is in 7th grade and was recently in a middle school production of The Sound of Music. I saw the play last Friday. Now, you'd think that I would tell you a story about a mother sacrificing her time to sit through something produced by a teacher who doesn't want to be there, with obnoxious kids who are either seriously into theatre or who just want attention. But, this production was none of that. It was truly amazing and of professional caliber.

The entire production  - the multiple sets created or borrowed from the Utah Opera, the costumes tailored to each actor, the vocal abilities of the young actors amplified perfectly by sound and lighting systems - were all surprisingly professional. The family members whom I had dragged to the show to support my daughter were captivated. This was a really good play, every bit as good as something you'd see at the university level. These students had honestly pulled off an amazing - and moving - production. In fact, the play is featured in an upcoming article in the Salt Lake Tribune.

I learned that nearly half of the entire population of this middle school participates in the annual school play. It is a tradition that these students actively seek out, giving up hundreds of hours of time to perfect. At a time in life - middle school - when everyone changes, and popularity becomes a sport, and being cool can be the number one requirement for a good life - all of these kids pulled together to create a truly inclusive community.

I was floored.

And then I was inspired.

These 7th and 8th graders knew that participating in the play would be a life experience they didn't want to miss. They knew that even though they'd be putting in a ton of hours, putting up with other people who might make them crazy, and sacrificing their cool quotient, they'd become part of something bigger.

It struck me that school can be like that. You have a finite opportunity to make a difference, and therefore you have a heightened awareness of your life. Who among us doesn't remember homecoming dances, high school sports teams, winning (or even losing) seasons, a particular teacher or class? We know in middle school, high school and college that these are "times to remember" and so we specifically act in such a way as to make our efforts worth remembering.

So why does that change when we become adults? Are there no more opportunties for personal growth? Have we learned everything we can learn? Are we never going to be part of something "bigger"?

Aren't our efforts worth remembering now???

There is a scene in The Sound of Music in which Maria implores Mother Abbess to let her return to the abbey. The wise nun explains that there are many paths our lives may take, and they can all be meaningful. She tells Maria to "go out and find your life".

Sitting in the darkened theatre, watching these amazing young actors reciting this important line, struck a chord in me. Each one of those kids had auditioned, put in the time, and risked embarrassment or even rejection to be in the play. But they did it. They put themselves out there to start the process of finding their own lives.

Which of course got me thinking about the fact that, as adults, we all continue to have the opportunity to "find our lives". We're living our lives every day, but sometimes it can feel like a treadmill. Are you  honestly living a life in which you're consciously aware? A life in which you find meaning and purpose and beauty? A life that is worth remembering - every day?

I was preparing to facilitate my group session for the Alumni Mentoring Program last weekend, and I came across the poetry of Mary Oliver. I was struck by the last line of her poem The Summer Day, which succinctly and eloquently summarizes everything I've been thinking about and trying to say here. And I challenge you all to really think about it - and then LIVE it - we always have the opportunity to live a life worth remembering.

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

There is Something About Snow

Utah was hit with a spring storm last night, which dropped inches upon inches of fluffy white powder all over campus. Even at the end of winter, and having had a few hints of spring weather, late spring snows have a way of reminding me that the one thing you can count on is that you never know what is going to happen next.

And I have to tell you, there isn't a sight much more beautiful than walking through Westminster's campus just after a new snow. It is a striking balance between bright and sparkling as well as muted and quiet. There is something about the way the snow quiets the world that both calms me and makes me hyper-aware of the beauty in small things - the hint of green under the snow, the color of the stones of Converse Hall.

It reminds me of just how truly lucky I am to spend my days at Westminster College.