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Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

I

n August, 400 people gathered in Argosy Gym at Champlain College for a two-day Summit

to envision the future. As members of all Champlain’s extended community – employers, trustees, government officials, community members, students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff found their seats, there was an air of excitement in the room.

Dave Finney, President, Champlain College, welcomed everyone and outlined our mission: to develop ways of… Building partnerships for a thriving workforce and fostering economic development in the state of Vermont Honorary Chair of the Summit, Bob Stiller, Chairman of the Board of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, (GMCR) offered his experience using the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach and how it helped GMCR identify growth opportunities. He credits it with being a key component of GMCR’s success and one that could be transferred to higher education and Champlain’s goals to be a part of the Vermont workforce’s growth and success.

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

The task ahead – use the collective experience of 400 people to “Imagine Vermont in 2020 – a place still stunning with its green mountains, blue lakes and commitment to social values. A place alive with vibrant, creative new industries. A Vermont where the workforce is a dynamic, living system offering easily accessible employee development; a pool of top-level talent and a place innovative companies want to be.

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

A little background on the process was offered. For three months in advance, a planning team prepared for Champlain’s first Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Summit. At the Summit, Lindsey Godwin, a faculty member in our Business of Division, explained that Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach to a strengths-based and whole system change model. She explained that AI seeks to build a constructive union between people and the entirety of what people talk about as past and present capacities: achievements, assets, unexplored potentials, innovations, strengths, opportunities, high point moments – and visions of valued and possible futures.

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

Appreciative InquirY deliberately links the energy of strength-based thinking to any change agenda resulting in changes never thought possible that are then suddenly and democratically mobilized. With the facilitation of leader Judy Rogers, the group set off on its journey to conceive of a new future and realize the Summit’s objectives to: Positively impact the future economic vitality and sustainability of Vermont Envision a new learning and career opportunities model for Champlain College students, alumni and employer partners to ensure that they all thrive in mutual support over the life of their careers and businesses Plan the steps to initiate and successfully launch this model Invoke the energy and commitment to build and sustain this innovative model

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

There are four cycles of inquiry in an Appreciative Inquiry approach to change. The phases are called: Discovery, Dream, Design and Deliver. For the “Discover” phase the large group became four smaller groups. The yellow group was asked to consider the following question: “We are all part of the Champlain stakeholder community, and we have come together to consider how we may drive the economic vitality of the state of Vermont. We want to enable employers to get the top talent and ideas and to offer the highest level of support to Champlain College students and alumni in leveraging their education career success.” Describe an experience you have had with Champlain College that was a highpoint experience for you. What does the experience tell you about the values of the College? What values and characteristics are unique to Vermont and so significant that they should be a part of whatever we create together?

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

The red group was asked to: Share high point experiences from being a part of innovative and adaptive culture at Champlain College. The stories we heard from the report-outs helped us identify key elements of innovative and adaptive cultures. The “blue group” was asked to: Share high point experiences from being part of a successful partnership in which people were able to learn and adapt by collaborating. We learned about many effective partnerships that exist throughout Vermont and the reasons why these partnerships were so successful.   What quality partnerships will best support our efforts as we begin to design and implement a revolutionary career-opportunities model for Champlain College and employer partners that will benefit our workforce and ensure future employment opportunities?

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

The orange group, which was also the largest, was first asked to: “Imagine Vermont in 2020. It is still stunning with its green mountains, blue lakes and commitment to social values, but also alive with vibrant, creative new industries. The workforce is a dynamic, living system where employee development is easily accessible, top level talent is easy to find, and innovative companies are eager to establish themselves in Vermont.” With that in mind, imagine a partnership model that supports this thriving workforce: it was originally envisioned by a group of Champlain College stakeholders convened in 2011 and has grown way beyond the original “sketch” created by the group. Describe this model and how it might offer something truly new to Champlain students and alumni, the workforce and employers in Vermont and beyond.

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

After a brief break, we gathered with others from similar “stakeholder groups” – employers, alumni and parents, Board of Trustees, students, friends of the College, government and community groups, faculty and staff. Each group worked together to develop “big picture” ideas that would benefit their particular group and others.

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

Employers, government officials, representatives from the non-profit community, friends of the College, members of the Board of Trustees, and Trustee Emeriti “discovered� additional resources and shared their innovative ideas including: Longer term/fulltime internships Utilizing Appreciative Inquiry Summits as a regular method of bringing stakeholders from all over the state together to design solutions for statewide challenges Creating an entrepreneurial institute

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

At the end of the first day, we embarked on the “Dream” phase of the Summit. Groups were asked to imagine and define the future they envisioned and wanted to work toward: “A highly innovative career model that involves a network of the extended stakeholder community of faculty, staff, students, employers, students, alumni, and the state of Vermont.” Each group presented its ideas to everyone in the room and the enthusiastic sharing brought a buzz of energy to the end of the day.

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

Among the shared ideas: Phone apps that provided instant access to learning solutions Creative ways students could apply their learning (including learned social/communication skills) in workplaces all over the world and throughout their four-year experience How Champlain might introduce a college education as a viable option to school children who do not consider higher education an option Ways Champlain might further assist alumni with their life and career transitions Strategies to work with Vermont employers that would help them maintain a competitive advantage by means of flexible workforce hiring and development solutions

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

And one forward-looking group was challenged with designing a plan to help Champlain College and its many partners move the good work from the Summit forward.

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

Day Two The second day began with the Design phase of the Appreciative Inquiry Champlain Summit. The task ahead – develop prototypes for the ideas that had surfaced on Day One. The key elements of rapid prototyping were explained and the groups began work. The task? Take the most promising ideas from the brain-storming and build and design a “prototype” of it that could be facilitated by the College to help realize these new visions. The prototypes needed to support at least one of the six key “opportunity areas” that surfaced on Day One: Embedded Learning Champlain as a Strategic Resource to Business Toppling the Ivory Tower: Rethinking Curriculum & Delivery Lifelong Engagement People Opportunity Matching Sustaining the Summit

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

The ideas formed and included topics such as: Thought leadership think tanks Identifying the needs of small businesses, specifically around businesses having easy access to a strong pool of employees and ongoing employee development options A new process for statewide networking Intentional embedded learning in and out of the classroom

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

More ideas flowed:

Flexible schedules and curriculum for students Developing students as global citizens Engaging in learning for a lifetime (K-60), and Using data as a tool for meaningful relationships

Champlain College Summit

Building Partnerships for a thriving workforce!

We developed initial action plans in order to move the ideas from the Champlain Summit forward – looking for immediate, intermediate and long-term priorities to help shape the steps ahead. The latest update can be found at http://www.summit.champlain.edu

Sincere thanks to the many people who devoted their time and energy to making our summit a success. Special thanks to Bob Stiller who had the vision to see how impactful an AI Summit could be for Champlain College and Vermont.


Champlain College Summit