Following the initial success of recruiting ideas for strategic planning by asking folks to send comments to the webpage http://www.grinnell.edu/future, we continued inviting ideas concerning Grinnell College’s future by creating an email account, email@example.com as a repository for ideas. From that account Angela Voos, Special Assistant to the President, and I broadcast an invitation for additional thoughts about strategic planning. The responses, now exceeding 200 (not including the thought-provoking idea called “out of office reply”) are too numerous to post on the webpage. Some ideas, either in original or in merged form, will become more well-known as our conversations continue. Rather than recite the various ideas that have been submitted so far, I am attempting to understand how key terms, such as “growth,” “career,” and “adaptability” are defined and re-defined by the ideas arriving from our community. Consider growth. Early in our campus discussions the salient meaning of growth was “increasing in size or number,” specifically by re-calibrating the size of the student body for reasons ranging from sharing our excellence with more students to sharpening economic efficiencies. The question of the optimal size of the student body was assigned to one of our working groups, called the enrollment group, chaired by Associate Professor of History Pablo Silva, where the discussion continues to percolate. Meanwhile, ideas arriving via firstname.lastname@example.org evoke another sense of growth: reproduction. This derivation of growth has Grinnell reproducing itself by founding a satellite campus (e.g., in China); by offering more off-campus sites for internships and other experiences (e.g., New York); by locating centers for alumni and students to work throughout the world (e.g., New Orleans, Haiti); and by enhancing alumni networks in major U.S. cities. Increasing in size and reproducing are not mutually exclusive options. Grinnell could do one or the other, neither, or both. But as the process of creative thinking goes forward I detect a third meaning of growth that emerges from the ideas. These ideas configure growth as maturity, or the development of our college community into a more complex form. The maturation of Grinnell centers on an expansion of what it means to be a member of the community. For example, we distinguish between our current students and our past students. Several of the ideas regarding planning suggest that the distinction be dissolved. They suggest a greater synergy between alums and students as well as alums and faculty. Proposals include alumni teaching seminars, short courses, and workshops; opportunities for alums to take courses and participate in “alumni college;” as well as alumni-hosted student internships; an alum in residence program; and a retirement community to draw alumni back to the town of Grinnell. These ideas evoke an image of new energy flowing through Grinnell’s human network, and suggest that we may grow into a more complex form resulting from transactions that call to mind one meaning of the term alumni, to nourish or be nourished.
– David Lopatto (email@example.com)