Thursday, January 26, 2012

Power of a Vision

I woke up yesterday full of nerves and excitement. It was the one day, every 365 days that I pull my staff together for a "What's Next for Novatek" meeting. Although I'm pumped about the new year and my ideas, I never know if my employees are going to think i'm crazy, cheer in agreement, or nod their heads and leave the ideas at the door.In any case, I was prepared to share my vision of the future with 35 other people, regardless of their opinion. Afterall, these are the people who are going make my vision a reality, so if I was going to share it with anyone, it was them.

I asked my team to close their eyes for a minute, which if you know me, was more like 5, as I read a 3 page description of my vision of the company's future. This vision was created a few years ago, but is tweaked at the end of every year when I spend 1 full day reflecting on the year and looking ahead to the opportunities in the upcoming 12 months. 

In the 24 hours that followed, I received many emails and impromptu hallway conversations commenting on others' thoughts, excitement, and inspiration of that vision. It made me remember a time when I was moved and inspired by another leader's vision...

It was spring of 2007, I was invited to Clarkson's Board of Trustees meeting and first presented with Tony Collins' Master Plan for the Clarkson campus. It was ambitious. It was bold for the traditionally conservative campus. It was transformative and incredibly exciting!

Over the next 5 years, I watched Tony's vision become a reality.

I watched the freshman quad transform with the addition of a 4th floor...
I watched the students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors rally around the vision of a Student Center...
The addition of the Technology Advancement Center...
The renovations in the ERC...
And when I return this spring, I will see a renovated Moore House with more spacious suites, single rooms, and air-conditioned apartments.If you haven't been back to campus, you might not recognize it in another few years!

What's Next?
The Woodstock apartments will also be renovated, adding more beds per apartment, single rooms and energy efficiency, with a more appealing Adirondack look. Greek and theme housing will be developed southwest of the Townhouse Apartments to accommodate fraternity and sorority living as well as theme group functions with 20 beds per house. Congdon Hall will be restored for use as a residential facility. Two wings will be added to Cheel Campus Center.

To really get an idea of all the changes, and take a virtual tour, visit to see completed projects and status of all planned projects. It's incredible!

And it's not just the physical campus that is transforming. Since joining the Board, I've witnessed some other major improvements. Here are some highlights of the growth and success also included in that vision...
  • Fall 2011 brought the largest incoming freshman class at 790 students! A lot of work was done to accommodate this large class. Five years ago, in 2006, Clarkson had 599 incoming freshman.
  • A 37% increase in females from Fall 2010 to Fall 2011
  • First year student retention rate is at 94.6%  vs. 90 - 92% retention rate of peer institutions and 65-73% average retention of all colleges and Universities
  • A budget was approved for Greek and Theme Housing. 3 fraternities have expressed intent so far.
  • Recruitment and applications are increasing on the West Coast, particularly in California and Washington
When young alumni here about the campus transformation, I often hear "Go figure, right when I leave" or I am asked, "why didn't that happen when I was there?" There is a jealously or bitterness that the students today have it better than we had it when we were there. My response? THANK GOD! 

Each leader has a different vision and different priorities. This so happens to be Tony Collins' vision. I am proud that the campus operates under his leadership and vision. Without it, the campus would still be stuck in the 70s. And let's be honest, whether we like it or not, students these days demand 21st century amenities and luxuries. The fact that the campus is adapting to meet these needs makes me proud. Proud that Clarkson will still attract the top high school talent. Proud that Clarkson will maintain a placement rate of 99% and proud that Clarkson graduates will still uphold the strong reputation that the alumni have worked so hard to create. 

To learn how you can be a part of this success, visit: