Features & Perspectives

Lakeland currently is responding to what is called an adaptive challenge. That kind of challenge is systemic, caused by a major change in our environment. Of course, the change in our traditional program is the dramatic drop in the number of 18-year-olds born to families with the financial means to attend private colleges and universities.

In Lakeland's Evening, Weekend & Online (EWO) program, meanwhile, the change affecting us is the quadrupling of competitors over the past 15 years.

Adaptive challenges demand adaptive work; that is, we must employ different work strategies and even processes. Here at Lakeland, we are adapting our work in several ways to stem declines in traditional and EWO numbers this year, then increase those enrollments over the next four years.

Among the initiatives that will spark a turnaround in our traditional student enrollment is the expansion of experiential courses (internships) into more comprehensive cooperative education experiences, first in selected business and science disciplines as a pilot. Growth in EWO is expected due to exciting new programs in organizational leadership and nursing, subject to internal and HLC approval.

But something else should accompany these innovative strategies. I believe we must also be willing to adapt our "normal" processes to accommodate the needs of prospective and current students. In the final analysis, a university-wide commitment to such adaptive work may well determine our future.

What I mean by this is that our first answer to a student problem should always be, "how can I help or get or keep this student enrolled?" rather than concluding that some human's needs cannot be met because Jenzabar has not been programmed to accommodate the solution.

Though inconvenient in our already busy work lives, we need to adapt to these challenges by ensuring that our systems serve human needs, rather than determine our human responses to challenges that arise.

I realize that I'm preaching to the choir, and I am grateful for all of your extra-mile efforts to help solve student problems. However, I think we have to remind each other of this adaptive reality from time to time.