I spent most of last week in St. Charles (the one in Illinois, not Kansas), participating in a workshop along with several of my colleagues from Highland Community College (the one in Kansas, not Illinois.) The AQIP Strategy Forum was held at the Q-Center and conducted by our accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission. We spent several hours conversing, converging and occasionally arguing with one another, in the most respectful manner possible, of course. In between, we enjoyed some mighty fine food and slept in the tiniest rooms I’ve ever seen outside of a monastery. As our academic V-P quipped, “The rooms are so small you have to go outside to change your mind.”
In the larger rooms where we met, we did change our collective minds a time or two and managed to conclude our fifteen exercises in a very impressive fashion according to one of the two facilitators. Over the course of the week, she said several things about which we were somewhat skeptical. We managed, however, to end up with a plan of sorts about things that we thought might improve HCC and were looking forward to being back home in Kansas by late Friday afternoon.
A small disturbance Friday morning at the FAA building in Chicago disrupted our anticipation somewhat. Funny how a little fire or two can shift so many people’s plans in such a short time, especially when that fire affects air traffic control for two major airports in a hub city. With the news that all flights at both airports were being cancelled, held up or otherwise importuned, our group quickly concurred with the idea of seeking alternate transportation.
Through some nimble facilitation by our student services V-P, we ended up taking a minivan back. So, instead of getting in a limousine at twelve-fifteen, we enjoyed the “We’ll pick you up” aspect of Enterprise car rental and headed out of St. Charles around noon. It was a pretty nice minivan and our V-P did all the driving. The legroom was comparable to what we would have had on the airplane and the in-flight service was only slightly less indulgent. We got a pretty close look at a good segment of the plains and prairies of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri and made it back to St. Joseph by around seven-thirty or so.
Thanks to more nimble arranging by the student services V-P, a couple of helpful souls had picked up the College van from the airport in Kansas City and had it waiting in the most remote corner of the parking lot at Menards. Our tech programs director returned the rental van to the airport and picked up his own vehicle while the rest of us continued our way across the river. I was home by eight-thirty, only a couple of hours later than I would have been by the original flight schedule.
No one in the group grumbled about the tight leg space or the extra hours of travel, no one complained about the frustration or aggravation. So far as I could tell, we all made a pretty good effort to make the best out of a situation that was other than what we had expected or desired. That might be the best thing that we brought back from the conference. It would certainly be a good thing if we made a commitment to responding to future disappointments in similar fashion.