Navigating the Future’s Most Challenging Intersections: An Anchor Mission Playbook

11/01/2018 21:04

Last April, one hundred invited participants from Chico State, the College of Business, and the community gathered at FutureWork Symposium to discuss a range of topics, including work, technology, ethics, philanthropy, and social equity. How did these all these pieces fit together to enable the creation of strong, engaged communities?  How could attendance at a single symposium help us design a future in which we can thrive economically, socially, and personally?

Recently I touched base with friends who are activators and change makers in Chicago.  One of them, Kevin, who had just been hired into a newly created leadership position in a premier Chicago institution, directed me to its extensive Anchor Mission Playbook. More than a business plan, incorporating more elements than many of us are used to seeing circulated publicly and often even privately, it covers the social responsibilities inherent in being an anchor institution within a community.

Later I found it had its roots in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, and that there's now a version specifically created for universities and colleges. This approach offers a template to ensure institutional vitality and relevance in any context, assuming there are changemakers willing to lead the charge. In education, struggling as we do through the pros and cons of various learning strategies and methods, we realize that business drivers weigh heavily into the equation of what educators can offer students. Business factors also enter into how effectively we can teach in alternative learning environments, for example, online platforms vs. real time engagement. As institutions establish themselves as anchors in  ever-expanding communities and regions, so does the flow of funding anchor its very existence. Thus, our FutureWorks Symposium and related meetings made headway into a future waiting to be born here in the North State. 

In a recent article coming out of Stanford, Andrew Hoffman notes that business leaders and business school educators may play a role in the nurture of good business practice and the positive transformation of society, but “[b]usiness’s capacity to transform society is only as great as the schools that train its future leaders. This demands that business schools reform their vision to promote values of business serving society in order for students to see business as a true calling rather than simply a career.”

Ready or not, in the classroom, teaching courage in the face of complexity is part of what we’re called to do.  The FutureWork Symposium offered us an opportunity to sharpen our collective vision and understand more of what teaching requires of us today. For this I can only say, “Wow. Thank you!” to Peter Strauss, Colleen Robb, Mitch Casselman, and the other professors and participants involved for taking a brave and necessary step.

A Few Other “Anchoring” COB Projects, Conversations, and People of Note

Newer faculty may not be aware of some current ongoing efforts, and ongoing conversations happening. Here are a few of them.

Two courses I teach have aspects that intersect with legal studies, and all classes have crucial conversation components. Bonnie Persons, Jack Hames, Michael Polsan and Randy Bettencourt, at various times, have talked with me about meeting the needs of diverse students and stimulating engaging classroom discussion. We may walk a fine line when speaking of opinions and ideas versus laws, rights and regulations. Doing it well in class discussion means fairly considering the viewpoints of others. While this may be easy for some, it likely isn't for all. This semester I applied myself to the challenge of engaging students on more controversial topics, following certain rhetoric rules encapsulated in the accompanying image (It’s not perfect, and requires some clarification, but everyone understands and relates to it.)  I’ll let results, submitted on Sept. 16 in the form of an invited reflection from my students, speak for the overall value of the ideas shared between us. It's worth noting that this represents virtually all the responses on the topic of crucial and challenging in-class conversations:

“Not only do I find it interesting to talk about educated/logical arguments, but I enjoy an open and honest discussion. Beyond…interesting, it is…crucial to keep people talking through their differing opinions, especially in today’s divided world. For future reference, please keep encouraging open, educational, respectful conversations…maybe the conversation will end on ‘agreeing to disagree’ but at least we will hear one another out. I encourage you to keep pressing this issue.”

One more comment of many that made me very happy: "Of all that we learned, I found the crucial conversations and all the levels of opinions and arguments in these situations to be the most fascinating among the topics we covered."

Once I am finished patting myself on the back for taking good advice and breaking the wall of class silence early in the semester, the device in Fig. 1 is in my office and available for rental, first come first served. We all deserve recognition for something, right? And we should not need to whine for it. Not that we would. But still, it's nice to bask in the warmth of recognition, and self-sufficiency is always a plus.


Did you know that you can get ongoing advice, information, and even training through Faculty Development (FDEV) to help you figure out next steps in your growth as an educator?

Yes, you can even find within its hallowed spaces a nice place to take a break, think, or whatever you need to do to get through a given day. FDEV has become ever more relevant through the years. Joe Liu has joined the current cohort of educators in this semester's development program for teaching practices.  I asked him if he learned anything new he could share with all of us, and Joe replied that he intended to try  "the 'pause procedure,' which is a two-minute stop every fifteen minutes or so to let students review their notes and ask clarifying questions."  Sounds like a good idea, and if you happen to have any other hints up your sleeve, or have learned anything new that could be valuable to the rest of us, please let me know. 




One of the strengths of the BSIS program which newer faculty may not realize, is that they are a leading ERP-based business program.

In 1996, Chico State became SAP’s first university partner in North America in what would later become the SAP University Alliance Program. Leading universities and their business partners worldwide recognize the ERP-based pedagogy provided at CSU, Chico as a current best practice. The College of Business and the BSIS Department also operate one of six global SAP University Competence Centers. The Chico academic hosting operation serves the needs of more than 170 universities throughout North and South America and more than 100,000 students annually.

I asked Tom Wilder a few questions about how SAP education offers an advantage to our students, as these days SAP has a few competitors.  “We use SAP as a tool to reinforce business concepts,” he replied.  “We teach how information systems [generally] support functional roles and business processes like Fulfillment, Procurement and Production. Students learn the process, and then get reinforcement on it by doing it on the system. This translates to any ERP system, large or small. In fact, Workday has hired, and continues to hire our students. They appreciate that our students understand both the business processes and how the back end of an ERP System works.”

This, Tom adds, provides a significant advantage in helping students visualize and better understand the precedent relationship of two activities. “Understanding one tool won’t make you dependent on it, but will allow you to see how a tool works to support the function.” Finally, Tom would like to highlight the following: "SAP Hosting Center has materials available in just about every functional area to use in the classroom. If a faculty member would like to use SAP to support what they are teaching to show how an ERP system handles business processes, the center can help them get the materials they need and show them how to use them. It is amazing the reaction that the industry partners have when they see that our students know how ERP works in any of the areas. When in doubt, feel free to ask!"

In related news, Chair of the BSIS Department, Dalen Chiang, shares that they are working to add a new option, a Business Analytics in BSIS degree. They are aiming for Fall 2019 to accept students into this new program. Best of luck to you and your team, Dalen.

Speaking of teams, we have great ones scattered throughout the COB. David Agoff reports on the latest from the team he advises, The Management Club, where every event attracts a full house.

"The Management Club was fortunate to have Walmart General Manager, Darwyn Jones present on the topic of Successful Interviewing," reports David. "Darwyn shared valuable tips and practical insights into having a successful that gets you the job. That includes being prepared, having a positive attitude, a good smile and handshake, knowing yourself, and being well prepared trhough company research." Congratulations to The Management Club, whose numbers have grown steadily for several semesters. That tends to happen when teams work together supported by strong advice along the way.

Finally, no blog is complete  without a snake or similar story, so Bonnie Persons is letting me tell hers.

It's a good thing a picture (below) is worth a thousand words, because Bonnie wants to be sure that, in the accounting to follow, she does not come off like a hero OR a villain. We may protest the latter, but her point is well taken. Perhaps we each hold a bit of both hero and villain in our all-too human form.  What can one say when one forces an unwelcome relocation on the part of a rattler who is merely going about his work, and so low to the ground? We can only imagine how the surprised and captive creature must feel about this perturbance in the natural order of his world. (Who is picking me up? Why?) I can assert that, were I to tell this story, Bonnie would be a heroine, and deeply embarrassed by my insistence on this point; for with exquisite care and forethought, she gently moved the interloper on her Estate to someplace where it could do less harm. Here, I must step aside and let Bonnie recount her story as she sees fit:

"He squirmed and was a little uncomfortable. We both were unharmed in the process. He was super mellow and calm. I was safely relocating him to somewhere he would no longer have chance encounters with dogs, etc. I think he will miss the fat frogs in the pond. Or perhaps he has already slithered home. I could not figure out how to blindfold him."

To which I am moved to respond, in the words of my first boss at Novartis, and  possibly echoing the thoughts of other readers....


"We are special people, brought together at a special place in time, to do special, even great things."

Stay great, everyone...the world needs greatness. Use the tools given you wisely, and with care, for we, too are forces of nature in the eyes of those looking up at us.