Monday, August 25, 2014

Branch Campuses and the Planting of Seeds

A couple of years ago I wrote a post for my Creating the Future blog, titled “Coaching, Consulting, and the Planting of Seeds.”  If you are interested, you can find it at

I mention it because four years into my encore career I’ve found myself feeling more and more as if planting seeds has been the underlying significance of almost everything I’ve done.  I enjoy the variety of professional activities that fill up my days, from consulting, coaching and speaking, to writing my blog posts and (at long last) finishing my book on branch campuses.  Looking back, I also enjoyed teaching and administration, which surely are seed planting endeavors. 

I maintain that the mission of branch campuses is access and outreach, providing opportunities for students to pursue their dreams.  Although online programs may be changing things, branches often are the best option for place bound students who want to continue their education, suggesting to me that branches are places where seeds are planted and their growth nurtured.

I don’t mean to be melodramatic here, but typically we don’t know the long-term outcome of our work.  (We don’t experience the harvest, to continue the metaphor.)  In fact, we may be planting seeds without even knowing we are doing so, especially as we affect the development of our institutions, contribute to our communities, and teach our classes.

Awhile back, a former colleague sent me an email, telling me the story of a fellow he met who had started his college education at Ohio State Mansfield.  This student went on to professional and financial success, but he told my friend that it was my general psychology course that turned him around and got him moving in the right direction.  That was great to hear, of course, but the truth is that I don’t remember this student at all, and I have no idea how a general psychology course could have had that type of impact.

Most educators have these types of stories, and I wish we heard more often how our work has mattered.  It’s a little scary, though, because we also know that students sometimes hear a message we didn’t even intend to deliver!

I’ve often said that we know education transforms lives, but on branch campuses we see the impact in especially dramatic ways.  It is a fine thing to plant seeds and nurture their growth.  It makes a difference to students, to their families and to their communities, even if we sometimes feel unappreciated or frustrated by the hurdles put in front of us by people who just don’t get it.

By the way, on the subject of planting seeds, I continue to hear encouraging feedback on my book, Out on a Limb:  A Branch Campus Life.  In this context, what has been most gratifying has been hearing from campus leaders who bought copies for co-workers and are holding discussions around the chapter topics, as well as some who have persuaded their president or provost to read the book and consider the ideas around program development and finance.  Out on a Limb is available through Amazon in paperback ( or on Kindle (

Tell your friends!