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Kirtland. Be the future.

It looks like fun and games, so you might be surprised to learn this is actually planning for the future of Kirtland.  Really!

Strategic Planning at Kirtland develops a direction for future growth and change

Strategic Planning at Kirtland develops a direction for future growth and change

At Kirtland, we spend a lot of time talking about improving the future for our students.  Hey, it’s what we do!  This Week @ Kirtland, we put a different spin on things and spent an entire day talking about the future of the college.  About every five years, Kirtland rounds up all employees – full time, part time, faculty, staff…you name it!  Then we add in some students (you’re what we do…we’ve got to include you!), some community members and a good dose of Board of Trustee representatives and we’re off to the races.  Or to our Strategic Planning Summit, as it were.

With a goal of examining, defining and transforming how we deliver training and programs to our students, it’s important to include everyone in the Kirtland Community because everyone plays an important role in unlocking the college’s future.  Our employees, students and stakeholders ARE the key to our success!

So, we gathered up about 150 participants and the Strategic Planning Summit kicked into high gear.  Led by a group of facilitators, the summit uses something called Appreciative Inquiry (AI) which helps us work together to identify common themes, brainstorm ideas for the future of the college, start collaborating and reach some level of consensus on our direction for the next five years…and beyond!

Brainstorming, collaboration and visions for the future are shared with everyone

Brainstorming, collaboration and visions for the future are shared with everyone

Drums, interviews and skits all came into play.  Pads of paper.  Colored markers.  Even Play-doh.  Sounds a little strange?  Well, the whole AI process is designed to unlock brainpower in order to envision the ways we can be the best college we can be.  AI is a powerful process as it elicits the positive stories and experiences of the participants on both personal and organizational levels.  It facilitates communication and encourages networking between different departments, external stakeholders and students who may not always get an opportunity to interact.

Breaking into groups at tables is step one, and the day’s agenda lays out our course of action.  Each table works together to create visual and word images to set the tone for the next five years and ultimately become a formal strategic plan.  At Kirtland’s Strategic Planning Summit, we pursued five main courses of action:

The power of words and feelings – like the power of positive and making the impossible POSSIBLE.

Discovery:  Motivating experiences – interviewing our colleagues to discover positive experiences at Kirtland.

Dream:  Creating shared images – skits, songs, dance…anything creative to express possible future visions for the institution (and boy, did we see some doozies!  Check out our Facebook photo album for a glimpse at some of our memorable moments!)  And, this creativity led to developing a statement bridging the best of “what is” with “what might be.”

Design:  Making the Dream inevitable – answering the question of how we can make these statements happen, both as a group AND as individuals.

Imagine and Reflection – taking a look back at the crazy, mind-expanding and WOW! moments throughout the day, what challenges we faced and overcame, and what things excited us the most.

“What I love the most about the process is that participants have the opportunity to be part of the process and to determine the future direction of Kirtland,” said Strategic Planning Facilitator Luann Mabarak.  “If you look at the plan developed from our last AI summit five years ago, it is wonderful to see that the majority of it transpired into ideas and practices we are following today at Kirtland.”

Although the summit is over, the individual and institutional growth is far from over.  Over the coming weeks and months, the work of these 17 or 18 powerful teams will be compiled, common themes will be identified and Kirtland will continue to plan and implement action for the future growth of the college.

Summing up the day, Mabarak adds, “Words create worlds and no one person can do it all.  It takes a dedicated team!

An "attitude of gratitude" wrapped up Kirtland's Strategic Planning Session

An “attitude of gratitude” wrapped up Kirtland’s Strategic Planning Session

So…the future looks exciting @ Kirtland.  Accessible.  Transformational.  I think it’s safe to say, Kirtland wrapped up the day with an Attitude of Gratitude.  We are proud – and committed – to serving our students, preparing them for success, and continuing to provide access to relevant, in-demand training and programs for many, many years to come!

To learn more about the programs, advising, testing, financial aid and other services available to students, contact 989-275-5000, extension 284, or visit us online.  And, as always, you are invited to drop in and check us out at, follow us on Twitter at, and like us on Facebook at

Kirtland.  Be the future.