You don’t need a calendar to know September has arrived at Medicine Hat College.
The unmistakable sensations of college life range from the buzz of conversation in hallways to the faint aroma of chemicals in the science wing, all wonderful reminders that the semester has begun.
Among the sights and sounds of the past two weeks I saw one thing that helped solve a bit of a management puzzle that had been bouncing in my head this summer.
I’ll describe the puzzle first.
I had been trying to reconcile conflicting pieces of information about the impressions people have of Medicine Hat College.
One source, research we commissioned to learn more about the regional economy and how we can play a role, included comments from people who noted we ought to promote features like small classes and quality faculty. The second source I have is a text on managing education that says Canadians already know that colleges offer small classes and quality faculty.
That made me wonder if it makes sense to promote features of the college that, apparently, people already know we have.
To complicate matters a bit more, I started thinking about the meaning of words like “small” and “quality.” What do they really mean?
My own college experiences include a class of about 40, that’s pretty big by MHC norms, which felt absolutely tiny when the critical attention of the instructor focused on my flaws, faults and fumbles. A class of several hundred would have provided a welcome blanket of anonymity at times. I didn’t want “small” then.
My perception of quality has changed, too. I remember retreating to the campus pub after one or two of those excruciating classes. When I talked with my friends I know we didn’t use “quality” when we described that demanding instructor. Looking back though, he was clearly among the best instructors I’ve ever experienced.
A potential solution to my puzzle appeared as I walked through the Coffee Shop last week.
I saw a student sitting with a faculty member, texts and notes covering the table, having what looked like a very deep conversation. I didn’t listen in, but it looked interesting.
What that small scene showed me was a trait that is way more exciting than can be explained by words like small and quality. There was engagement. There was an exchange occurring. I think learning was going on. It was evidence of something that the college is proud of, the intent of faculty and staff to meet the needs of students on their terms.
I suppose Medicine Hat College is small by some standards, and I know we have quality faculty by any standards, but what happens here deserves more explanation than two shorts words offer. It is an experience.
Drop by to get a feel for the campus, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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