Defining Reality

Dave has turned over the keys, given up the decoder ring, and taught me the secret presidential handshake. All that’s left is to run the college.

Dave Finney hands over the keys to Champlain College to Don Laackman
Dave Finney hands over the keys to Champlain College to Don Laackman

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”  [Max De Pree]

The reality is, I start working at Champlain College on Tuesday. I have spent the last six months in transition, visiting for three or four days a month, learning about Champlain through meetings, celebrations, and one-on-one discussions. The one-on-ones in particular, where I ask people my five questions, have been instructive. While I have more discussions ahead of me, I have developed some early impressions of what reality is for many at Champlain.

People love Champlain College. Board members, faculty, staff and students embrace Champlain’s radically pragmatic approach to education. They love its nimbleness, entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to students’ professional, academic and life success. We are small but global. Moving fast and executing well. In and of the Burlington community, but aware of our leading role in the world of higher education.

The reality is, Champlain College is in great shape after nine years of Dave Finney’s leadership. Admissions are up, brand awareness is growing, and our programs are market relevant. We have a great team in place. We are growing and thriving at a time when many in higher ed are retrenching and trying to understand the new normal. Our three-dimensional approach to preparing students for work and life is resonating with students and employers, as shown by our 100% job placement rate.

As helpful as the transition has been, I am happy it is over. I am ready to get to work. As I have said to many faculty and staff, I join Champlain because the Champlain 2020 plan is a great strategy for us. I don’t expect any major changes in direction, but I am aware that as the world changes, we will need to change with it.

I am also aware that people want to know what life at Champlain will feel like with me as president. I hope that my actions during the recent search process for our new provost, Laurie Quinn, is indicative of my leadership. I pledge to actively seek feedback, listen more than I talk, and make decisions informed by the wisdom of our faculty, staff and students. My goal is to increase the engagement of our people and unlock the energy and enthusiasm people have told me they have for Champlain College. I have an open door policy and welcome meeting with anyone from our community. (Given that my cube in Freeman doesn’t have a door, please talk to Linda Murphy about getting time on my calendar if you want to talk. I look forward to it.)

I look forward to being a part of the next chapter in Champlain College’s ongoing success story. Welcome to the new reality.

Published by Don Laackman

Leader with non-profit, higher education, and private-sector consulting experience.

2 thoughts on “Defining Reality

  1. Welcome Don, we look forward to your leadership. You will love Champlain and our wonderful community.

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