Fall Quarter – Check

The combination of a hectic Fall Quarter end and a busy holiday season has left little time for a program update. With things settling just a bit, I wanted to share a special moment in the BASAM program – the sight of 60+ program participants marking the end of Fall Quarter 2019. I think you’ll agree that the smiles say it all. Congratulations to all for a great quarter!

Skagit Valley College BASAM Classes of 2020 & 2021
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Happy Diwali

Light, love and laughter to all

As my program members know, the land of my birth is India. I haven’t lived there since I was seven yet thanks to the upbringing, the ties to my cultural roots are strong.

Today, many of the 1.4 billion Indians who live around the world (almost 18% of the global population) celebrate Diwali. I’ll leave its origins and reasons for others to cover. Suffice to say, Diwali celebrates universal truths of the triumph of good over evil and light over dark. For many, many reasons and memories, it is my most favorite day in the year and so I want to wish all BASAM followers the sentiments of festival – may light, love and laughter grace all corners of your home and heart!

My friend Shawna Blue

Me and my friend the amazing Shawna Blue

This evening, my friend and colleague Shawna Blue, BAS Coordinator at Skagit Valley College, received a scholarship from SWAN, an organization dedicated to supporting women leaders in the area. With Shawna’s permission, I am sharing the letter I sent in support of her scholarship application. As you read this, I believe you will come away as impressed with Shawna, her capabilities and her potential, as I am every single day.

“I met Shawna a little over a year ago [May 2018]. Her name came up as a possible candidate for a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) Coordinator role, which was designed to support the two BAS degrees at Skagit Valley College. Shawna had already been fulfilling this role for the BAS in Environmental Conservation. In the spirit of absolute candor, I was not convinced that she had the appropriate background to work with an Applied Management program. I was also concerned that as Shawna has a rich background in Environmental Conservation, the two programs would not get equal attention. I was wrong.

Shawna and I actually met at a college picnic at the same time as the staffing discussions were taking place. We started talking and within five minutes, I discovered that Shawna’s motivation lies in a deep-rooted desire to serve the College’s students and community, without regard to area of study. I learned this by listening to her relay anecdotes about her experiences with various college departments and observing the genuine anguish that appeared on her face when things did not go as they should. I also heard her connect her own student and life experiences with those of the students on our campus. I watched her face light up when she talked about a way in which her experiences allowed her to help a student in a completely unrelated field of study. I heard her voice her uncertainty about how to drive publicity for the Environmental Conservation program. A five-minute conversation turned into an hour. I left our interaction feeling ashamed that I had let my own pre-conceptions lead me to an incorrect conclusion.

As a workplace leader, I have long believed that it is unjust to assess person’s potential solely on the basis of what they have done in the past. And, as a faculty member, I maintain it is unjust to assess a person’s performance in an area where they may have limited or no formal exposure. Yet with Shawna, I had done both. Within a day, I had lined up a meeting with the Dean on the staffing issue. I shared my discoveries about Shawna, took ownership of my unjust reaction and pledged to do everything in my power to support Shawna and her success in the Coordinator role and beyond. Within a week of that conversation, Shawna was hired into the full-time role supporting both BAS programs starting July 2018 signaling the support she enjoys from SVC leadership (college administration, not faculty, make hiring decisions).

The year since then has been remarkable. I have watched Shawna seize opportunities to develop her knowledge of marketing and strategy through her work on the BASAM Marketing plan. Through this plan, we have introduced a systematic, low cost way of working with social media to promote awareness of the BASAM program on campus and in the larger community. We are getting ready to expand this plan to the Environmental Conservation program as well.

I have seen how Shawna leverages her considerable project management skills to see multiple recruitment and admissions -related initiatives to successful outcomes. I have seen her come to grips with SVC’s customer relationship management system (Target X). I have observed Shawna initiate formal and informal outreach to struggling students, sensing what they need from their non-verbal cues. And, I have witnessed Shawna serve as a powerful advocate for the SVC students, helping them navigate processes and obstacles to their success and having tough but necessary conversations to keep them on the path for success.

In my nearly thirty years of work experience (25 years in corporate leadership roles, nearly five as faculty), I have met only a handful of people who demonstrate the same thirst for knowledge, self-awareness, and commitment to make a difference as Shawna. I am confident that completing a bachelor degree in marketing will position Shawna for great leadership success and will extend her capacity to make a difference for the people of Skagit Valley.”

You go Shawna Blue – the world is your oyster.

We’re Enough

Once in a while, we experience a moment when a piece of music grips our very core. Over the summer, I came across Broken and it’s Beautiful by Kelly Clarkson that resulted in this core gripping moment for me. The line that sticks with me is the one that goes “I’m phenomenal and I’m enough”. As a society, it seems we are quick to find fault with each other, with our circumstances and with ourselves, leading us to a frenetic quest for perfection and the invariable disappointment when we don’t reach it every single time.

In the Skagit Valley College program, we devote time and energy exploring our auto-ethnographies- how the confluence of our life experiences and environments shape our outlooks on society, our approaches to our work, our careers, our families and how they impact how we see ourselves. This week, we started the conversation in the Foundation of Applied Management course that the folks in the third year of their bachelor degree are doing. The Year 4’s unraveled new dimensions to the conversation in the Social Capital course in which they are enrolled.

As I listened to the discussions in both classes, all that kept playing through my mind were Clarkson’s words. With my eyes and ears, I saw the tenacity, the resolve, the power, self-belief that every member of the program has, whether they’re aware of it yet or not. And I realized why I love the Clarkson song so much – it’s because it reminds me of the journeys that each of us in the program are on and the honor and empowerment I feel to be part of it. We listened to the song in the Year 4 class and I’ll share that talking about the song and what it and the people in the program represent was a tear filled moment for me.

The final share on this is that words of the song came alive to me again over the weekend when I was thinking of a recent reunion I had with a friend from decades ago. Our time together and the pride they showed in me and my work left me with the confidence that yes, I’m broken, it’s beautiful , it’s phenomenal, and I’m enough.

And so I say to all BASAM people – we’re enough.

Great perspectives on comfort zones

This article from the Harvard Business Review describes a school of thought I’ve long believed – if it’s easy, it suggests I can already do it, which leads me to wonder how much am I actually learning. Linked to this is another life long philosophy : if we only did what’s been done before, Neil Armstrong would never have walked on the moon!


Fall Quarter 2019: Faculty & Staff

As we get ready for our Week 2 class meeting (in T minus less than 12 hours), I’ve been thinking a lot about the program faculty and staff with whom I have the honor of working this quarter.

In our group, we have an economist, a geologist, an environmental evangelist, a former Navy fighter pilot, a soccer coach turned financial guru, a geographer who is now a dramatist, a counseling expert, a reformed corporate type and a college president. What a phenomenal kaleidoscope of experiences, perspectives and world views and how lucky we all are to learn with the fine BASAM program participants at Skagit Valley College!

This morning I made a wish

It’s the morning of the first day of the 2019-20 year for the Skagit Valley College Bachelor in Applied Science program. Today, eight faculty members, including SVC President Dr. Tom Keegan who is teaching in the program, will launch 52 program members on Year 3 and 4 of their bachelor degree.

That 52 people have entrusted their quest for a bachelor degree with our program is humbling and an honor beyond words. It’s also a journey into the unknown, much like my hero Neil Armstrong made 50 years ago, when he and the crew of Apollo 11 set off for the moon.

So, I went outside at dawn o’clock and as I often do when facing a big moment, I gave a giant wave to the man on the moon (at least I waved in the approximate direction of the moon – it’s Western Washington, there’s cloud cover). I asked him to help with fine winds, smooth seas and smooth sailing for program participants, faculty and their families.

We’ve got this BASAM people – let’s get going on the adventure. Just 264 trips around the moon until our group graduates!


I’m an expert thinker, I’ve been told that often and in every imaginable context.

I think a lot, I think fast, I think often. I never stop thinking; my brain whirs at supersonic speed. It’s exhilarating and it’s exhausting. So, I was intrigued by this piece from Medium offering perspective on how to get a strength, that because it’s been carried to an extreme, is now a weakness. It sounds odd to think about your thinking, which is what the author says to do but I’m giving it a shot this week. Anyone else been told they think too much? Want to join me in this experiment? Check out the

How Do You Learn?

Last week I was prepping for fall quarter with a faculty member new to the BAS-AM program. As we talked through Weeks 1-3 of the quarter, we were both struck by how preparation we were doing for what seems like very little “teaching”. By “teaching” I mean the traditional educational format where the instructor is the source of all knowledge and the classroom conversation is uni-directional.

The BAS-AM program by design is the exact opposite of this educational model. In our program, we use an active learning where there are no students but a roomful of learners. Every person is a participant in the instruction contributing their knowledge and experiences. The faculty are there to set up and guide the learning and to enable continually evolving life long learning, a critical feature to flourish in the ever-changing workplace. And active learning is exactly how the workplace operates – I’m hard pressed to think of a single place where 100% of the learning comes from teaching versus doing.

It was so gratifying to read this article discussing research on active learning conducted at Harvard University. The findings suggest that when we are actively engaged in the learning process, we end up having an impactful experience, which is more “sticky”.

As I reflect back on my formal and my informal education, I am quite sure that the more transformative experiences where those where I was able to engage and immerse myself in the process – a player in the match, not a spectator in the stands.

I can’t wait to see how the Class of 2021 rises to the challenge of being on court players – stay tuned for stories of great things from these people!