Exploring the Future of Hawkeye Community College

Employee Development Day
Waterloo, IA

Facilitator: James L. Morrison

March 2, 2012

We live in an age of future shock. Globalization, economic restructuring, advances in information technology, shifting demographics, the need for more (and differently) educated workers, including reskilling displaced workers, and increasing competition from traditional and emerging education providers means that community colleges are faced with a future that most assuredly will be different from the present. The accelerating rate, magnitude, and complexity of change occurring in all sectors of global society have created vulnerabilities and opportunities across the higher education "tableau." It is no exaggeration to say that, in total, these forces hold the potential for rethinking the mission, structure, curriculum, pedagogical models, and stakeholder relations of community colleges. Our analysis of the organization's environment has got to be razor-sharp in accurately assessing the opportunities and threats that this changing environment poses for our institution and in developing the strategic policies necessary to adapt to this environment.


The purpose of this workshop was to identify critical events that will impact the future of Hawkeye Community College and draw out some of the major implications of these potential events for the College.


Please review the following publications:

  1. Mack, T. "An Interview with a Futurist." Futures Research Quarterly, 2003, 19 (1), 61-69
  2. Morrison, J. L. (1996). "Teaching in the Twenty-First Century." On the Horizon, 4(5).
  3. The Horizon Report (2011). The New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative. PDF download.
  4. Did You Know? (2008).
  5. Schechter, R. and Morrison, J. L. (2011). "The Future of Higher Education." Part I and Part II of an interview conducted November 18, 2011 at Houston Community College.

    We began the workshop with observations on how we can anticipate the future, which serves as an introduction to linking potential external developments to internal decision-making. External analysis is a major step in a strategic management/planning process. For more information about this process, review "Strategic Management in the Context of Global Change" (Morrison & Wilson, 1996) and "Analyzing Environments and Developing Scenarios for Uncertain Times" (Morrison & Wilson, 1997).


    8:00 - 8:30

    Dr. Linda Allen: State of the College

    8:30 - 9:25

    Anticipating the Future
    Task 1: Identifying potential events that would affect the future of community colleges

    9:25 - 9:45

    Task 2: Prioritizing events/Break

    9:45 - 10:10

    Task 3: Defining signals of the most critical event

    10:10 - 10:30

    Task 4: Deriving implications of the most critical event

    10:30 - 10:50

    Task 5: Given the implications of the most critical event, formulate recommended actions for the College to consider now

    10:50 - 11:50 

    Reportbacks and Wrap-up

    Exercise Description

    Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. External event identification and analysis is critical in planning.

    It is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not helpful in the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by the statement (i.e., different people may understand the statement differently) and (b) we have no clear target that allows us to derive implications and action steps. For example, consider the following event statement: There will be significant changes in political, social, and economic systems in the U.S. Each person on your team may agree with this statement, but may also interpret it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a statement like: "In the next election, the political right gains control of Congress." Or "Minorities become the majority in 10 states." These statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could impact Hawkeye Community College.

    We conducted this exercise in small groups using the Nominal Group Process.  


    Task 1. The first task was to identify those potential external events in the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political sectors, local through global, that would change the future of Hawkeye Community College if they occurred.

    Task 2. When I called time, participants prioritized the events by using paste-on dots, voting for five of the most critical events that could affect Hawkeye Community College that have some probability of occurrence within the next decade. Their instructions:

    • Do not be concerned about the event being high or low probability; be concerned only about the severity of the impact (positive or negative).
    • Do not put more than one dot on one event statement.
    • Put all dots by the beginning of the event statement (so that we can quickly see the frequency distribution of dots)

    Task 3. The next part of the exercise was to identify the signals that the top event (as indicated by the frequency distribution of votes) could occur.

    Task 4. Next, they derived the implications of that event for the College. In other words, they assumed that the event occured and speculated on what would happen to Hawkeye Community College as a result of its occurrence.

    Task 5. The final task was to develop recommendations as to what the College should consider doing now in anticipation of this event occurring. They were not concerned about the probability of occurrence of the event. An objective of this exercise was to see if the recommendations made sense to implement regardless of whether the event occurs. Outcome: the formulation of plans that we could not have conceived without going through the process, but make sense to begin implementing now.

    Reportbacks and Wrap-up

    The session is available on video in two parts: Part I consists of the introduction to the small group exercise and Part II consists of selected group report backs.

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