Over the course of the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure and honor of attending and speaking at two wonderful conferences: NCMPR’s (National Council for Marketing and Public Relations) District 1 Conference in Mystic, CT, and CRD’s (Council for Resource Development) Annual Conference on Capitol Hill; both of which are aimed at the professional development of those serving technical and community colleges.

I attended a number of sessions on everything from educating potential donors (without them even knowing it!) to how to define guidelines for grammar and punctuation at your community college. As is always the case, I walked away from these conferences more knowledgeable and better off than before.

As I was driving home from D.C., I found myself marvelling at the perception shift that has taken place in community colleges (or ‘CCs’ as I’ll refer to them). The old stigma that CCs are “the place you go when you can’t get into a real college” is rapidly fading away and being replaced by a perception of CCs being a centerpiece of their communities that provide incredible value and opportunity.

This shift in perception hasn’t come about from government mandates or policies. It isn’t simply a byproduct of the types of offering that are offered at CCs. This perception shift has occurred in large part due to the people that make this all happen. The folks who work on the front lines. The administrators, the instructors, the staff, the leadership.

It’s the PEOPLE who make the difference; and I got to know a whole bunch of them first hand. I was impressed by their spirit, their professionalism, their resourcefulness. Aside from the fact that they're incredibly smart and capable, what I love about them is their PASSION. They truly care about the purpose and mission of CCs. They're bought into the fact that CCs are making communities across this country better ... that they're improving peoples’ lives. They GET it. And on top of everything else, they're doing this on a shoestring budget, which makes them even more impressive.

So kudos to all of you and thank you so much for inviting me to be part of these conferences. From CRD, thanks to Mort Congleton, Laurie Clowers and her team from Wake Tech Community College. We’ve learned SO much from working with you and presenting alongside you over the years. Thanks also to Mary DeLuca from Community College of Baltimore County and Theresa Johnson from the College of Southern Maryland. You and the rest of the NCMPR team put on a great show in Mystic, and I look forward to seeing you guys when we present at the NCMPR national conference in New Orleans in March (I’m buying!).