What Does It Mean To Engage?

September 18, 2023 Dave Hansen

Engage: this simple word can hold very different meanings. Maybe you just got engaged and are looking forward to your pending marriage. You might have just engaged someone to work on your house or, if you are a Star Trek Next Generation fan, you might think of Captain Jean-Luc Picard launching the Enterprise on its next great adventure with the simple command, “Engage.” While, at first, these might seem like very different definitions, the results have a lot in common. Ultimately, they all embrace active involvement around people, activities and experiences. I can’t think of a better way to describe my participation in Watermark Engage, the user conference that recently took place in Austin, Texas.

Engage With Peers

The opportunity to meet and interact with fellow higher education professionals was justification in and of itself to attend the Engage Conference. It is always amazing to me to see just how similar our experiences are, despite being from different kinds of institutions: private, public, small, large. To engage with each other around those experiences through the lens of how and what we are using to work smarter, not harder is invaluable.

Engage With the Watermark Team

In addition, each of us interacts daily over the phone or Outcomes Assessment Projects (formerly Aqua) email with people who we don’t often have the opportunity to meet face to face. At the Engage Conference, it was such a pleasure to put faces together with the voices and names of, not only the Watermark team members, but also, again, colleagues at other institutions with whom I cross paths through involvement at state and national education conferences and committee work. A price cannot be put on these networking events, and I left feeling enriched by a community of people ready to offer feedback and support when needed.

Engage With an Inspiring Keynote

Next, talk about engaging someone’s attention! Keynote speaker Mel Robbins, CNN commentator, author, and co-founder of Inspire52, had everyone in attendance (400+) on the edge of our seats. She inspired each of us to embrace change. Her message spoke to me personally and professionally and throughout the conference, presenters and attendees were quoting her and applying her “5 second rule” to engage each other in collaboration and learning.

Engage With Product Development

The conference focused on how the products are being used and what the users want to see improved. In my experience, it is rare for a company to invite criticism on its core competencies, and to actively engage in advancing client feedback to product enhancement is almost nonexistent. A company that listens to its customers? Whaaaat? But Watermark does.

Engage the Future

The end of the Engage Conference opened a door to all of the possibilities the future holds for this community of users. Watermark has brought together three assessment software companies and it was clear to this attendee that they have a collective vision to combine their strengths and engage with each other and their client institutions to develop solutions that can streamline all of our efforts.

As a “data nerd,” I don’t get out of the office much. It is not my natural inclination to venture away from the confines of my spreadsheets and visualization software. But this user conference changed that by introducing me to a lot of like-minded assessment professionals. I’m definitely happy I engaged.

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