You know those Oprah episodes where she stands on stage and points to each audience member as she shouts, “You get a new car! And you get a new car!” That’s my dream … sort of. In my dream, I’m sitting in the audience at an Engage closing session. Master of Ceremonies Austen Adair is on stage thanking everyone for another fabulous conference. He looks at me, points, and shouts, “You get Faculty Success (formerly Digital Measures)! And you get Smart Catalog! And you get Course Evaluations & Surveys (formerly EvaluationKIT)! Oh, and you get an Erik Wahl painting of Einstein!”
My hope when I leave a conference is that I’ll return to my campus not just better at my job but better as a leader. I always leave the Watermark conference feeling rejuvenated and excited and wanting more. Here’s why.
First, there are all of the amazing products that would make my job so much easier. When accreditors set faculty qualification guidelines, we have to track that. And Watermark has a solution – Faculty Success (formerly Digital Measures). As our programs change and grow, we have to track those changes and additions. Watermark has a solution for that – Curriculum Strategy (formerly SmartCatalog). Learning that there are tools out there to make my job easier, and as a bonus they already interact with other Watermark products, is such a relief.
Then there is the inspiration I feel whenever I leave an Engage conference. This time, keynote speaker Erik Wahl challenged us to think creatively to address the problems and concerns within our own institutions, which is uplifting. Taking away the nuggets of truth that Wahl shared and expanding the conversation with my colleagues from a variety of roles and institutions made me feel ready to tackle the challenges at home.
Finally, when I leave a Watermark conference, I leave appreciating the culture that thrives within the organization. As Watermark has added products to its brand, the company has remained true to the vision Bhupi Bhasin, now Watermark’s executive vice president of international operations, first shared in Austin, Texas in 2017. At that first conference, only weeks after the merger of three assessment companies, we discovered one team with one mission and one amazing culture.
Bhupi stood up on the stage and, with the utmost sincerity and some self-deprecating humor, shared his story and the vision for what would become Watermark. I had come to Austin to learn about a product and I became fascinated by the leadership. My colleague Mechelle attended in 2018, and came back with more stories of this amazing team and shared tales of the Watermark staff as if they were old friends. And all this time, Watermark continued to grow – adding to their family of products.
This year, I wondered if the same family feeling, the same culture, would be in New Orleans. I was not disappointed. Although Watermark has grown, the commitment to innovative strategies and collaborative partnerships is still there. It was visible in the keynote speakers, in the breakout sessions, and on the dance floor at the House of Blues.
So, as I attended sessions and special events, I learned about products and processes to do my job better. But I also watched and listened to what Watermark leaders did and said that might indicate how they’ve been able to meld so many different companies into one shared mission and vision. All of this is what makes for a fabulous Watermark experience at the Engage conference and in everyday dealings.
As I told the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, which reported on the presentation my colleague Mechelle Snyder-Bruns and I shared at Engage: “We reflected on the current trends in higher education and the impact these trends might have on our own institution. We were inspired to think creatively about the ways we might engage the personnel and tools at our disposal to make the most out of the educational experience for our students.”
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