Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dim Sum, Webcasts and a Snow Storm

It is good to be home! After four months of on and off travel, I arrived back in Grinnell on Friday, finished with planes, trains and automobiles for the year.

Summer was still in the air when I left on my first trip in early August, a ten day odyssey in China with colleagues from eleven other liberal arts colleges. The five city tour was put together by an entrepreneurial group of recent Chinese graduates from several of our institutions (including Grinnell). This was my second trip to the middle kingdom and in spite of a drenching rain that greeted us in Beijing, a brush with a typhoon in Shanghai, and the ever present temptation to eat too much of the wonderfully prepared regional Chinese cuisine, we had a memorable experience promoting the distinctive qualities of liberal arts colleges to the world’s most populous nation. Leaving China, I made a brief stop in Japan with a colleague to visit students in Tokyo.

Arriving back in the United States, I headed out a few weeks later on a semi-annual trip with the Eight of the Best Colleges, with stops in Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver. Including our activity this fall, the group has now addressed over 35,000 people in 32 states and 6 different countries. A day after stopping back in Grinnell I was off to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a week of meetings and conversation at the National Association of College Admission Counselors’ annual fall conference. I lived in Baltimore for 13 years so the week was a homecoming of sorts.

I saw my first snow in the mountain passes around Aspen, Colorado in early October while taking part in a week-long series of college fairs held throughout the state. Back in Iowa for a few days I enjoyed the Indian summer that hung around the Midwest this fall and promised a cold winter.

The second half of October was spent in Europe, visiting schools in Italy, the United Kingdom and Switzerland and lodging for a night in the tower room of a Welch castle, home to The United World College of the Atlantic. Returning state-side, I headed east to Philadelphia in early November to visit local schools for a week. With early admission season in full swing, there was a lot of talk about students applying earlier this year, confirming what I’d heard on both sides of the Atlantic during my other trips.

Less than two weeks ago I joined seven other deans and directors in a novel webcast on college admission put together by the Wall Street Journal and UNIGO and hosted at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

I wrapped up my travel this fall with trips to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. to select Grinnell’s newest Posses. I almost didn’t make it to D.C. The large snowstorm that hit the Midwest last week forced a change in plans and I flew out early from Cedar Rapids in advance of the worst of the storm and before flights were entirely cancelled. Turns out that was a smart move.

And so another fall ends. It’s time to enjoy terra firma and get back to shoveling my driveway.

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