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Bearings: News and Perspectives for Academic Affairs

Bearings: News & Perspectives for Academic Affairs

Houston, we have a filter

Apr 14, 2013, 11:21 pm - Carey Adams

Everyone remembers Tom Hanks saying, "Houston, we have a problem," in Apollo CO2 filter scene from Apollo 1313, but my favorite line is, "Ok, let's build a filter."

The line comes from the scene where NASA engineers are told they have to build a CO2 scrubber using only materials the astronauts had available.  Employing knowledge and ingenuity, and spurred by the critical importance of their success, the engineers come up with an improbable solution that helps to save the crew.

Yesterday I was witness to the culmination of a similar feat of collaboration and creativity by Armstrong colleagues across several divisions.  The circumstances were not life and death, but the efforts were focused on bringing some important people "home."

To assist the Office of Admissions in the work of helping admitted students solidify their decision to attend Armstrong, we decided to assemble a team of student callers and a system for effectively contacting more than 1,200 prospective freshmen and transfer students.  Finding capable students to hire as callers was the easy part.  More challenging were the integrated tasks of extracting data, writing call scripts and protocols, buidling a system for recording and analyzing data the callers collect, and coordinating follow-up contacts from admissions, financial aid, housing, and other student service areas.  Sunday afternoon staff from the Office of Admissions and University Advancement conducted training for about 20 student callers who will begin making calls Monday evening, just two weeks after the idea was hatched.

In the CO2 filter scene from Apollo 13 the "Let's build a filter" line comes after someone has announced, "The people upstairs have handed us this one, and we've gotta' come through."  I imagine that is precisely how the dozen or more staff in Enrollment Services, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, ITS, and Advancement felt when they were asked to step up and make this call campaign happen.  I sat in on several meetings involving staff from across divisions and was impressed by the degree of creativiey and can-do attitude exhibited by the participants.  When the student callers showed up for training Sunday afternoon, one would have thought this project had been in the works for months rather than barely weeks.

I had the privilege of helping to kick off the training session with a few remarks, and I shared with the students that I had made the decision to move my family across the country and leave an institution where I had worked for more than 20 years because my every contact with people from Armstrong had left me wanting to know more about the university, until finally I decided I wanted to be part of it.  This, I said, was the point of asking them to call admitted students, to move those students a step closer to knowing that Armstrong is the place for them.  Today I am especially proud to be a Pirate.

Sails up, Armstrong!

Have a great week,

Carey