Viewing the Academic Senate Mission with Appreciative Inquiry

Standards and Practices Committee

The Standards and Practices breakout on appreciative inquiry introduced its five generic processes. We then had an opportunity to view the Academic Senate mission within that framework. Subsequently, the plenary body adopted a new mission statement as follows:

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges fosters the effective participation by community college faculty in all statewide and local academic and professional matters; develops, promotes, and acts upon policies responding to statewide concerns; and serves as the official voice of the faculty of California Community Colleges in academic and professional matters. The Academic Senate strengthens and supports the local senates of all California community colleges.

The five processes include definition, discovery, dream, design, and destiny/delivery. The entire process is a positive approach to change, a way of being and seeing. Appreciative inquiry assumes every human system has a hidden and underutilized positive core of strengths for personal and organizational transformation. It assumes this positive core of strengths also clarifies or enhances a sense of identity, shared values and culture; establishes a climate of continual learning and inquiry; renews group energy, hope, motivation and commitment; and increases curiosity and a sense of vitality.

There are the "positive deviants" within every social, business, educational and community group who use positive energy for problem solving. Appreciative inquiry suggests this positive reframing approach has a dynamic impact on how an organization ultimately achieves its vision.

Inquiry does not have to be oriented around a problem. Appreciative Inquiry allows people to inquire into attitudes, processes, structures, programs, and services that are already working exceptionally well. Instead of asking what is wrong, we focus our energy and light on what is right. Research shows that there is a turn-around when we take this approach. That which was identified as what-is-wrong shrinks like a radiated tumor, and health, well-being and success begin to grow in its place. As a result, inquiring into successes minimizes the impediment of problems and creates more successes. The appreciation is not just looking at the positive, but also allowing the positive to grow just as money in the savings account appreciates with interest.

For more information about background, research and training in Appreciative Inquiry techniques, here are two resources:

Stetson, N. E., & Miller, C. R. (2003, February). Appreciative inquiry: A new way of leading change in schools and colleges. Proceedings from International Chair Academy Conference.

Maricopa Community Colleges, AZ: Retrieved May 20, 2005, from