Reflecting Your Community In Your Continuing Education Portfolio with Melissa Peraino

Reflecting Your Community In Your Continuing Education Portfolio with Melissa Peraino

Melissa and I got deep in this episode.

Of course, we talked about all things continuing education. But we also talked about meeting lifelong learners where they are during the pandemic and how we’ve both changed in the last year. 

Melissa is one of my favorite people to meet up with during conference season because I find her to be incredibly thoughtful, energetic and passionate about what she does.

I mean, just look at the things she takes on outside of her “real job” as Director of Educational Outreach within the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies at Grand Valley State University.

  • Chairperson of the Michigan Association of State Universities Extended Education and Professional Development (MASU EEPD) committee
  • The Association of Continuing Higher Education (ACHE) Great Lakes Region Chair
  • The UPCEA Program Planning and Implementation Network as the co-chair for noncredit

And that’s outside of her main focus on developing and supporting programs at Grand Valley State. Melissa has more energy than almost anyone I know, and she really turned it up during Episode 08 of the Education Beyond Degrees podcast. I can’t wait to hear what you think. 

You can tune in above👆 or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, the RSS feed or anywhere you get your podcasts.

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How a more thoughtful approach to programming —  not quickly rushing into where the demand is — has worked out really well for Grand Valley State.
  • Why your continuing education portfolio should be in near “constant flux” (unlike the rest of the institution, which was designed to be slow and incremental). 
  • Why so many learners have struggled during COVID without support and how CE can fill in the gaps. 
  • How to meet the needs of the community while balancing the comfort level at the institution for change.

What to listen for:

[1:00] Why adult literacy was the entry point into Melissa’s career in lifelong learning.

[2:06] How Melissa explains what she does every day to her family and those not familiar with continuing education.

[4:35] The shift in Grand Valley State’s CE portfolio and how it’s reflecting the demographic shift toward younger learners.

[7:19] The larger population shifts at Grand Rapids and how the community is being reflected in the Grand Valley State’s curriculum.

[8:30] Why “butts-in-seats” programming may lead to greater revenue but not greater overall outcomes (Melissa, you should trademark that concept). 

[9:20] Why cannabis programming never got picked up at Grand Valley State, also known as a lesson in meeting the needs of the community while balancing the comfort level at the institution. (and maybe a future moonlighting opportunity for Melissa.)  

[11:32] Reflecting on COVID and the issues that are impacting your learners in their ability to keep moving forward in their classes.

[15:42] Melissa gets deep about how COVID has changed her personally and professionally and Meni remembers the early quarantine days at home.

[18:32] Why so many learners have struggled during COVID without support and how CE can fill in the gaps. 

[19:15] How Grand Valley State committed to empowering and celebrating its students with ad-hoc workshops that bridged professional and personal topics.

[22:46]  Meni pondering if there will ever be a time in the CE world when hiring practices change to accommodate remote teams across the entire country —or world.

[23:55] Why CE thrives because of its outsider status within the university, and why we should lean into our roles as oddballs, island of misfit toys or people with kooky ideas.

[24:30] What excites Melissa enough to stay at the same institution for over 20 years.

[27:30] Exploring generational differences and communication styles of CE learners, and how one department effectively serves so many different audiences. (Plus, the email salutation that makes Melissa cringe.)

[29:05] Why simply “growing enrollment” isn’t enough when considering Melissa’s long-term legacy in continuing education.

Links from the episode👇👇
Melissa Peraino’s LinkedIn
Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 Book
Meni’s LinkedIn
The Education Beyond Degrees Homepage

Transcript from the episode

*Today’s weather has a 100% chance of some spelling errors in the AI-powered transcript below. Hope you won’t hold it against me! 

Meni: Hey Melissa! Thank you for joining me today.

Melissa: Hi, Meni. Thank you for having me today.

Meni: I am so excited to have you on today’s podcast. I feel like if people know who we are when we’re together, they would totally understand why this is happening right now. Because when we talk about education, we go down rabbit holes that we never think we’d ever go down, like in real life.

Melissa: Exactly. It’s probably a good thing that we’re only on air and not on camera today. We get a little animated in our conversations.

Meni: True that, if anybody ever sees us at a conference and you see us sitting at the bar, you should just come and join us immediately.

Melissa: Absolutely.

Meni: All right. So let’s start off, tell us a little bit about what you do at grand Valley and what got you to where you are today. So tell us a little bit about your path to Grand Valley State.

Melissa: I love it, probably with any, continuing educator, my path was a bit circuitous, right?

I didn’t grow up thinking I want to be a continuing educator. I originally went into elementary education and knew I was passionate about education. And then I think had a little spark learning more about adults who were actually trying to learn how to read and the literacy world and really starting in that arena. And then went and did a graduate program actually in adult education more focused on that literacy piece. But was exposed to at Ball State University, this place called The Center for Organizational Resources. Which was, I was like, what is this? And what do they do? And what does this even mean? An acronym ‘CORE’. What does this mean? And really started to find my passion for lifelong learning, if you will.

And came to Grand Valley, quite honestly, thinking I would be there for five years and then move on to the bigger and better next thing, and find something else, and move on. And I’ve been there for 20 years.

Meni: So I always love asking people this question, in the CE space, whenever anybody asks us, ‘so what do you do?’ What do you tell people who have no idea what continuing education is about? What you do?

Melissa: That’s such a good question. And it really is. There are times when I’ve just given up and I’ve said, I just work at a university and you’ll leave it at that. And when they say, ‘do you teach?’ you say, no, not necessarily in a classroom, but I think we teach all over the place.

What I actually have started to say lately is that I am a lifelong learner and I try to inspire lifelong learners and it’s still really confusing. But some days you just feel like I’m talking through the pieces of how you provide access for people who weren’t traditionally served as non-traditional learners to an institution, gets a little heady. And unless you’re at the bar, like you and I oftentimes are not so interesting.

Meni: So I know, we’ve worked together and, I know your boss and stuff like that, but I’m super curious, how does Grand Valley eState look at continuing ed? How did they look at the unit you work in?

Melissa: That is such a good question, Meni. And I and we often use the term when we try to tell people about continuing education, we say, if you’ve met or seen or looked at one continuing education unit, you’ve met or seen or looked at one continuing education unit. Everyone is different at our institution, and this is where perhaps being there for 20 years gives me a little bit of a different perspective, right?

The institution has grown by leaps and bounds serving traditional aged students. And we have more than 20,000, mostly traditional undergrads. And so it’s only recently that I think as with many other institutions, we’re starting to look at, Oh, there are these folks that are doing this work with adults and maybe we want to start to take a look at that. At Grand Valley, we actually are, it’s pretty exciting, we’re starting a new department and we’ve just hired a new vice president for lifetime learning who will be pulling in actually not only the adult and continuing studies, which is the work that we’ve been doing for a long time. But we’ll also be pulling in the alumni office and the graduate school, and some connections to career services, which is pretty unique.

So I think Grand Valley looks at adult learners as this, we’re not really sure who they are or what they do, but we know that it’s something that we want to pay attention to and learn more about.

Meni: When you look at the student population that you have, and that continues to grow, and you see where your portfolio of programs are right now, whether it’s academic credit or non-credit continuing ed programs, have you seen a shift? Have you seen a change? What are you seeing in terms of what the portfolios look like these days?

Melissa: Such a good question. I think that’s part of the unique nature of continuing education. Our portfolio, if you will, is in constant flux. It is always changing, that’s what makes continuing educators who they are. And I know it, it probably took the bane of many others of the institution, it’s not like we came to teach history and we teach history and we change our methods and we have history 101 for 15 years.

Our portfolio is in constant flux and it has to, as far as we have certainly at the institution, started to focus on more of the academic for credit side for adult learners and helping them get more degrees because that’s what our state needs.

Meni: Wow, that’s really interesting. When you look at the population of student that takes these programs now, what do you think is like the average age of the student that’s coming?

Melissa: Actually, believe it or not, we always said, we thought the average age was getting older, but I’m actually starting to see the flip of that. In some of the programs on both the for credit and non-credit side of the house, we are seeing a much younger learner, recognizing that I might be three years out from my degree, but I still have to refresh my skills. I still need to revisit where I was and what I’m doing, or maybe I’m ready to throw what I did out the window and start something entirely new.

Meni: So are you telling me you have a lot of people in their twenties and in that age group coming to take a lot of your programs?

Melissa: Yeah, we’re starting to see a lot more.

Meni: Wow, that’s different. I don’t hear that very often. Usually everybody’s talking about mid-thirties and forties as the typical age of student now. That’s pretty awesome. Do you think it’s the types of programs that have caused this change or what do you think has been really the force of that change coming to you guys?

Melissa: It’s funny that you are so surprised by that because I have always said I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but Grand Valley is this place that always, we are the fish that swim upstream. We are always running a little counter intuitive, right? I can’t say that it’s necessarily the program portfolio that we offer that attracts a younger learner. I really think it is a little bit more of the fact that more and more working professionals are recognizing the need for lifelong learning. That it is truly lifelong learning.

We’ve heard about the 60-year curriculum and that your career is changing all of the time. And that you are learning over the course of an entire career, not just at these guideposts or touchpoints throughout, but we’re seeing a lot younger learners.

Meni: I know a little bit about Grand Rapids and I know the population in Grand Rapids has also shifted. It seems like when you look at it  the buildup of what’s happening in Grand Rapids and there’s been a lot younger population moving in there. I wonder if that’s also impacting you. Have you noticed a lot younger population in the city too?

Melissa: Absolutely. That’s definitely a part of it. And I think again, related to how or what makes a CE unit unique, we are really reflective of the community of where it’s at that moment, right? We always talk about the difference between what happens in a traditional part of an institution, which is we serve this population, 18 to 21 year olds period. End of story. And we help them through all of these phases.

Whereas CE units are much more reflective of the place that we are in. We serve the community, whether it’s, what used to be known as community education to this continuing education, those needs and populations change.

Meni: How are you guys determining what programs to deliver? I know when we work together, we were trying to do an analysis of the market while that was a long time ago, though. But how are you guys as the population has changed and as your portfolio is evolving, how are you deciding what programs will work with this new traditional student look.

Melissa: That is such an excellent question. In a perfect world of a perfect CE unit, right? Institutions will look at demand and look at where the possibility for growth and revenue is and move to that place. And I think this is maybe one of the things that makes Grand Valley a little unique is that we aren’t, while it’s frustrating on the one hand, we aren’t always comfortable moving quickly to where the demand is.

We really truly look at what is aligned with where we want to go as an institution and how we really truly can serve the community in a responsible manner. Also known as we’re not just about getting butts in seats, right? We’re about truly listening to the learners and doing what makes the most sense for them, even if it doesn’t always impact the bottom line, as best as it could.

You and I still laugh about the legalizing marijuana piece, right? You called it well before it was legal in the state, which is still fairly new to us. And you said, this is where it’s going to go. And we still chuckle and I still get a little irked by it. Every time I see new programs about meeting the need of what’s happening in the community. You’re always on this fulcrum of trying to balance what’s happening in the community. And yet, what is everyone at the institution comfortable with?

Meni: That’s so funny. I still love teasing Simone about that, about how, I told you so!

Melissa: Yeah, I’m actually just, it is one of those things. I think as continuing educators, we are truly lifelong learners and I keep this like running, I’ve called it lately, my sort of passion projects or my sort of what’s next projects for me personally and who knows maybe someday, instead of being a bartender, I’ll be a bud tender. And maybe I just about learning from it and figuring out of something that’s completely foreign to me right now and maybe it’s something I can figure it out.

Meni: I love it. I love it. That’d be so funny. I could totally see you doing it just a nice calm Melissa, behind the desk, showing you what the, ah, that’d be so funny.

Melissa: I’m not so sure about that calm. When you think about it, it really pulls in some of those roles of psychology and listening and helping people grow. Anyway, let’s not go down that path. We could get really weird really quickly.

Meni: Oh man. So this last year has been a crazy year. I feel like I get to see you like once or twice a year because of conferences and 2020, it totally ruined everything about being able to go to conferences and seeing people and doing all the professional development stuff. How has COVID impacted the way that you work at Grand Valley? And tell me a little bit about the good things that have come from it and the things that have made you sad about this last year in terms of what’s been happening in the workplace.

Melissa: Thank you for asking that. I think much like every other professional that you speak with at every other institution and at every other organization, it has truly completely turned everything upside down. At our institution in particular, we weren’t doing much online at all. And so we had to literally, in the course of about a week, get 20 some thousand learners online, and of course the focus was on the traditional, undergraduate learners and the faculty.

And so when we were saying we’ve got about 40 programs coming up, how are we going to do the transition? Nobody had time to do it. So once again, it’s forced us to go back to our roots. Let’s be really creative at how we, as continuing educators, can do more with less. Can do what really makes sense, not be bound by what has to be done is as other, folks oftentimes have to do it.

We have a platform, we have to use it. But it was really, we were able to say what makes sense for our learners. And we could say what makes sense for this pocket of learners? What makes sense for that pocket of learners, and then really go along from there. I think your question of what have you really miss or what has really been frustrating, it’s really tough for everyone and the paying attention to the mental health pieces of our learners.

We do a lot of safety training, which at first we were always like, we’re not really sure how this aligns, but now safety, all of the MiOSHA and safety kind of protocols that are in place at every organization are incredibly relevant.

And in one program, we had a learner who at the front end didn’t show up and we reached out and said, ‘Hey, you’re not here. You’re not online. Everything, okay?’ He’d had a heart attack and wasn’t able to join us. And he’s 46 years old.

And then at the last day of the program, we had someone say, I’m sorry, I’m not on it today. I’m having a hard time engaging because I just found out I lost my job. And so in the course of one particular program, you’re finding really big issues that are impacting your learners in their ability to keep moving forward.

I think on the personal side of it, the thing that I really miss, we are all, as continuing educators, about connecting with other humans, and really, truly connecting with them in meaningful ways. And we can do a lot on Zoom and we have. You and I have been parts of other groups that are able to connect more, but that challenge of really being in person and being able to connect with each other is pretty tough.

Meni: What do you think is going to remain with you guys once that beautiful day of, this is all over? In terms of all the changes that have occurred. Do you see some things that you guys have implemented because of COVID that will just become part of the norm moving forward?

Melissa: Absolutely. And I’m going to have to challenge you a little bit there Meni, this might be one of those alright who’s buying the next shot conversations, but I don’t think this is all going to be over.

And we always used to it. We started out talking about, we can’t wait for it to get back to normal. This is our new normal. I was just listening to something the other day and we were talking about how history is, I think it was from a Jim Collins, ‘Entrepreneurship 2.0’ book, and he was quoting and saying history is the study of surprises.

And especially during these pandemic times, right? It is one surprise after another surprise. And when you think you are done learning about surprises, what the hell, here comes another surprise. We used to talk our profession as being one who’s embracing constant change. And if we can’t embrace constant change than we are, we’re just given a lot of lip service before. We talk at our shop about what do we need to let go of? What were the things that served us well then and are they still serving us well now? And what do we need to move forward? Because we can’t continue to bring along everything that we used to do and expect and wait for all of those things to come back.

Meni: How do you feel you changed during this, in terms of professionally and having to deal with so much change and so quickly, especially at the start of it?

Melissa: Yeah, it’s really easy to talk about our work as isn’t it? But when we start talking about us professionally and individually, and how we as an individual have changed, it has truly been a sea change. Not to steal the cliche by any means. But it has with good reason, I think if it hasn’t funded, mentally changed me as a professional and made me really focus in on what is most important? Because there were literally days, in an early pandemic where you are like, I’m not sure how I am literally going to get through today.

For me personally, I remember the day, in the early days of the pandemic, where my dishwasher broke and I’ve got two teenagers at home and I thought, uh-oh, we are going to have a whole heck of a lot of dishes here. And I thought, managing dishes, yes, I know ridiculous problem, and all of this work that is just being flooded and thrown at us and we have to make decisions even quicker than we’ve ever made them before. But we get through and we realize, well, I didn’t need a dishwasher. We waited about six months to be able to get it installed because we were scared of letting somebody in the house and all, but, you just really shed those things that you thought mattered that really don’t.

Meni: I’m going to piggyback on what you just said, and I’m gonna, I’m gonna take a minute here and get on my soap box about something. One of the, one of the things that is going to go as probably the least recognized job in all of this is going to be the role of a parent in a pandemic. When your kids and go to school. When your child care has to quarantine for a while. There was probably no more difficult time that my wife and I had to go through than the first few weeks of the pandemic, when, we had to shift what we were doing on a daily basis between childcare and full-time job. Thankfully for me, I have my own company, so it’s a little bit more flexible, but my wife was Erin was just like, every day was a challenge. And there are some unbelievable stories of parents having to transition and, both employers, doing two different things, employers taking the unbelievably supportive role of, ‘Hey, I totally get what you’re going through. We could work around your schedule and whatever you need, we’ll try to help you.’ And then those other ones are just like, ‘we expect you to get the job done.’

Like I am so excited for, those bosses and those managers who actually, were empathetic towards what parents were doing and how they had to deal. And even today, when their kids still aren’t going to school, having to deal with it. 

Melissa: Absolutely. And promise me one thing that you will never get off that soapbox. I literally start to get chills when I hear you speak about that. And it was never anything I ever really, truly thought about before the pandemic and we have started to, yes, you’re right. Our institution was incredibly supportive of us as individuals.

And yet it made me realize, wow, if I’m struggling with this, our learners are struggling with this and their organization or industry may not be as supportive. We’ve actually also started to see more women starting to leave the workforce as a result of it, of being like, wait a minute, I can’t do it all and I’m not going to drive myself crazy, trying to do it all. And if something’s got to give it’s going to be the work.

There are a couple of programs that we started. During the middle of the pandemic that I’m in small programs, they weren’t revenue generating by any means. One was doing we partnered with our alumni office to say, Hey, everybody’s going through something right now and so how can we serve our alumni and our community of non-credit learners and give them something that crosses that professional and personal, like we did one right before the holiday saying navigating the new holiday gathering, and brought in our sociology faculty to say, ‘Hey, how where’s the theory and the application?’ And every time we talk to faculty, we say, it’s got to have a personal and professional because there’s no more balance anymore. Everything is just it’s this, you’re coloring with five different colors of crayons all over the page at one time.

The other program that we did is truly starting to lift up some of those learners that are people just like you and I, that are working full time, that are raising kids full-time, and going to school full-time, and managing life in a pandemic. And it was literally bringing tears to our eyes, which is silly and shame on us for never having celebrated and recognized those, whether it’s a single parent or parents learners or any of those other non-traditional learners. And it was just because, we didn’t wait for it to be some, graduation time. It was a like, ‘Hey, we want to lift up you during this and recognize and celebrate you and keep on keeping on.’

Meni: Do you think Grand Valley State will look at how employees work differently moving forward? Do you think you’re going to have a chance to work from home more when this is all over? Or do you think they’re going to be understanding about those types of things? How do you think the professional environment’s going to change?

Melissa: Again, I’m back to the Grand Valley’s always been a little different than the norm, and really truly does value the culture of the institution and the employees of the institution.

Like all institutions, we have a long way to go. We aren’t perfect by any means, but I do know that the institution is saying, something as simple as the president and working with our HR office to say, you know what, take an extra day during the holiday break, it’s been a crazy ass semester. So we’re giving you this extra day or, and it’s not a, you don’t have to take it as vacation.

But it is truly about valuing the employees and recognizing that if your team can’t survive and can’t manage and then thrive, you really don’t have anything.

Meni: It’s interesting for me because I look at this two different ways. First, when schools are having trouble getting things done and they can’t like hire or anything, it’s typically a good time for a consultant because they could bring people to help with what is needed at the moment.

But it almost feels it almost feels like when, as these organizations evolve and the structures evolve to try to be more accommodating, it almost makes you wonder if there will be like, when you look at your org chart, will there be all of these full-time employees or will it be more of a part-time employee who only wants to work part-time or who only can work part time? It really makes me wonder how the organization, how the structure will change to accommodate people’s needs, because I agree with you.

That is one thing that I think is going to be really interesting is when it comes to hiring practices, typically people are just like are you going to move to where the school is?

If institutions could come to the realization that doesn’t have to happen. If COVID and the pandemic has allowed higher ed to move outside of its traditional boundaries and let something like that happen, it is going to be so interesting how these teams change. Like you imagine your team right now, if you had like a person from California, a person from Seattle, a person from Miami that just Zoomed in for these meetings and you were able to get those different perspectives. Like I wonder, I really wonder if schools will ever make that jump. It feels like too big of a jump. This has definitely been a year where they’ve had to do things that they’ve never done before.

Melissa: You’re absolutely right, Meni. That is exactly what could happen. It could happen at many institutions. I think, I wonder if that’s the role of CE, right? Isn’t that what we always have done historically speaking is done things that were outside of the norm of the institution and really looked at things in a really different way? I worry some days, I think about, are we as professionals now that institutions are more and more looking at continuing ed departments to say, Oh yeah, what are you doing? We need to bring you in more. We need to bring you into the mainstream more. Let’s not sit back and rest on or look at all the great work we’ve done for the past 20 years. Let’s continue to be those oddballs. We used to call it red headed stepchild, island of misfit toys, whatever it is you want to call it, but let’s continue to push that envelope and really, truly, pardon the cliche, but think outside the box. Because the box, now isn’t a box anymore. It is this really wild ever-changing amoeba maybe. And we need to think well beyond that and keep on looking to those kind of kooky ideas, if you will.

Meni: So what excites you the most about the future of CE?

Melissa: I think the thing that excites me the most about the future of CE is the thing that has kept me at a single institution for 20 years.

I got that little like notice of you’ve been here for 20 years and I thought, what, how has this happened? And on the one hand, I thought, why haven’t I been jumping around from institution to institution. But at Grand Valley, CE has been ever changing. And it is always something brand new and it’s that sort of every five years or re-inventing your role and the service, and the way the approach and those sorts of things.

For me personally, what excites me about the future of CE is also, I think a challenge of CE. When we would go to conferences and we would run into each other in the meeting rooms, not at the bar. If you looked around the room, it was an increasingly older room, right? We are, and many of our friends are retiring and we maybe were thinking about stepping out because we’ve given enough or whatever, but we need to, I think the future of CE are these young, new ideas, truly new way of thinking a new way of needing things, right?

Meni: I totally agree with you. I think that we’re going to pretty responsive to what people are asking or what people need. But I think in the future, I think the higher ed space will realize, gosh, now that I say this out loud, I’ve been saying the same thing for 20 years. And I’m not even sure that’s true, but hopefully, at some point, higher ed would realize what CE could actually do for the institution and allow us, give us the push and the flexibility to do those types of things. Again, I’ve been saying that for so long now, who knows if it’ll ever happen, right?

Melissa: Meni, more institutions are. I really, too, that I do. I hear, at least what I hear from other professionals is more and more departments are coming to them saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to be creative. We’ve got to serve a new population. You’ve been doing that. How do you. Can you help me? Can you work with me? Hey, we want to take our curriculum and really start to break it apart and think about. Somebody talking about micro-credentials. What does that mean? Do you know anything?’

So we’re seeing more and more folks look to us, but getting the support and the sort of, yes, this is the way to do it versus can I just add one more thing to my existing curriculum are two really different things.

Meni: True. Very true.

Melissa: Let’s not hold on a second. I’m going to push back a little bit is let’s not forget that piece of having a younger perspective. We started out talking about with your surprise of us serving younger learners and one small thing is, it reminds me, we used to do really formal email connections with people. It really structured. And then I see some of my younger colleagues from across campus sending things and I’m like well, I’d never sent an email like that, but you know what, you start doing it with them about relations and it actually kind of works.

We used to oftentimes do, I’m sure every institution has done a sort of generational differences in the workplace. How do we start to think about that ourselves as continuing educators? And start to think about how we serve, generationally different audiences as well, and bring more professionals that are much younger than ourselves into the fold.

Meni: It’ll be really interesting. The evolution of it. And I, I working with some of the schools that I work with, there’s obviously you could tell the communication styles of the younger generation from the older generation. And you’re totally right. How different, even in emails, how different the communication is.

Melissa: I still a shutter a little bit when I put ‘hi’ at the beginning of an email, but I am like, hey, it’s better than ‘Hey.’ And I think about it from even, I think having those again, blending professional and personal pieces, I’ve got two high schoolers and I have nagged them as every good mother does about you will never start an email to a teacher with, ‘Hey,’ just because I’ve been at, I’ve taught adjunct as an adjunct before, and I’ve gotten those emails that say, ‘Hey,’ you’re like, no, wait a minute.

But the hi, or they’ll like, yes, it’s okay to text people. And we never would have imagined texting the big customers and things. And yet we have to, because they’re not going to read an email and they’re definitely not going to read a postcard.

Meni: It is so funny now that you say that I think I started using ‘hey’, an ‘hi’ in emails like a few years ago. Like when I was at UNLV. I’d have to go back to see if I have any emails saved if I ever said, ‘Hey,’ and then the person’s name right after that. Oh my gosh. That’s so funny that you say that I’d have to go look now, I’m so curious. So when it’s all said and done, Melissa, what do you want your legacy to be in what you’ve done in CE?

Melissa: Ooh, you saved the best for last and the, perhaps the, one of the most challenging for last, right. What do I want my legacy and CE to be?

Any profession, regardless of what it is we are doing, we’ve always got the capacity to grow the business or the institution. We’ve always got the capacity to bring in revenue. We always got the capacity to lose revenue as well and pivot and recover from that. But we, I hope that the legacy that I get to leave in the profession, in the people that I serve, is truly that I listened and really made a personal connection with the people that we were trying to serve and not just, we grew enrollment a hundred percent. Sure, we did, we can, and we will, but it was, yeah. I oftentimes think, do we want to say our vision is that someday we are going to be the people will that make, help people realize their dreams. We help people have their dreams come true, or we have the capacity to do that.

And hey, while it may not feel like it on those days where we’re doing something that is tied to a license that someone has to renew it, we can do that and serve them and listen to them and connect with them with such grace and passion for lifelong learning. I actually that’s really it. I hope that I have impacted the community and inspired.

Other people to engage in lifelong learning as simple as it is. I love learning new things and I want others to love learning new things as well.

Meni: With your energy and your optimism and the way that you make people around you happy, it is easy for people to want to learn and to be in your presence. So I want to thank you so much, Melissa, for coming on this podcast and sharing some of your views and your perspectives. I can’t wait till that next time we get the cheers at a bar and actually hang out together. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast with me.

Melissa: Meni, I really wanted to actually say thank you to you. And this opportunity has been fantastic. Thank you for giving me the time to stop for a second or two and think about legacy and think about where we’re going and where we’ve been at. It has truly been my pleasure and I will leave you with a cheers to lifelong learning, even if it’s virtual.

Meni: Thanks Melissa.

Melissa: Take care.