An ancient proverb says that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to visit my alma mater, Fairfield University. It was the first time I had been back to the campus in 15 years. I had kept myself informed as to what was happening through the years by reading the quarterly magazine that is sent to all alumni. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I arrived.
As I drove through the University’s main gate, I noticed at least 3 buildings that stood where trees and fields used to be. I was a little early for my appointment at Alumni House so I decided to take a leisurely drive around the campus. As I drove, I noticed even more changes. There were new classroom buildings, improved landscaping, street signs (yes you read that right!) apartment buildings, the library had tripled in size, and there were a couple of new dorms. One thing that didn’t seem all that different was that the students were just as care-free as I had been during my time there. Back then, however, no one had a cell phone and one’s e-mail address was like a NASA launch code.
I arrived at Alumni House for my appointment. My reason for going back to Fairfield was to discuss presenting a series of webinars on professional development topics for students and alumni. I met with Julie, the Director of Alumni Career Services (who is also an alumna of the University herself) and we decided to take a walk around the campus while we talked. Again, I found myself marveling at all of the improvements – all of the innovation and freshness that seemed to permeate from every corner of the campus.
But I was equally taken aback by some things that I saw that had not changed over the years. The mailroom lady from the 1990’s was still the mailroom lady. I tried to imagine the thousands and thousands of students for whom she retrieved packages over the years. Yet there she was still doing it! I recognized the faces of some of the cafeteria workers and even saw my old boss from one of my work-study jobs. It was evident that the mission and identity of the University had not changed. Sure, the actual mission statement had probably been tweaked a few times over the years but it continues to reflect the University’s core values.
As I drove home from Fairfield, I reflected on what I had seen and experienced. And a thought came to me – the University made so many infrastructure and capital improvements over the years yet the heart and soul of the place (its values, mission, and loyal employees) had not been dramatically altered.
I believe there is a lesson here for all organizations including our credit unions. It’s necessary to adapt to the ever-changing business climate and make changes but this should never be accomplished at the expense of the core values that helped to build the organization in the first place. Truthfully, had I not seen first-hand that the heart and soul of Fairfield had not changed; I probably would not have been as impressed with the shiny new buildings.