Bringing harmony to contrasting visions
By Dr. Bruce Getzan
One historian has commented that at any given time, one groups vision may be anothers nightmare. Chief Dan George in the classic Hollywood film, Little Big Man, suggested this when he contrasted Native American visions about living in harmony with mother earth and the encroaching white settlers ideal of conquering their surroundings. The settlers, he believed, were strange, and dont know where the center of the universe is. In the end, he resigned himself to the reality that there were simply too many of them coming for the Native American visions to survive.
Sullivan County also has had a history of contrasting visions. Joseph Akselrad noted in his Book of Remembrance of the Hebrew Congregation of Loch Sheldrake (1997), that while the region originally was a distant watering place for Indian hunters, in another century it was a site for mining swindles, then a century later …became part of a corridor for bootleggers to bring Canadian alcoholic beverages to the big cities and local resorts … along with prostitution and illegal gambling. He concluded, In Loch Sheldrake, the Tannenbaum Casino on the lake was reported to offer fairly wide gambling and liquor through the dry era.
The county still harbors contrasting visions about what is best for its lands and people.
But we must not be satisfied with Chief Dan Georges conclusion that this means some must give up their visions. Contrast need not mean irresolvable conflict, nor prevent us from moving ahead together to find collaborative solutions.
Sullivan County Community Colleges recent initiatives with regard to workforce and education provide a good example of how collaborative visions may be helped to become a reality.
First, the college staked out a mission. Its Division of Workforce Development, Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning (WFD, CE & LLL) adopted the following mission statement: To offer and to enhance a variety of educational opportunities and life-long experiences that focus on personal enrichment and workforce development, serving individuals, groups, businesses and the community as a whole.
To further the mission, the college analyzed the needs of local businesses, concluding that they require a broad range of customized training to improve productivity and profitability, while upgrading employees skills and promoting retention of workers. It then identified grant sources to help pay for training of the type that fits the needs of the businesses. For example, last year, one agency sought help in developing sign language and communication skills for its workers. The college responded with customized classes, offered at the agencys site, and conducted the training over a six-month period that fit with the workers daily schedules. This was a practical application and solution that grew out of a vision crafted in theory.
More such collaboration is in the works for next year, with $97,000 of grant money already applied for. The success of these programs is based upon partnerships where the college and the employers share a vision of what might be best not only for the bottom line but for maintaining and improving the work environment.
One thing weve learned in the history of Sullivan County is that needs and visions are constantly changing and that our mission at the college is to listen continually to the community in order to craft collaborative solutions, with none fearing that their visions must die.
[Dr. Bruce Getzan is Dean of Workforce Development, Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning at Sullivan County Community College. He can be reached at 845/434-5750, ext. 4337 or by email at email@example.com]
This bi-weekly feature is part of a visioning initiative to engage citizens in a valley-wide discussion about the future of the Upper Delaware River Valley. If you are interested in contributing to this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845/252-7414. For more about visioning, visit upperdelaware.com.