Appreciative Inquiry at Atlantic Cape


In 2007, the senior staff at Atlantic Cape read Jim Collins' "Good to Great" as part of a leadership-focused retreat. A year later, the senior staff agreed that the basic tenet of Collins' text (in order to transition an organization from good to great, the organization must direct its resources to its areas of greatest strength) would serve as the foundation for its next retreat.

With this focus on strengths-based leadership, the senior staff sought an organizational tool that would similarly promote individual and institutional strengths while at the same time move the college forward. In the winter of 2008, the senior staff participated in a retreat titled "Fostering a We-Centric Collaborative Team Environment to Achieve Enduring Greatness." The retreat reviewed the core tenets of Collins' text and, at the same time, introduced the senior staff to the basic principles and benefits of Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

AI was made popular by founder David Cooperider. His essay, "A Positive Revolution in Change" was one of many reading materials provided to Atlantic Cape's senior staff in advance of the retreat. Another valuable resource for the senior staff was "The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry" by Thin Book Publishing Co.


Since the winter retreat, Atlantic Cape has slowly begun utilizing AI strategies in its operations. An enterprise-wide committee structure was established to address a range of college-wide issues. The enterprise-wide committees, also known as cross- functional committees, were designed to be inclusive, vision-centered and strengths-based entities. Presently, the College benefits from the collaborative work of five cross- functional committees in the areas of Technology, Environmental Sustainability, Institutional Effectiveness, Safety and Enrollment Management.

The Board of Trustees endorsed a Survey of Trustee Strengths and Networks. Results of the survey are used to link Trustee talents to relevant causes and college initiatives.

Atlantic Cape is looking to provide broader educational programming on Appreciative Inquiry to its community ove rthe coming months and years. An AI approach is currently being utilized as the College embarks on the development of its new Strategic Plan.

In the fall of 2009, Dr. Peter Mora, President, David Evans, Board Treasurer, and Brittany Goldstein, Associate Dean of Human Resources/President/Board of Trustees Services, presented a workshop on "Exploring the Use of Appreciative Inquiry to Promote Board Effectiveness" at the Association of Community College Trustees Annual Conference. Atlantic Cape was thrilled to learn from leaders at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that their institution has also adopted AI as an organizational tool.

To learn more about Appreciative Inquiry, visit:

The Appreciative Inquiry Commons