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The Official Baldrige Blog

Howard Community College: A Most Excellent Quest Continues

A female student at Howard Community College Commencement turning behind in her seat and smiling while holding up her diploma.
Credit: Howard Community College
Photo of Baldrige Crystal and Medallion.
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Inscribed on the Baldrige Award medallion are the words “The Quest for Excellence.” Besides being the name of the Baldrige national conference that highlights winning organizations, those words have real meaning.

Organizations that use the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria—whether for self-assessment or to apply for an award at state/local or national levels—are on true quests.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a quest as an "act of seeking," in this case excellence. ("Quest" is also "a chivalrous enterprise in medieval romance usually involving an adventurous journey," but that is a different blog.) Oxford Dictionary defines quest as "a search for something." I also found this definition in an academic resource: "an exciting search involving an adventurous journey."

I asked the 2019 and 2020 Baldrige Award recipients what caused them to embark on their own quests for excellence, and how such quests helped them in the year 2020.

Zoe Irvin, Executive Director for Planning, Research, and Organizational Development, Howard Community College (HCC), a 2019 Baldrige Award recipient, offered these thoughts about the organization’s quest for excellence:

Why did your organization get engaged in the Baldrige Excellence Framework (i.e., Baldrige Criteria)? In other words, what was the hook?

Since opening in 1970, HCC has always had a deep commitment to continuous quality improvement to provide great service to its students. When the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence came out in 1998, it was natural for the college to want to benchmark itself against national standards of best practices.

Why did you stay involved?

We appreciated the feedback reports [received after an application for the Baldrige Award] and the feedback received during the site visits [the final process during the Baldrige Award cycle]. We also enjoyed opportunities to interact with other organizations of high quality during the Quest for Excellence conference and other Baldrige events to understand what processes they successfully employ and to give us ideas for process improvements.

How did the Baldrige Framework help during the pandemic in 2020?

Our faculty and staff were used to working across departments on cross-functional teams to create great student experiences and to answer questions from the Baldrige Education Criteria [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework].

Guided by the Education Criteria and Baldrige feedback received, we had well-defined work systems and clearly understood key processes with tracked metrics. At the beginning of the pandemic, the faculty and staff could quickly Zoom together to figure out how to transition to an online environment—which they accomplished in just two weeks.

What quest is your organization on?

Join us for our first-ever virtual conference! 

The Quest for Excellence Conference April 3-6, 2022 - Register Today!

Quest for Excellence® Conference

Monday, April 12–Thursday, April 15, 2021

The three-day virtual showcase will feature the 2019 and 2020 Award recipients, former recipients, pre-conference workshops, senior leader plenary sessions with live Q&A, more than 70+ on-demand concurrent sessions, conference keynote, and more!

Register Today! 

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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