Department COVID-19 Updates:

Lessons to Learn

Sunshine and warmer temperatures welcome students on the first day of the Spring 2023 semester.
Sunshine and warmer temperatures welcome students on the first day of the Spring 2023 semester.

Jan. 2, 2023

 Lessons to Learn

By NCTA Dean Larry Gossen

 As we enter 2023, as we do each new year, we look forward to a new start, new opportunities, and a new focus. This year is a little different just because the circumstances of the past week have caused me to reflect a little bit differently.

I was a “victim” of the Southwest Airlines debacle, if you want to call it that. Unless you have stayed off the news or social media for the last couple of weeks, you have surely heard about the thousands of flights that have been cancelled daily by Southwest. We got to experience that frustration firsthand.

However, this column isn’t about my misadventures, although we could talk about our experiences for quite some time. This article is about what we learned from this and how it applies to our daily lives and our work at NCTA.

My first lesson is that people make all the difference. In all our interactions with the front-line workers, we were impressed with the patience and kindness they exhibited when passengers were stressed and anxious.

Even though they were no happier about the weather, delayed or cancelled flights, or lost luggage than anyone else, they maintained positive attitudes and were committed to providing assistance to those that were left stranded. Personal customer service was not absent regardless of where we were or who we talked to.

I believe that our people at NCTA make all the difference for our students and their parents. Our faculty are second to none, and our staff understand the role they play in student success. Our goal must be to continue to provide that positive experience for our “customers”.

The primary problem with Southwest’s meltdown wasn’t the weather, but an antiquated system that hasn’t kept up with current needs. While the weather may have initially caused delayed flights and cancellations, their system kept them from recovering quickly and getting back on track.

What a lesson to learn for us at NCTA. It is imperative that we maintain our focus on updating our systems, technology, and curriculum. We have to stay up to date with the current trends in agriculture and veterinary technology. Failing to adjust to challenges and interruptions to standard operations can prove to be detrimental to future success.

The most important lesson that I personally learned was a deeper issue that went directly to the top. The CEO of Southwest Airlines accepted the responsibility for the debacle, placing the onus directly on his shoulders. He understood the issues that caused the problems and accepted that they had not been dealt with in a timely manner.

For the past several years, the CEO at the time had focused on the wrong priorities and had become disconnected from what was going on with the front-line workers. He had been focused on the financial bottom line, not addressing the challenges or technological needs that eventually caused the meltdown.

As the Dean of NCTA, it is my responsibility to stay attuned to the needs of the students, faculty, and staff, keeping our priorities straight, and to communicate effectively. Failure to do so will result in setbacks and inefficiencies.

There is a big difference between making wholesale changes for the sake of change and holding the status quo because of the fear of change. Both extremes create problems and can produce negative consequences.

It is important to discern the right combination of change and status quo and making those decisions requires a lot of input and analysis. This is where it is important to have the right people in the right positions to provide that input and assist in making those decisions.

As we face a new year, I hope the lessons learned from a very exhausting trip can guide us to be focused on our people, make appropriate decisions, and be committed to another year of student success.

NCTA Events:

Dec. 16-Jan. 8:  Holiday Break for students

Dec. 23-Jan. 2: Holiday Offices closed

Jan. 18: Host District 11 FFA LDE

Jan. 19: Connect-the-Dots at Kearney

Jan. 24-26: Recruit @ Colorado Farm Show Greeley

Jan. 26: Host Sorghum Symposium Event


Part of the University of Nebraska system, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is a two-year institution with a statewide mission of preparing students for successful careers in agriculture, veterinary technology and related industries. NCTA is known for its affordable tuition, high job-placement rate for its graduates, and for the success of student teams in competitive activities including crops judging, ranch horse events, livestock judging, shotgun sports, stock dog trials, and intercollegiate rodeo. The college is consistently ranked as one of the best two-year schools in the nation.

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