May 16th, 2022

Stepping Out of Silos: Building Best Practices for Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness


Building Best Practices for Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness

Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness are two of the most important units within any higher education entity and are necessary to ensure an institution is focused on accomplishing the mission. Academic Affairs is familiar to those who have functioned in the college environment. Traditionally, Academic Affairs is the division known to support and maintain a distinguishing academic vision.

Although perhaps less readily visible and well-known, Institutional Effectiveness deals with institution-wide, integrated, and ongoing processes; forming an institutional effectiveness committee is an effective way of ensuring participation and responsibility across the college (Manning, 2011). Likewise, Head and Johnson (2011) determined the term institutional effectiveness was crafted in response to accreditation, as accreditation drives continuous improvement, informed decision-making, and accountability efforts within institutions. It is crucial to the success of the institution that the practices between the two units are efficient.

Changes in student demographics and the world in which we live means institutions are faced with reinventing themselves, and divisions internally must be able to handle the external and internal social, political, and economic forces. Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness must create opportunities for strengthening collaboration to ensure that everyone can understand all perspectives (Buller, 2016), through team building and collaborative efforts to build trust.

Articulate the five levels of a dysfunctional team

Teams that embark upon student success are often impeded by the siloed nature of academia. The walls of literal or figurative blockage become long-standing traditions that can hinder the view of success. Leaders know that teamwork is necessary to achieve the desired results within higher education entities; however, they seem to surrender to the impossibility of making it happen (Lencioni, 2002). Once a leader surrenders to the impossibility of a task, the desire to embark upon it is squelched and the silos remain. At the base of the dysfunction is absence of trust. Trust is the willingness to put oneself at risk based on another individual’s actions (Human Capital Institute, 2014). The lack of trust obstructs the free flow of vulnerability and openness (Lencioni, 2002). This leads to the fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and an inattention to results. There is a culture of artificial harmony and the optimal experience for student success is defined by disconnected departments instead of clearly articulated high standards of accountability of student achievement (Lencioni, 2002).

Implementing the five waves of trust

As the two units collaborate to ensure efficiency is a priority, trust is required. According to Covey (2006), “Trust is not something which is merely ‘touchy-feely’ or ‘nice-to-have.’ As college administrators, we must have the ability and skills to create and expand trust through professional competency. Simply put, with trust, institutions can move forward; however, without trust, institutions will not make any real progress (Covey).

Covey defined the five levels of trust and placed them in context to establish making trust actionable. The first wave is identified as self-trust. Self-trust is a derivative from one’s abilities and capacity to set and achieve goals. The key principle underlying this wave is credibility.

The second wave is relationship trust and the key principle underlying this wave is consistent behavior. The primary goal for relationship trust is to be consistent in your professional behavior at all times. Covey identifies 13 behaviors that exhibit high trust in leaders.

The third wave is organizational trust to facilitate leaders to create structures, systems, and symbols of organizational trust. The fourth wave is identified as market trust, inclusive of the reputation of the individual and the organization. The underlying principle behind this wave is reputation. The final and fifth wave is societal trust. Societal trust amplifies when one can create value for others. The goal of societal trust is to make a meaningful contribution. With academic affairs and institutional effectiveness administrators having an understanding of the five waves of trust, will enable them to establish trust, allowing them to set performance metrics that yield results and inspiring trust in others.

Develop a needs assessment

As the priorities within Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness vary, it is important for administrators to collaborate to and inspire trust in others to develop a needs assessment. A needs assessment can be best identified as a systematic process of identifying the priorities and needs of the organization. The needs assessment between Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness should lead to the two units making informed decisions about what to do to improve effectiveness and performance of the institution in such areas as enrollment, graduation, placement, and retention. Effectiveness is a complex, multifaceted construct with meanings and interpretations (Alfred, 2011). Therefore, in developing the needs assessment, the administrators should agree on the most important competencies needed to push the institution forward.

Identify areas of opportunity for collaboration

Collaboration can be best defined as the act of working with another or others on a joint project (Schottle, Haghsehno, & Gehbauer, 2014). Bennis and Beiderman (1997) acknowledged that “one is too small a number to produce greatness.” As institutions focus on meeting the dynamic needs of a new generation of students and the evolving workforce, collaboration is needed to meet employer demands of the communities served. The current workforce consists of multiple generations which entail many varying beliefs and values (Apostolidis & Polifroni, 2006).

Maintain regulatory and accreditation compliance for all campus stakeholders

All stakeholders have a vested interest in the success of students. Maintaining regulatory and accreditation compliance is the cornerstone of ensuring student success is achieved. The public has a right to expect that educational institutions maintain quality standards (Ryan, 2015). Departmental cooperation and collaboration are essential to this process. Public reputation and sanctions impact recruitment, retention, capital campaigns, and funding sources.

Monique Baucham, MBA, EdS, is executive vice president for academics and institutional effectiveness at Columbus Technical College and Tanjula Petty, EdD, is vice president for academic affairs at Albany Technical College.


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Ryan, T. (2015). Quality assurance in higher education: A review of literature. Higher Learning Research Communications, 5(4), 1-12. doi:10.18870/hlrc.v5i4.257

Schottle, A., Haghsehno, S., & Gehbauer, F. (2014). Defining cooperation and collaboration in the context of lean construction. Teaching Lean Construction, 22, 1269-1280.