higher education November 1, 2018

Higher Education: Exporting Middle-Class Dreams


Many countries are currently considering diversifying their higher education systems by modeling U.S. community college-like institutional designs. Vietnam and China, along with other nations, are intrigued by, curious about, yet somewhat suspicious of American community colleges—especially in terms of their relationship to universities and higher learning.

Even if It’s Not Broken, It Can Still Be Improved: Reorganizing for Effective Alignment October 30, 2018

Even if It’s Not Broken, It Can Still Be Improved: Reorganizing for Effective Alignment


When systems and processes are misaligned and do not function effectively or efficiently for students, faculty, or staff, the need for reorganization of academic affairs is obvious. But it’s a daunting task. Broach the topic in a meeting, and you’ll immediately detect a rise in the level of stress in the room. And when word spreads, even people in units not directly affected by the proposed reorganization often will become apprehensive as well. This reaction poses a dilemma: how can institutions handle alignment and unit reorganization without inducing unnecessary stress or anxiety?

Shying away from the task is not a viable option. It would mean missing an opportunity for transformational change in operations. Consider the following issues that can drive the need for reorganization within academic affairs, and the possible consequences if these go unaddressed:

succession planning October 29, 2018

Succession Planning: Developing Future Leaders from Within


Succession planning, or targeted leadership development, is not very common in higher education institutions, perhaps because of the corporate cronyism it often calls to mind. Certainly, the values and hiring practices in higher education are inconsistent with the “good ol’ boy” network found in the corporate sector, but perhaps higher education institutions could apply some of the more benign aspects of succession planning to minimize disruptions associated with leadership change, preserve institutional memory, and make full use of the talents within the institution.

avoiding groupthink October 25, 2018

Avoiding Groupthink


With the spate of books and articles that deal with the issue of incivility in higher education, it’s easy to conclude that destructive disharmony is the single biggest problem facing colleges and universities today. To be sure, lack of collegiality has become a significant challenge, and nearly every academic leader can recall at least one department or college that became increasingly dysfunctional because of its inability to work together in a mutually supportive manner. But the great deal of attention we pay to the challenges of incivility can cause us to underestimate the dangers of an opposing threat that also exists in many academic units: groupthink.

flexible sabbatical October 23, 2018

5 Recommendations for Completing the Flexible Sabbatical


At my institution, academic administrators on a 12-month contract can receive up to a full semester of paid leave to complete scholarship in their fields. Unlike a traditional sabbatical, which is taken for a full semester, flexible sabbatical weeks are taken in clusters throughout the academic year. In this way, academic departments are minimally impacted and administrators can enjoy the benefit of well-deserved leave time.

I began my flexible sabbatical just after graduation and completed it a year later. During that time, I was able to accomplish my scholarship goals and experience the rejuvenation for which sabbaticals are known. In reflecting on my experience, I recommend the following steps to anyone interested in pursuing this type of leave:

shoestring budget October 22, 2018

On a Shoestring


This simple strategy can play a role in bringing a campus together around priorities that are shared widely and building a leadership team that is broadly regarded as unified and legitimate. Although, honestly, I cannot quantify its success, from years of experience I can attest to its far from negligible benefits and effect upon campus culture. Moreover, it’s an innovation that costs nothing to implement; no resources—either of money or planning time—need to be expended.

collegiality October 16, 2018

Collegiality: The Cornerstone of a University (and a Profession)


Accepting and sharing responsibility for creating a productive work setting within the department and institution result, at least to a great extent, from how well each member of the community carries his or her own fair share of the common workload. The challenges faced by higher education institutions in the 21st century cannot be successfully mastered, nor can the efforts of dedicated professionals be sustained when the actions of a faculty member are divisive, uncompromising, and inflexible. In a similar way, it is destructive to a department’s morale and effectiveness when one or more of its members accept a significantly lower degree of responsibility for achieving a shared purpose. These elements lie at the heart of that salient, fundamental hallmark of successful interactions in academic life that is commonly called collegiality.