The undergraduate Commencement is tomorrow, and the weather seems to be cooperating, knock on wood. Spring is the best time in education, like fall is in farming, I imagine. The fruits of our labor are over there, happy, naïve, proud and so young. I am still cleaning up the paperwork hills accumulated from the NCATE era, but we are thinking about the next year and beyond.
The Economist, my favorite magazine, has just published “What do bosses do all day,?” a review of the new Harvard study. The study indicates that bosses may “spend only 3-4% of their day thinking about long-term strategy.” That is probably true for college administrators as well. I’d say it is much less than 3% during the busy time; hopefully a little more in the Summer. We crave summer, love summer, because it is the only time to think. Another quote: “Bill Gates took regular “think weeks”, when he would sit alone in a cabin for 18 hours a day reading and contemplating.” This is great, except I would prefer to do it not alone, but with a small group of people. The article also does not mention that many major innovative companies have something like this not just for the bosses, but for everybody. We all need some think weeks.
The challenges on the horizon are both new and somewhat unpredictable. For example, if things continue to go wrong, we may lose a significant part of our graduate enrollments. We should be responding creatively, not just with defense. Please think how we can stop this particular absurdity from becoming the law. I am trying everything possible through all available channels, but perhaps there is something I am missing. If things just continue to go as they go, we face an increasing pressure to modernize, to improve our programs smartly and be able to prove it. What we need is not just good honest work, but a real break-trough to question the very essence of education, of colleges, of educator preparation. That’s one item of homework for you all – come up with a brilliant idea to change the name of the game for us.
We have a number of other priorities; these are just a few:
- State-wide collaboration for teacher preparation: the vision, common placement policies, PR.
- Complete modernization of operations: Feinstein admissions, program information, student advising, digital
- Update and modernize faculty processes: applications, annual reports, evaluations, asking for funds, etc.
- Make Chalk and Wire work for us to the maximum extent. This is not a technological challenge only: we need to get all programs to undertake a critical review of their assessment systems, make sure the Unit-wide assessments are used to the maximum, extent, stop collecting data no one can use, and in general, reduce the number of hoops for faculty and students to jump through.
- We need to make sure curriculum is discussed routinely, frequently, and with actionable outcomes. We should have no lose ends, no gaps, no redundancies; with every course in each program tightly fit in a way every student can explain.
- Need to review and update the fundamental documents: governance, conceptual framework, mission, etc.
This is just a brief list of things right off the top of my head. The next step would be to make a detailed list from what we started and di not complete this year, from the Strategic Plan, from what we know is coming next year. Then we need to see what we can actually accomplish, and how and how would do it. If we cannot do it all, what is the priority, and what should be put off.