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Jul 9, 2010

The first three days

It’s Friday morning, my fourth days on the job. The moving in and organization took very little time, thanks to an incredibly efficient support by Paula McKeon and people from HR and  IT. I spent the entire three days learning about this fine institution. The best way to do it is to meet with people face to face and ask them a lot of questions, so my thanks go to all those who took and will take their time to educate the rookie Dean on the intricacies of the School’s operation: so far, Paula, Karen, Eileen, Ron, Kim, Monica, Ellen, Pat Cordeiro and Pat Hays, Dottie, Bettie - all have been victims of my questioning and probing. How much do I really know? Don’t overestimate the level of my knowledge, especially if asking for a quick decision. However, it is amazing how many subtle trends are similar to those in the other four institutions I have worked before. There are parallel limits and challenges for all education professional preparation schools, so people independently come to similar solutions. Without that background, I would have been completely lost.
I managed to learn some of the alphabet soup, RIC style (FLH, DLC, PEC) and enough about our programs and operations to be impressed. This looks like a thriving, and a competent institution. The problems and issues also start to pop up, because different people bring them up independently. For example, the new practicum compensation scheme clearly landed on the top of my list. It needs to be addressed quickly, but I am still struggling to understand the financial implications of the move. The last thing this new Dean wants to do is to finish his first financial year in the deep red. It is interesting though, that I helped to devise similar pay-per-student schemes at my old institution – not because of the union contracts, but simply for the sake of transparency and fairness. People should get paid for the work they do, because money, besides its obvious value, also has an important symbolic function. From my experience, people do not mind working very hard, but faculty and staff want to be recognized by being fairly compensated.
Another list of projects I am trying to identify as a first priority has to do with operations. We will need to switch quickly to on-line applications to the School, and to practicum and student teaching. RIC has a powerful tool – PeopleSoft, but right now, it’s like driving a Jaguar in the school zone. IT and our staff here have done great work already, we just need to eliminate as much of manual data input and hard copy paperwork as possible. This will free time for Kim, Paula, Dottie, and Rose, so they can help us with the next line of projects that have to do with NCATE accreditation.  One small but real achievement: I asked Kim to call to our partner school district to ask if they still require the TB test. Guess what – the absolute majority do not, and neither does the Health Department. We can kill that requirement right now, with DLC’s blessing. This means less hassle for students, less boring work for us!  
I am also trying to set up more meetings, as I realize which other key people in and outside of RIC may help me learn. There are smaller projects, which most of the people will probably have little interest in. For example, I realized we need a faculty database to monitor and report on workloads and tenure/promotion/sabbatical processes. We need to develop a way to scan all the archival files, so we don’t run out of room in the office.
That’s my first three days. Am I missing a big iceberg ahead? Please do let me know! In the next week, I will put out a faculty and staff survey to get a more systematic input from all of you. Please think what you think are our priorities, which way we should move, and how we can help each other to have meaningful and enjoyable work lives. 


  1. Thank you. I've only been here two years myself, but the need for electronic paperwork is clear.

    And welcome aboard.

  2. I remember two years ago when my family and I came to Providence. I was very lost, but Sandy Sciotti (DES secretary) was absolutely wonderful!
    Very pleased to have you with us!!