Colleagues and friends,
A week ago tonight I returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy with my family. The kids were on fall break, so they didn’t miss any school and we got really cheap flights. We had a great time exploring Rome, Pompeii and Florence and the kids were great sports throughout the trip.
I did my very best to take a bit of break from work and left my laptop in my backpack the entire time I was gone. I tried to be as present as possible for my family and even did a little bit of leisure reading (finally read “The Martian”—and then watched the movie the plane; and, I started “Murder on the Orient Express,” so I can watch the movie when it comes out). It was nice to be able to disconnect for a few days.
The great privilege of disconnecting results from having outstanding team members, who have great instincts and “get it.” This brief break reminded me how fortunate I am to be surrounded by wonderfully committed professionals in enrollment, communication & marketing and advancement.
Augustana College is equally fortunate to have such a great group of folks who are goal-driven and focused on the work at hand.
I should note, though, that my return did correspond with our application deadline for Early Decision and Early Action, which means I did return to a wee bit of work to do (Thank God)!
A thought I can’t get out of my mind
On the recommendation of a former Augustana trustee, I picked up “You can do anything: The surprising power of a “useless” liberal arts education” by George Anders. Admittedly, I am at the very beginning of the book and just starting to dig in, but there’s an early passage, which I think we should plaster on every wall on campus to make sure our students see it, read it and understand it!
Anders writes, “You don’t need to apologize for the supposedly impractical classes you took in college of the so-called soft skills you acquired. The job market is quietly creating thousands of openings a week for people who can bring a humanist’s grace to our rapidly evolving high-tech future.”
Can I get an Amen?
I can already tell that there is a lot to this book and I can’t wait to read (and share) more.
Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)
Seven overused leadership strengths—I saw a review of this blogpost on the CASE summary earlier today and it caught my attention, since the Augustana Cabinet recently completed a Strengths Finder exercise and is working diligently toward focusing on leadership strengths. This blogpost urges some caution about strengths and argues that there are some strengths that can be overplayed. The author identifies the following as strengths that require some management: intellect, trust, creativity, drive confidence, humility and interpersonal skills. This is worth reading, friends.
Fail fast, learn faster—Recently, I’ve found great value in the weekly summary from Korn-Ferry International. A post from last week really resonated with me. This particular post about failing fast and learning from it is excellent. I wish more comfort with failure in the workplace and in higher ed in general. Failing too frequently is associated with incompetence or carelessness, rather than creativity and learning. And, sadly, it’s leads us all to seek perfection before trying anything. I think the concluding phrase is excellent: “Fail fast and learn faster, all the while striving toward a purpose-driven goal.”
I’ve had some crappy ideas; here’s another one
Augustana College ranks #7 in the entire nation in producing Academic All-Americans. It’s an amazing distinction and is something that the college takes great pride in, justifiably so.
For a long time I’ve been thinking about ways to successfully leverage this distinction in student recruitment to try to get the college in front of new audiences. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the current “audiences,” but it’s important to expand geographically and it would be nice to begin to stretch willingness to pay and maybe reach and even higher caliber student to ensure Augustana continues to be a part of the top 10.
Well, here’s where my crappy idea comes in.
Given Augustana distinction and position in the top 10, I thought that I might be able to convince some other top 10 Division III institutions to consider some joint travel with Augustana. I thought that a couple of us might be able to sponsor some joint programming to discuss athletic recruitment at the Division III level and highlight the benefits of Division III athletic participation.
So, I made a couple of inquiries with my counterparts at other Division III colleges that enjoy a similarly high ranking.
I didn’t receive a single nibble of interest from my counterparts at other colleges with high national rankings. No one bite on the idea!
Now, maybe the idea wasn’t (isn’t) so crappy, but I suspect the approach was too transparent.
What do I mean?
Well, I expect my overtures to institutions that are considerably more selective and higher profile than Augustana came across like the scrawny kid on the playground wanting to pick the teams for kickball.
Yes, I intentionally looked to places that could help successfully get Augustana in front of new audiences. They must have figured that out pretty quickly.
I wonder what would happen if Augustana tried to organize a group of schools among which Augustana might feel like the leader, though.
Something for you (and me) to think about
I am more convinced than ever before that the case for the value of higher education is slowly eroding.
It would seem that the latest tax plan has some elements that illustrate that, too, like taxing large endowments and increasing the cost of borrowing for colleges doing construction. While some might say that this is a partisan issue, I think it’s larger. And, I am not sure what higher education can do to regain the public’s trust. And, I do think it’s the public, not just public policy makers. I fear some days that we’ve become a caricature of all that is viewed as unfavorable within higher education. Sadly, I don’t have an answer on this one, but I can tell you that I spend more time thinking about this today than ever before.
What can we do to regain the public trust? Furthermore, what can we do to earn respect? I am a believer in higher education. I believe we transfer lives. I believe we open minds. I believe we challenge people to think differently. I believe we engage in touch conversations in an effort to explore truth. I am a believer in research and scholarship that advances who we are and what we do. I believe, but I think we are, generally, not making a convincing argument to the right audience.
I need to do better. We need to do better. And, we all need to take this more seriously than ever before.
P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add them to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. And, you can read past issues of my musings at my blog @bowtieadmission