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Monday Musings by WKB #emchat #admissions #highered #leadership #liberalarts

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Dear colleagues and friends,

Once again I skipped a week.

Honestly, I was exhausted from a couple of weeks of late night basketball and couldn’t get myself motivated to write something last week.

But, I am back this week with some thoughts about change, a couple of really great articles, another crappy idea I had once upon a time, and, some more from “Grant,” which I finally finished.

I can sense that it’s “go time” on campus. There is no question that the rest of this academic year will be a hard sprint to the end. My lists of things to complete are growing—even as I cross things off! The numbers are beginning to shape a narrative and tell an interesting story about the work. Teammates are hitting their stride and I am witnessing great creativity and an unmatched work ethic.

At this time, especially, I am reminded that I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a group of people who hold themselves accountable and embraced shared-responsibility for success.

Best wishes to us all in the coming days, weeks and months.

Kent

A thought I can’t get out of my mind

I have been using a Lenten Devotional entitled “In His steps: A Daily Lenten Devotional Journey through the Life of Christ” and have found a number of things to be of interest throughout. This particular devotional focuses on the story of Jesus from birth to crucifixion. It has certainly forced me to think differently about many stories I’ve heard countless times.

Last week the author, Ray Pritchard, recounted the story of the Pool of Bethesda, during which Jesus asks an ill man, “Do you want to get well?” The author cites the seeming absurdity of the question, given the illness of this man. However, the question was deadly serious and applies to all of us and to our organizations. Some people truly don’t want to change and in this instance it’s as if Jesus really wanted to make absolutely certain that the ill man understood what change would men.

The story and the devotional both focus on the difficulty people have with change. We often hear the refrain “change is hard.” And, it is. Or, as Pritchard offers, “Everyone wants progress. No one wants change.” How familiar is that sentiment?

The reason I’ve not been able to get this thought out of my head is because I see so clearly how expectant I am for others to change and how reluctant I am to change myself. I have a feeling that most people, if truly reflective, will see the same thing in themselves.

How do I/we get to the point where change is easier and/or welcome?

How do I/we embrace change before the point of “change or die?”

These are questions that will take me some time to sort through, I am afraid.

But, back to the devotional, Pritchard close each passage with a short prayer and this one included the following, “Thank you Lord, for being the Devine Disturber of the Peace.” I love the idea of a “Divine Disturber of the Peace!” Perhaps the idea of a Devine Disturber of the Peace can help me/us embrace change and take on the role of change agent when needed?

What do you think?

Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

5 Communication behaviors of great leaders—Patrick Leddin’s essay about communication behaviors of leaders is a great read. It’s something I am going to keep around because I know that I can improve upon some of the five behaviors he identifies. Leddin maintains that these five communication behaviors are essential for leaders who excel:

  1. Choose to address poor performance
  2. Choose to understand what motivates
  3. Choose to listen
  4. Choose to straight talk
  5. Choose to share perspectives

First, I love the fact that the author focuses on choice and choosing to do these things!

What do you make of these five behaviors? Is there one that you find to be particularly difficult? Is there one in which you think I am failing? Is there one that you observe others leaders overlooking?

The principle of commitment and behavior consistency—Kudos to Leslie DuPree, who forwarded this excellent article my way. This article is relevant to recruitment and fundraising and is well worth reading. After reading it, my head was spinning! I found myself thinking…

  • Are we asking prospective students/alumni to share too much information (for our purposes and not theirs)?
  • Do we expect too much of students when applying?
  • Is there an application for first-year students in the first-year experience to publicly state their goals, so they are held accountable by others?
  • Should we brainstorm ways to more effectively use peers in recruitment and fundraising to hold a peer group accountable for action?
  • Is there a way to rethink the application process to be incremental in developing a relationship?

While much of this is intuitive, there are some good thoughts that should focus and center our work. It seems to me that this excellent article reinforces that age-old concept that if you can’t get them to do the easy things (update a form, answer a call, visit campus, meet with you when you are in the area), it’s unlikely that you’ll get them to enroll or donate.

Another crappy idea I had: The liberal arts institute

Apparently in 2012 I was really into predicting the future. Here’s one prediction I made:

I predict that we will see some liberal arts colleges (most likely those that do not breath the rare air of the top  50)  do the following in the next few years:*

  1. Establish an Institute of the Liberal Arts within their campuses to create a meaningful symbol of the liberal arts and a college’s commitment. These “institutes” will focus attention on preserving the liberal arts and humanities and will create a centralized power structure to defend the liberal arts and humanities in an era of increasing professional orientation and STEM focus of liberal arts colleges nationwide.
  2. These “institutes” will “take over” the general education program and will redefine the core curriculum in remarkable ways.
  3. These “institutes” will redefine the outcomes of what the liberal arts accomplishes on a college campus. The refocusing of the liberal arts is likely to establish criteria each course in the general education program meets that directly relates to the outcomes of a liberal arts education (critical thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, communication, intercultural/generational communication, social and political engagement, etc). The general education program will become more “skills-based,” rather than content based, and will enable content from a wide range of subject areas to meet the skill standards necessary to fulfill what the liberal arts should teach, etc.
  4. These “institutes” will redefine the “currency” of completing the liberals arts and will offer “badges” for successfully fulfilling the designated skills in each area of the liberal arts that the “institute” on each campus believes represents its version of the liberal arts.

(This first appeard on my blog @bowtieadmission 2012)

I am not aware of anyone who followed my crappy advice on this one. What do you think, a terrible idea or far ahead of its time?

Something for you (and me) to think about

I finally finished reading Ron Chernow’s “Grant.” It’s an excellent book and worth placing on you summer reading list. There are wonderful lessons about leadership, perseverance and tolerance. Grant was imperfect as a man and a leader, but his contributions on the whole were quite remarkable.

In the closing pages of the book, I highlighted the passage below:

“The trouble is now made by men who did not go to ware at all, or who did not get made till the ware was over.”

According to Chernow, Grant shared this sentiment with an old friend, Simon Buckner, who fought for the Confederacy. Buckner visited Grant, while Grant was dying, to pay his respects to an old friend and Grant seemed to be lamenting some back-tracking on progress for which he was responsible following the Civil War.

What I find interesting about Grant’s sentiment is how relevant it is today. It seems like we have an awfully high-degree of tolerance for dissent after the fact in many places and spaces!

I think Grant urges us to engage in the topics of the day fully at times that are ripe. I think this is especially important of leaders, but is probably good for all of us. It seems to me that many only pay attention when it impacts them directly; they’ve often missed the opportunity to shape the discussion and narrative and tend to take pot-shots or cry sour grapes well after the time is ripe to do so.

Perhaps we can commit to being engaged and informed when it matters most.

Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?

If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about somethingn particular, please let me know by emailing me at wkentbarnds@augustana.edu

 

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 anyone who might benefit (or have mild interest) to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission

 


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