Dear colleagues and friends,
The first week of classes was a busy week with activity all throughout campus. It was great to see students on campus, but it was particularly joyful to see our student workers in admissions and advancement return to campus. Listening to them describe their summer experiences is pretty amazing and I truly marvel at what our students accomplish over the summer months.
For me, all of campus takes on a completely different feeling when our students return. There is a different energy–and urgency–to the work and the routine. It’s invigorating and reminds me why I love working on a campus and being surrounded by students and those who serve students. There is no greater job in the world in my opinion.
I hope everyone out there is feeling the same way that I do at this time of year.
A thought I can’t get out of my mind
A week ago Thursday, at the invitation of my boss, President Steve Bahls, I attended the Annual Meeting of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber always puts on a great program and there is a definite energy in the room. I am proud of the work the Chamber does and am very grateful for their advocacy on behalf of the Quad Cities and our amazing region.
As part of the annual meeting, the Chamber typically invites a speaker of some prominence. This year the speaker was Rebecca Ryan, who is described as a futurist. She did a nice job and gave me a number of things to think about.
The main take-away for me, though, was her riff on experience and I’ve been thinking about her comment ever since.
Ryan asked the audience, rhetorically, “Do you know what the problem with being experienced is?”
She answered, “That you have all the answers.”
He answer included an appropriate level of sarcasm. She then went on to mock being a consultant and a futurist because people in those roles are expected to have answers, when what they really do is to know how to ask the right questions.
I’ve found myself being hyper-aware and checking myself frequently ever since to make sure that I am not coming across as “showing off” my level of experience! Honestly, I am finding it liberating to try to take the position of asking the questions opposed to providing the answers.
Ryan offered a really great insight, in my opinion, and I believe she was trying to make the case that experienced leaders today do not, and cannot, have all of the answers. She continued to suggest that today’s leaders need to be confident enough to acknowledge that they don’t have all of the answers, insights or solutions; however, I also think Ryan was making a case for liberally educated leaders. Her premise seemed to be that today’s and tomorrow’s leaders will know the right questions to ask and why to ask them.
If that is the future (and I believe it is), the leaders of tomorrow will be those individuals educated at, and by, liberal arts colleges across the nation, which is a good thing for all us.
Something I think is worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)
Mentors play critical role in quality of college experience, new poll suggests–I saw this piece on Dan Porterfield’s (former president of F&M and current CEO of the Aspen Institute) LinkedIn page. I am not sure that this reveals anything new, but there are a couple of things that stand out and the article certainly reinforces some things we’ve been trying to accomplish at Augustana College.
The beginning of the article says it all:
“In order to have a rewarding college experience, students should build a constellation of mentors.
This constellation should be a diverse set of faculty, staff and peers who will get students out of their comfort zones and challenge them to learn more – and more deeply – than they thought they could. Students should begin to build this network during their first year of college.”
A “constellation of mentors!”
We’ve had dreams about this, but have never fully shaped this effort. We have all of the ingredients and I believe the will to do so, too. Most importantly, though, this is something that we can do that no flagship public university–even if it offers a tuition-free experience–can do.
I think the thing that really stood out to me about this is that I’ve just completed a handful of interviews with alumni for a campaign video we are producing and each one of them described their “constellation of mentors” and the lifelong impact they’ve had. Each of these alumni said the names of their individual mentors and described the mentoring moments that mattered to them. For some of them, these moments happened more than four decades ago but made such an impact that they are forever etched into their minds.
We have this. We can own this. And, this is what makes a place like Augustana worth it.
And, while we are at it, maybe we can come up with some kind of constellation that resembles the Augie A!
Something for you (and me) to think about
The Leadership Secrets of Hamilton–Jennie got me a small book by Gordon Leider that outlines lots of advice about leadership that is allegedly from Alexander Hamilton and other Founding Fathers. This little book really is packed with some gems and I recommend it to you for some tidbits and anecdotes on leadership. The one section that I appreciated most was on section outlining “Three key actions for moral integrity.” The actions described are:
- Be honest with your followers
- Admit your own weaknesses
- Develop an environment of trust
These three pieces of advice are worth noting and setting up as ambitions for all of us.
Is there something you’d like me to muse upon?
If you are curious about a topic or would like some musings about something in particular, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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). I try to get one of these out every Monday. Past issues of my musings can be found at my blog @bowtieadmission