Archive: Sep 2013

Last week I wrote about task management tools. In one of the comments a reader suggested that I try trello. While I liked it, it doesn’t quite knock Remember the Milk (RTM) from the top spot, as RTM handles my specific functions more efficiently. I received a note that $25 is due on October 2 to renew my RTM Pro account, so if anyone has any other favorite task management systems let me know before then, please!

Back in July I discussed a forthcoming role transition: wearing suits much more often. I delayed as long as I could, but today kicked off that new reality, as I unpacked new suits, shirts, ties, and shoes last night, and I’m wearing a new outfit today. (My wife has a practice of letting new clothes “age” for a few weeks before she wears them, so I happily followed that practice over the summer.) A colleague sent me an article about Black dandies in the academy. While I don’t think I’ll ever be stylish enough to be called a dandy, I might eventually enjoy dressing up. Wow!

According to the second annual “Innovation Imperative: Enhancing Higher Education Outcomes” study, “Americans strongly attest to the value of internships in preparing students: nearly 9-in-10 Americans believe students with work experience from an internship or paid employment related to their field will have more successful careers in the long-term.” Here at UW-Parkside there are a number of internships in all four colleges. I’ll have to start working on establishing more social science internships to complement the strong program we have in Criminal Justice!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a department chair is mentoring junior faculty members. At the U of Minnesota I set up regular meetings with a group of tenure-track faculty and one contract assistant professor. The structure of each meeting: a check in about research projects in progress, discussion of a topic I thought may be of interest, open discussion, and then a check out about action items. My new college is small enough for me to be able do the same here at UW-Parkside, and yesterday was the inaugural meeting for three new tenure-track assistant professors and one lecturer in his first post-graduate school academic appointment. The associate dean also attended and shared great advice. For some of the future meetings we’ll invite the other junior faculty members in the college. My topic of discussion was an advice for new assistant professors article from Please let me know if you come across additional articles that I can share!

As a dean I have tons of tasks that need to be tracked; each day I create several new to-do items and complete existing entries. While at the U of Minnesota my main task management system was “Remember the Milk,” which allows a user to enter, edit, and complete tasks online or via smartphone and tablet apps. I liked it, aside from 2 issues: it costs $25 a year for the “pro” version (the free version limits the number of times per day you can synch tasks across devices), and the system has a bug where a task entered while in one time zone will get shifted up a day when you travel to a different time zone. When I moved to UW-Parkside I tried alternates: Outlook tasks, and Reminders for iOS devices. Both were unsatisfactory, so it’s back to Remember the Milk. Check it out if you need a good task management system!

As was the case at the University of Minnesota, here at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside I’ll be working with living-learning communities. The Dean of Students wanted me to have an initial meeting in the second or third week of classes, after the initial rush of orientation activities passed. She also suggested that I write a letter to introduce myself before the first face to face meeting. I’ll share the draft in a post today. I’m looking forward to meeting the students!


Students in the Exploration Living-Learning Community:

My name is Walt Jacobs, and I am a professor here at UW-Parkside. I am also the Dean of the College of Social Sciences & Professional Studies, which means that I oversee everything in seven departments: Criminal Justice; Geography; History; International Studies; the Institute of Professional Educator Development (IPED); Politics, Philosophy, and Law; and Sociology and Anthropology.

Like you, this is my first year at UW-P. Also like you, I am living in University Housing! Before coming to UW-Parkside I was at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for 14 years. Last year I helped start a Living-Learning Community (LLC) there, and I definitely want to continue working with them here at UW-Parkside, so this year I will be helping out with the Exploration LLC by attending some of the activities that the Office of Residence Life always schedules. I’d also like to do a few extra things this year with you, such as

  • Have dinner in Brickstone once a week.
  • Organize a once a month movie discussion after seeing an on-campus movie in the cinema.
  • Organize a once a month Open House where you’d have the opportunity to meet faculty and students in one of the seven departments in the College of Social Sciences & Professional Studies.

The Office of Residence Life has scheduled a meeting on XXXX in YYYY for me to meet with you to start the conversation about how we can work together over the year. I look forward to seeing you then!

The fall semester is finally here, as yesterday was the first day of classes at UW-P! I love first days of the semesters, as they feature unique energy created by the students’ excitement about new classes, twinged with just a little bit of fear and anxiety. It was fun walking around “the bridge,” a skyway that connects many of the buildings on campus. I missed an opportunity to connect with students, however, when one person in a group of three complimented me on my suit. I thanked her, but kept walking, as my natural inclination is to chat only when (a) I know the person; or (b) I’m intentionally out to make connections, as was the case later in the day yesterday when I went over to the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. I’ll need to get into the habit of making time to chat in a wider range of situations…

For the past 20 years the Tuesday after Labor Day has been the start of the fall semester for me. Today, though, is different, as classes don’t start until tomorrow at UW-Parkside. Students were on campus, so it was busier than any time during my preceding two summer months, but the numbers were limited, as new students were losing steam at the end of three days of voluntary orientation activities. Each college was asked to organize an orientation session were new students met with the dean for an hour, and then went to speak with department representatives for a second hour about majors and classes. I can’t speechify for more than 15 minutes, so I organized a twist where each department head co-presented with me about general aspects of the college and the departments, and then students went to breakout sessions with the department heads for more specific department information. That was fun, but I’m really looking forward to the real energy and excitement generated by a full complement of students on campus for day one!

P.S. At the end of the college/department hybrid session we also watched the first five minutes of the TV show Undeclared, and then the department heads started their breakout sessions with a discussion of the clip. I waited outside of the main lecture room to direct late students to the breakout rooms, but wished that I could have heard the discussions…