Archive: Dec 2013

The forthcoming Christmas-New Year holiday season will mark the end of my first six months as a dean. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks of no meetings, and time to catch up on reading. I’ll also take a break from this “Dispatches From a New Dean” blog, restarting the week of January 6. Happy Holidays!

On Saturday I attended my first UW-Parkside Commencement ceremony, where I performed a new task: reading the names of graduates in my college. I was quite nervous about that, as I did not want to mispronounce anyone’s name, and had never read names before. Additionally, I was told that the phonetic spellings that some students write on the cards they hand you do more harm than good. Three or four times I hesitated before reading the names, and the students in those instances helped me by whispering the pronunciation, and I think I did OK with the rest. Whew!

I did make a mistake with the first three students, however: I just read each student’s name instead of her/his name, degree, and major. I corrected myself with the fourth student, and it was smooth sailing after that.

One additional change for this Commencement vs. the ceremonies I attended at the University of Minnesota: I borrowed one of the robes kept by the Office of the Chancellor instead of having regalia rented for me. Since I’ll now be wearing regalia much more often as an administrator than I did as a faculty member I think I’ll go ahead and buy my own. It’ll be nice to get that cool doctoral tam!

Earlier today I attended a preliminary oral examination for a Ph.D. candidate in higher education studies. Actually, I should say that I skyped in to the meeting, as it was for a student at the University of Minnesota. It was fun to discuss theoretical and methodological issues about his forthcoming dissertation on digital storytelling, but as we proceeded the most compelling questions and ideas that popped into my mind were about possible program development around digital storytelling here at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. So even in a traditional faculty-centric setting I most strongly resonated with administrative elements. Full-time administration is definitely the place for me at this stage of my career!

One of the important tasks of a dean is to recognize the accomplishments of the faculty. When a faculty member receives an award or notification of a publication I send her/him an email note, and we post a notification to the college’s Facebook page. I have also sent congratulatory greeting cards to award winners; I selected blank cards with different covers and wrote brief notes to each person. For the next iteration of hand-written cards I’m thinking about ordering custom letterpress stationery. This will be a bit expensive, but the process of creating the stationery will be fun!

“In this heady age of rapid technological change, we all struggle to maintain our bearings. The developments that unfold each day in communications and computing can be thrilling and disorienting. One understandable reaction is to wonder: Are these changes good or bad? Should we welcome or fear them? The answer is both.”

The text above is the introduction to the “technorealism” movement of the late 1990s. I signed the list of principles in 1997, and for the next 10 years or so introduced students to the concepts. Someone needs to launch a new version of technorealism for the 2010s, which would include tools to help us evaluate the use of Big Data for employment decisions.

A couple of days before Thanksgiving last week a faculty member asked me to provide some information for a grant application that is due at the end of December. I told him that I would get to it after Thanksgiving. The next day he sent another request about getting an answer to him immediately. If the info was something he needed before doing anything else I would have made time, but the requested data is essentially “I support this project because of A, B, and C” that can be inserted the day before the deadline. I sent the faculty member a polite note to remind him that I had a number of tasks due before Thanksgiving and I would provide the information the next week, as promised. Yesterday one of the directors of a university program told me about a favorite saying: “Your urgency is not my emergency.” I may have to start using that!